Posts Tagged ‘Tour de France’

I’m not sure if Jo’s walking today, but we’re on a mission to find good food no matter what.  Tighten your seat belts because we have to drive to our walk today at col du Mont de Fourche…unless you’d like to cycle to the top of a pass once part of the Tour de France.  Or you can give this big boy bike a try.

Usually our walks end with a tasty bite.  We’re going to turn that around: start and end with a walk and focus on the food in between.  Be a rebel with us!

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During the Tour de France, the routes are heavily decorated with a variety of decorations.  Of course, bicycles figure heavily and, as yellow is the color of the jersey, the “maillot jaune”,  worn by the winner at the end of each stage and, of course, at the end of the race, many yellow bikes are seen.  This one would be a bit uncomfortable, to say nothing of not having gears, and how long would the rider’s legs have to be to reach the pedals?  Odd, indeed.

© janet m. webb 2014

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’ll know that my husband loves cycling and we both love watch bike racing, in particular, the Tour de France.  Despite all the drug usage and Lance’s nose-dive from fame, the fact that anyone can complete this race is a miracle in itself.  Cheating, in one form or another, has been taking place since the race began, when some riders took a bus for part of the trip!  There are now riders who pledge that they’re riding clean.  Understandably, thanks again to Lance, many are skeptical of this, but I hope it’s true.  Once you understand bike racing even a bit, it becomes a fascinating sport to follow, particularly when the long hours are enlivened and enlightened by the knowledgeable announcers.

Last year, my husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to be in France during the time of the Tour.  Even better, we were able to be at the end of one of the stages.  It seems funny, even weird, that people would gather for days just to see cyclists whiz past in a matter of seconds, but that’s all part of the fun.  We hiked up over 7km, the end of which had the steepest grade, even including all the mountain stages, of the entire race, just to reach our vantage point 25m from the finish line.  We also sat or stood out for hours for this privilege.  The weather was terrible and we had a blast!  We’d do it all again in a heartbeat, this time hoping for better weather and maybe catching the end of a sprint stage.

Here’s a photo of the winner of the stage and, ultimately, the entire race, Vincenzo Nibali.  This flat bit was at the end of well over a hundred kilometers AND that last, terrible climb.  The cost is written on Nibali’s face.  But the victory is worth the cost.

copyright janet m. webb 2014

After I posted my first entry, I remembered the fun I had taking photos of the 2013 Tour de France…from the comfort of my home.  I was enthralled by the colors and blurs that I saw from a certain angle while viewing the competition on my laptop.  I think this photo of the screen of my laptop aptly shows both the speed at which the ride occurs and the effort put into every stage.

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Yes, it’s Friday and time (eventually) for the Weekly Photo Challenge.  But as I work most of the day today and won’t get into the challenge until late afternoon/early evening, I decided I just had to have a post to tide me and you over until then.  (Do you like the way I assume you’re waiting with bated breath for my daily post?)  🙂  I just finished the 5-Day Black and White Photo Challenge, so I’m in the monochrome groove right now, plus a photo came to mind as soon as I saw the theme of “Wheels.” Turns, so to speak, out that the photo I chose is a different one, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.  🙂  It’s a memory of our time in France during Le Tour de France last July and all the decorations we saw.

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In July, we spent several weeks in France.  While we were there, we checked off two life goals we’ve had:  attending a stage of the Tour de France and spending time on a barge with online friends.  Both were adventures, although of very different sorts.  Not sure which will appeal to you more, so I’m offering a photo of each.  Have a marvelous weekend filled with adventure!!

The agony here isn't only of defeat.  Nibali, the stage winner and leader of le Tour

The agony here isn’t only of defeat. Nibali, the stage winner and leader of le Tour

To read more about our Tour de France experience, you might enjoy the pre-Tour post, our adventures just getting to the stage, and our rainy day experience at the stage.

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Come with us as we meet our friends and explore the river on their barge and going through a lock into the small canal on our way back.  No chance of getting seasick and lots of fun guaranteed!

 

The Tour de France is over for another year, although professional bike racing continues.  When it’s Tour time, the subject of Lance Armstrong is never far away, at least for now, in these years close to his tumble from grace.  I have some random thoughts about Lance.

If you believed he wasn’t doping, you were living in cloud cuckoo land.  If the next best riders in the world were having wins taken from them for doping, there’s no way Lance could have been that much better just naturally.  But therein lies my title.  He WAS the best.

He was the best at doping and winning, the best at doping and not being found out.

He was the best at bringing the sport to prominence…before he was the best at bringing it down in the eyes of many.

He was ultimately the best, but not the only, to steal the joy of winning from others.  It doesn’t feel the same to win the Tour de France, or any other race, when the person in first is disqualified.  Sadly, the ultimate winner was often someone far down the list, as doping was quite prevalent.

He was the best at not only despising but crushing people, big and small, and at destroying lives while pushing himself up on the pyres of those lives.  He’s still the best at not apologizing for it.  Maybe he’s the best at defining the word “amoral.”

In sport where cheating has ranged from, in the old, quaint days, taking a bus or train rather than riding, to sophisticated blood doping, he is unique in combining so many negative things.  He did start LiveStrong which I hope will survive and has done so much for people with cancer.  But one right doesn’t mitigate a lifetime of wrong and, in many cases, what I would be tempted to call evil, at least in his personal dealings.

But perhaps Lance might, totally inadvertently, be the best thing that’s happened to cycling for a long time.  Last year, the winner of the Tour, Chris Froome, stated that he, his team and many other riders were vowing to ride clean and so far, nothing has disproved that.  This year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali, viewed as a clean rider, said,

Steps have been taken and great progress has been made, and with it so my results have arrived.
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I have to thank them (doping controllers) because without these iron controls maybe I wouldn’t be here today.

I know that as long as there are sports, there will be those seeking an illegal way to be better than others.  But in the world of professional cycling, maybe the best cheater will turn out to be the best thing for a sport where doping was getting out of control.

At the end of yesterday’s post, your intrepid heroine and hero were taken aback/aghast/stunned that they were going to have to climb about 7 km in rain carrying all their food and gear for the day, up one of the steepest grades of le Tour.  Will they make it?  Read on and find out.

We’d overcome both closed road and navi revolt to find ourselves dropped at the base of the climb to La Plance des Belles Filles.  The only way to go was up, unless we were to abandon the Tour like a rider after a bad crash.  Mentally girding our loins, we strode off, following a crowd of people strung out along the visible part of the climb.  Not only were there fellow walkers, there were bikers; cyclists who wanted to be able to say they’d ridden that part of Stage 10 of the 2014 Tour de France.  They ranged in age from families with children to older men and although they might not all have been moving very quickly, they were moving.  Amazing!

On the way to the top

On the way to the top

Our plan was to be near the finish line, so we continued up and up, past a few people who had already staked their claim on the lower slopes. (Those slopes were filled with cheering spectators during the race.)  We sweat, took off raincoats, unzipped layers, re-did them all when it began to rain again and repeated that sequence for the interminable amount of time it took us to get to the area not far from the finish where the road leveled off for a bit. Here the party feel was on, with souvenir stands, food and drinks for sale, a gigantic TV screen, porta potties and people.  But our destination lay still further on, past the 22% grade that waited to break the riders’ hearts after they would have already ridden almost 161 km, at the finish line. (more…)

Ever since my husband came home with a VHS (dating myself here) of the entire Tour de France for that year, announcing that we could all watch it together, I’ve been hooked, although at the time, the girls and I rolled our eyes and thought, “How boring!”  Once I began to learn about the strategies and saw what actually had to be accomplished to win an event that covered three weeks and thousands of kilometers, I loved it, scandal and doping aside. It’s also the only sport where a rider might not win a single stage yet win the entire race and a sport where the winner can’t win without his teammates taking him to the top of the podium.

So, much as I dislike the term “bucket list” (I prefer “Christmas list”, though not to use interchangeably), le Tour pushed its way into the top of that list and this year we had the chance to check the square in front of it.  We had planned a trip to France to visit my s-i-l and b-i-l and once we discovered that one stage would be very near where they lived, we bought our plane tickets accordingly.

We had only the smallest idea what awaited us.  How can you imagine being a part of something that consumes not only an entire country but many countries and millions of people?  True, the World Cup, which we watched as much as possible, does something similar…but only once every four years!  Le Tour has happened every single year since the initial 1903 race, except for the years of World Wars I and II.

With the help of my s-i-l, we did lots of enjoyable pre-race prep.  We drove over the area of the stage twice, part of the time on the actual course.  We saw the decorations and preparations, growing in number from one trip to the next. We marveled that what the riders would have to do to win the stage, or even finish.  But we hadn’t seen anything yet.

How the day appeared as we drove

How the day appeared as we drove

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Le Tour de France is a one-of-a-kind event.  According to the official site:

“Running from Saturday July 5th to Sunday July 27th 2014, the 101th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,664 kilometres.”

In all those days, there are 2 rest days.  Two!  Riders are pushed to the limits of their physical and mental endurance and when you begin to understand what has to be done to even finish, let alone claim a stage on the podium, you begin to also understand why cheating has always been a part of the Tour, from taking a bus or train in the early days to doping in more recent years.

But for those not actively riding in the race, this is time to decorate, time to take pride in villages, to root for hometown or country favorites, to have fun and party. Everywhere we went, we saw evidence of the hoopla that is the preparation for race day.  Since one of the riders, Thibaut Pinot, was born in Melisey, the closest village to where we were staying, we had a chance to see this fun up close.  Here’s some of what we saw (but only a tiny portion.)  Every town near the route had bicycles of all shapes, sizes and colors set or hung everywhere.  Each team has colorful jerseys but there are also colored jerseys awarded each day in yellow (leader of the Tour overall), green (leader of sprint points), white with red polka dots (King of the Mountain by total points) and white (best young rider.)  Prizes are awarded not only to the overall winner, although his prize is the highest, but to all jersey winners.  The winner of each stage is also given a prize by the people of the area where the stage is held.   Prizes have varied from diamonds to a prize pig!

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