Ten random thoughts on the 2013 Tour de France

It’s been tough getting much done the past three weeks. I must admit an affliction. I’m hooked on TDF coverage. High definition TV and DVRs have only made it worse. For the record, my affliction began before Lance–and it remains now, undiminished.

Here are ten random thoughts on #TDF2013:

1. Chris Froome seems like a pretty nice guy. He uses words that make one think he’s both grateful and dedicated. I hear him looking inward at things. I hear grace. That appeals to me. (Gosh does this world need more grace.) On the podium in Paris, Mr Froome said his yellow jersey will stand the test the time. At the risk of sounding hokey, I think it’s possible. (I know; that was sappy.)

2. Another thought on Froome: His riding is amazing. Though gangly and pressured, the results of his pedaling are remarkable. His acceleration on Mont Ventoux made it look like he had a motor in the bike. He rode Contador off his wheel while sitting down on the saddle. And it wasn’t just uphill accelerations; the bony featherweight rider almost won a flat windy time trial. That he could ride so strongly on a windy flat course gives ectomorphs the world over hope.

3. I came away liking American rider Tejay van Garderen. Young TJ rode a terrific TDF last year, and after winning the hilly Tour of California early this year, he was picked as a favorite for this year’s Tour. Expectations, however, can be a curse. It was not to be this year. He cracked in the first mountain stages. He made no excuses, offering only the truth: the watts were not there. But then the young rider made the best of a bad situation. Two weeks later, on the queen stage of the race, he went for broke. He got in the break, dropped his breakmates, overcame a mechanical on a scary descent and then attacked a French rider at the base of Alpe d’Huez. He came within 1k of winning the biggest race of his life. Some say TJ gave up at the end. That’s BS. He gave everything he had and it just wasn’t enough that day. This sort of performance is exactly why sports are so compelling.

4. France is a beautiful country. The images urge you to plan a trip for next year. Coffee and a baguette and a bike in one of those alpine villages…yes that sounds perfect. Do the French know how nice they have it?

5. Imagery can motivate. Something inspired me to ride more than normal. Could watching the Tour actually increase appreciation for the bike and its sensations? Perhaps it can. But one thing is certain: the extra riding had consequences. Fitness said hello to me. If only I could better translate the sensations of fitness to my patients. Five minutes, 350 watts and a tailwind–these are good sensations!

6. Another thing about imagery: Watching the Tour de France is bad for middle-age body image. These guys are fit and lean. In comparison to Tour riders, middle-aged masters athletes look like state fair goers. TDF cyclists wear skin suits that only magnify the summation of genetic gifts, hours of training and careful selection of fuels. The huge rib cages impress me most. Image the oxygen transfer.

7. The hardest thing for me to watch this year was the crash(s) of French rider Christophe Peraud. The former mountain biker first crashed during the warm-up of the third time trial. He fractured his right collarbone. But, as a Frenchman who was riding high in the general classification and with only a couple more stages remaining, he decided to start the TT. Instead of just soft-pedaling and getting though the day, he went full gas. Then, with just 1k to go, and with his family watching, he slid out and landed right on his freshly broken collarbone. Having ridden with a broken bone, that one gave me chills. I understand it though. You don’t think clearly when in pain.

8. I don’t care how often Phil Liggett confuses facts; Tour coverage will simply not be the same without him and Paul Sherwen. They are priceless. I’ve watched sports all my life, and can think of only a couple other voices more associated with their sport. Truly iconic.

9. Professional bike racing is cleaner. You can see it. Riders now ride like humans, not cyborgs. Case in point, the Sky Team (the team of the yellow jersey) was dropped the second day in the mountains. This forced team leader Chris Froome to ride nearly the entire stage alone. That stuff didn’t happen in the past. This year (and to an extent, the past couple years), guys who go deep into their reserves a day or two in a row, give out in the following days. You don’t see one or two teams control the race day in and day out. And the data support cleaner cycling. Measurements like vertical ascent times have reverted to more ‘humanlike’ numbers.

10. My favorite days were when breakaways were given a chance. As a non-sprinter, I appreciate the breakaway. When you get in the break you start thinking…“I’ve got a chance. I’m up here. This is cool.” And that’s a local crit. Imagine the thoughts that pop through the heads of guys who make the break in the Tour de France. A win would be everything for them. Careers are made in these breakaways. It’s great stuff, regardless of the jersey they wear or the country they come from.

What a show it was. I’m sure I’ll think of a few more thoughts in the days to come. Feel free to add any of your observations in the comments. Now it’s back to dinners at the kitchen table…and health care policy.

JMM

9 comments

  1. Hi John. THANKS for your post. I must admit that other than newspaper headlines – I’ve not been following the Tour de France. After recent scandal – guess I wonder how anyone can compete without taking something they shouldn’t – but Froome seems clean (I know – sappy on my part …).

    It is wonderful to read your insights about racing and racers on things that go right by non-cyclists like myself. I see those things in the pros in sports I know and activities (dancing) that I do – but totally miss them in cycling. Your commentary is great.

    Europe is great!

    THANKS again for providing us with your insights!

  2. Great post John. I dvr’d it and watched it daily. My mother-in-law who is staying with us recovering from a fall saw more bike racing in 21 days than in the last 82 years…and enjoyed it! After repeated attempts at explaining the different jerseys and what they stood for, she finally got it, and she constantly cheered for whoever was in the breakaways, though she did so by color of jersey rather than name. She also loved the French landscape. I think we have a new cycling fan.

  3. My son Tyler is there! on study abroad with UK college of architecture. He has fully enjoyed the last 2 months there, although he does miss air conditioning. There is a great pic of Tyler on fb with the Tour cyclists just to the back of him. Aw, the joys of youth.

  4. I love the tour. Andrew Tallansky was also a great new rider. I loved his interviews with the press, and the look of wonder on his face that he was there. Wasn’t the light on Paris ethereal when the peleton first rode onto the Champs Elysee? We’re in serious tour withdrawal.

  5. I loved watching TDF – even though it’s the middle of the night here when it airs. In particular I loved the grit and grace of the Columbian Quintana in wining King of the Mountain and Young Rider. As an Aussie I also thought Richie Porte was absolutely central in getting Froome the yellow jersey (taking nothing away from the wonderful achievement of the Brit of course!).

  6. I am currently off work due to my CABG in May. An upside to this is that I was able to watch the TDF every single day. It truly was a great race this year. I always enjoy watching the race and scenery. This year I decided that when I retire that my wife and I will go to France and enjoy both. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the race and hopefully TeJay will be around for many years to come. What he did in that break was impressive.

  7. TJ is a wonderful guy but he captained my TdF fantasy team to the Laterne Rouge. There’s always next year.

  8. It is so sad that you cannot read an article about the TDF, anywhere, that does not mention the drug issue.

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