Get more from the Tour

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Here are five suggestions to help you get more from the Tour de France:

  • Explore the terrain: France is a big country that stretches across Europe and you can go from the near-baltic diet of herrings and beer of the north to the Mediterranean lifestyle in the south. Take a moment to look at the variety of the countryside, the different food and the fine wines.
  • The first hour: one good stat to look up each day is how fast the race goes during the first hour, how many kilometres get covered in 60 minutes after the départ réel. Most people tune in for the last hour but the efforts involved in the first hour to get away can be huge. Without a warm up riders are hitting 60km/h in a bid to get away, frequent attempts can fail. All to get in a break that is likely to get hauled by the sprinters teams.
  • First Frenchman: it’s a big deal to be the first Frenchmen on the GC, more so as the race goes on. For the casual observer, knowing who this rider is can help you understand the dynamics between the French riders and teams. If you see one French team lending a hand to the sprinters’ teams in the chase, it can be to “defend the precious 17th place on GC of their best rider.
  • Weather forecast: knowing the weather each day can help you predict and understand the stage better, you’ll know if there’s going to be a crosswind or a downpour later on. Météo France is good, try to get a forecast for the region if you can.
  • Follow the lanterne rouge: literally the red lamp, named after the last rider who carries an imaginary tail light. The rider will earn some notoriety and it’s not easy being the last rider. Whilst some might struggle in the race, the lanterne rouge is often held together by bandages or fighting illness; they might be the slowest in the race but they can also be the most heroic. Salute him.
David N. Welton July 4, 2010 at 11:33 am

One of my earliest exposures to a Real Live European Racer was doing mountain bike racing in Oregon in the early 90ies, some of which were being one by a swiss guy, Marcel Russenberger, who had narrowly missed out on the lantern rouge in the 83 and 84 tours. It was pretty impressive how a guy who was a bit past his prime and was not really one of the best racers when he was (he was a bit better at cross, though), was really cleaning up at our local races.

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