Archive for July, 2011

Tour de Carnage (10 Days in the Tour de France)

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

This year’s Tour de France has not been for the faint of heart – and I mean for the viewers.

THE BAD: We’ll get this out of the way first.

The crashes have been exceptionally consequential and gruesome. If you’re looking for visual, graphic proof, see this article and accompanying photos/footage. Be warned. One of the photos appears to be a cyclist mauled by a mountain lion that loved him some booty for lunch and lycra for dessert.

Lance Armstrong’s former team RadioShack is all but out of the Tour. Granted, they started with more than their fair share of top contenders, but they’re down from four to barely two. Rolling over the finish line a few stages ago, RadioShack’s Chris Horner had no idea what had happened to him and why he was being taken to the hospital – suffering a concussion and broken nose after a crash that left him unconscious in a ditch. His young teammate, Janez Brajkovic, was taken to the hospital two days earlier with a concussion and broken collar bone. Teammates Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden are riding on, battling their own injuries.

THE UGLY: You gotta feel for the hockey team down 6-0 in the third period, having to play out the final minutes of the game ‘cause people paid to see it. RadioShack has nearly two weeks and 1,000 miles to ride before it’s over. Anything can happen, right?

Several other teams are down by a couple riders or have lost top contenders and sprinters like Tom Boonen and Alexandre Vinokourov, who crashed on a descent and broke his leg bone (femur). Vino says this was his final Tour, regardless.

Defending champion Alberto Contador crashed no less than four times the first week, losing over a minute Day One and more often than not, is included in the daily tally of disasters overshadowing the strong performances of the race thus far.

Winning the Tour de France takes uncompromised focus. One has to wonder if Contador is distracted by his upcoming doping hearing.

Certain riders have suffered epically, willing a month’s worth of recovery out of the single rest day this past Monday. Most notable is Johnny Hoogerland, the one who looked like he was attacked by a clawed animal. In fact, he catapulted into a barbed wire fence after a media car swerved and hit cyclist Juan Antonio Flecha in front of him. After cringing to the finish line, blood streaming down his legs, tears in his eyes on the podium while he received accolades for Best Climber, Hoogerland was whisked to the hospital for 33 stiches.

Hoogerland’s father was there to escort him at the finish of that stage, himself in tears. It was a scene that makes your heart clench every time it’s replayed. I can only imagine the distress of Hoogerland’s friends and family as they watched on television. Courageously, Hoogerland is back on the bike, as is Flecha, and said his resting heart rate the second morning after the crash was 50 bpm, up 10 beats from his usual 40 due to his heart “working working working” to heal the injuries.

THE GOOD! Sprinter turned climber, Norwegian Thor Hushovd, continues to earn his nickname “God of Thunder.” Spectacular in yellow for more days than anyone could have predicted (seven), he inspired the observation that only in the world of cycling can a 5’11” 170 lbs man be referred to as a “big guy.”

To get a little perspective on the stature of the typical cyclist, note that during podium ceremonies, the cyclist-of-the-day stands on a step while the podium girls do not, yet the three heads are even. Evans is a befitting example. Any stage now, he’s likely to get the yellow jersey and you can see for yourself.

Mark Cavendish has won three of the sprinters’ stages and came in a close second. Loosely quoting Cavendish in an interview:

If you aim for a target, you hit it. If you look at who to beat, you hit a lamppost.

That lamppost was Andre Greipel, as Cavendish shot a glance his way a fraction of a second before suffering that second place finish. Greipel is Cavendish’s former teammate and current rival.

American sprinter Tyler Farrar has finally won his first stage in a Tour de France!

Frank and Andy Schleck and Evans have been blessed with no incidents. If their good luck and heads-up riding lasts to July 24, they will surely occupy the winners’ stage.

TIMBITS: Wondering why the heck several cyclists have nose plugs during their time trial warm-ups on the stationary bikes? Carmichael Training Systems sayz:

nose plugs have an oil or blend of oils (like eucalyptus for instance) to help riders dilate their airways.

Despite consuming 5-7,000 kcal a day (about what they burn), cyclists in the Tour de France generally finish the three-week race about 5-10 pounds lighter than when they started. There’s a contest called Map My Ride for which you can compare your training rides to the routes of the Tour de France.

I’m thinking they should have a Count My Calories contest, for which you try to eat as many calories in a day as a Tour de France cyclist. Sounds like fun, right? I’m betting by the end of the first day, you’ll be in as much pain as you would had you ridden the miles. And, of course, about 1.5 pounds heavier.

Props to American Tommy Danielson for staying safe in his first Tour de France, earning him the top-spot among Americans in the first 10 days.

Over the past weekend, Tejay van Garderen became the first American to wear the polka dot Best Climber’s jersey. See?

Our buddy Brent Bookwalter is in his second consecutive Tour – the guy who was born in Albuquerque. This year’s minute of notoriety came when cycling commentator Phil Liggett shareded Brent had told him he’d dropped his toothpaste in the toilet that morning. Bookwalter rides for BMC with Evans, so perhaps he’ll get future press attention for that.

On to the mountains!