I followed this year's Tour de France obsessively. I had the feeling that it was something that twenty years from now, I would say, yeah, I saw the Tour on TV when Lance Armstrong won it the seventh time. He even has a super hero sounding name---LANNNNCE ARMSTRONG!!!
The television coverage wasn't really that exciting. It was just guys on bikes in France. Look! They're riding up a mountain. Look! They're riding past sunflower fields. Look! There's a town. It got exciting near the finish line for each stage when the sprinters rushed ahead while some guys totally burned out.
To me, the Tour de France was a new quirky world to explore, and I ended up respecting it a lot. It's a brutal race. The riders have to ride 2,232.7 miles over mountains in the French summer. That last seven tenths of a mile would kill me.
It's a race, so there's competition. There is also sportsmanship. If a leader crashes, the rest of the riders slow down to wait for him. If you're gonna win, you're gonna win fair and square not because of some freak accident. That's kind of honorable.
Anyway, here are some other little tidbits of information I have learned. More coherent and better dressed info can be found at www.letour.fr.
First, the guy wearing the yellow jersey (in this tour, usually Lance) is the leader of the whole Tour. He might not look like the fastest rider, but he is.
The peleton is the group of riders where the yellow jersey is. The breakaways are groups of riders in front of the peleton. Usually these riders are lower down in the whole Tour standings and not a threat to the yellow jersey.
This year, 189 riders started the Tour de France. There are 21 teams with 9 riders per team.
The guy in the red poka dot jersey is the best rider in the mountains. The guy in the green jersey is the best sprinter/points getter. The guy in the white jersey is the best young rider. The guy in black jersey moves in shadows like the night. The guy with the big red S is Superman. And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.
The first Tour de France was in 1903.
Do these guys eat on the road? According to Article 6 of the rules, ‘feeding is permitted at any time starting at the 50 km marker up to the distance marker indicating end of feeding'.
Riders don't eat and drink. They feed and re-hydrate. It's all very technical.
It's really hard to ride in the mountains.
When you see the finish line, ride really fast.
The lanterne rouge is the name of the red light that use to hang out of the back of trains. It is also the rider who is in last place at the Tour de France.
Lanterne rouge is my favorite little Tour de France tidbit. There are no losers at the Tour de France, but only one man can be the lanterne rouge. It reminds me of the Effort Award back in the third grade. You're not very smart, but you put in the effort.
I suppose if you're a super competitive jock type, you wouldn't want to be the lanterne rouge. Personally, I would be thrilled to be the lanterne rouge because (a) I'm not a professional racing cyclist and (b) I'm a girl. Dare to dream. Live strong.