Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Turn to Chime in on the Tour De France

Ok, all of the cool kids are posting about the Tour de France. So MY TURN!

I started road cycling in high school in 1999. This is also the first year that Lance Armstrong won the Tour De France. Perfect timing, right?

And from here on out I was hooked on the Tour.

In 2003, I got the opportunity to spend an entire summer in southern France, in Lacoste in the Petite Luberon region of Provence. Yep, it WAS great!

The Tour came pretty close, but we still had to drive a bit to see a few stages. The first stage we saw was on the epic and historic L'Alpe D'Huez. I hiked up to the third switchback (there are about 21 of them?) and staked a spot. It was HOT that day. And at 4-5PM when the riders finally hit the base, it was still hot. So not only had they ridden 100+ miles of MOUNTAINS that day, but they were still sprinting up this climb! EPIC!

Can anyone recognize the two riders? That is me clapping in the blue jersey.
George Hincapie is on the left. He is riding his 16th or 17th tour this year! The infamous Floyd Landis is on the right.

(edit: Thanks to Jason @ CookTrainEatRace for pointing this out. Notice they are NOT wearing helmets? I totally forgot about this! I think the rule was no helmets required on an uphill finish? It was cool at the bottom of the hill. The pros would take off their helmets and throw them into the crowds. Talk about rats (spectators) fighting over a freaking helmet.)

This was also the first time I saw Lance Armstrong in person (I later saw him on the Champs Elysees and at the 2004 and 2005 Tour de Georgias). You can tell when Lance is approaching, because the helicopters start hovering overhead.

He emerged from a shadow of a tree and looked like he was sculpted out of stone. He was freaking ripped and dark. Haven't ever seen a white guy with such a tan before! Even on an 8-9% grade, the lead riders went by in a flash. That day the main group included Iban Mayo, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Richard Virenque, and Lance and many other former greats. Interesting that everyone listed has been busted or implicated in doping scandals...

So this is the era that "grew up" with in cycling: The late 90's early 2000's "class" of riders. I knew them ALL. Which races they won, which teams they had been on, who they were riding for, etc.

In this year's tour? I believe only George Hincapie and maybe Thor Hushvod are the only remaining riders that I can think of personally (I am sure there are many others who rode in 2003) who are still riding.

It's a different "class" now. Alberto Contador has taken over the roll as the "boss" and Mark Cavendish is the sprinter to be feared. I guess I now feel a great disconnect from these riders (possibly because I am older than them!) but also because those "older" riders were what I first learned.

So my predictions for this year's yellow and green jersey winners? It will probably be another showdown between the Schleck brothers and Contador. Cadel Evans will shoot some fireworks, but will falter in the mountains. Cavendish, Thor, Phillipe Gilbert, and possibly Tyler Farrar will duke it out for the Green jersey.

I think Contador will pull it out in the end. He can time trial if he needs extra time. The Schleck brothers can't.


  1. There are still a couple more old timers you would recongnize

    I predict Farrar for the green, Cavendish is a diva, if the victory isnt easy, he quits, he doesnt put up a fight when challenged. Mental headcase for sure.

    I am really impressed with Thor so far, he isnt giving up the yellow without a fight, always near the front at the end of the stage, I guess the Schlecks have a good chance, I really hope Cheatador doesnt win, such a weasel

  2. I can't tell but are they NOT wearing helmets? Were they not required just 8 years ago on the Tour?

  3. It will be interesting to see how A. Schleck does at the individual TT this year. Last year he had such a non-aggressive position that it had to hurt his overall time. I've seen guys with do-it-yourself-clipons on a roadie at the local tri's with better positions then Schleck!!

  4. I'm crossing my fingers for Andy Schleck!

  5. I can't imagine riding without a helmet, it makes me want to schedule my pre-op craniotomy right now. eeks.

  6. I picked out Landis no problem. Couldn't pick out Hincapie though.

    I'm loving the tour so far this year. I don't think Contador has it in him this year though. Physically Contador has it but he has just seemed mentally off thus far. If he can turn that around, he has a chance. I'd rather see Schleck win in the end though.

  7. Love that you were there to experience this in person. Such a motivation when you get into the sport man.

    Great post!!! Love the picture!

  8. Very cool. Thomas Voekler and Jens Voight come to mind as riders that would have been there. Great experience.

  9. That's so cool that you saw it up close and personal. I was in London in 2007 when they did a prologue stage there -- the peloton rode right by my flat. It was awesome.

    I've been watching the Tour since middle school because my dad is super into cycling, so I can relate to (and love) that earlier group of riders too. But I think since I started to get into the sport on my own I enjoy following it more closely throughout the year.

  10. Awesome that you got to experience that first hand. Very envious.

    BTW, that was indeed the helmet rule then but it changed later that same year.

  11. That is awesome that you got to see the Tour de France! That is one event that is on my must see list of things to do sometime. That is great that you saw the climb up the L'Alpe D'Huez, that climb is insane. My other favorite climb to watch is Col du Galibier.

    Your summer in 2003 in Southern France does indeed sound amazing!

    This is the first year in a while that I haven't really followed the Tour de France, maybe it's somewhat due to the fatigue from all the doping allegations, who knows. Hopefully Schleck wins it instead of Contador, to hopefully quell the doping talk.

    As for other riders still going from 2003 - Vinokourov and Sastre come to mind as well.

    Contador doesnt want to win with his looming court date does he? I thought he was a helper this year. Have been enjoying the coverage thus far


  13. Love that photo! That is so great that you've gotten to see the tour in person. Especially, Alpe D'Huez!!!! By the way. How can you skip over my boy Chris Horner! He'll be mixing is up in the high mountains.

  14. What a great picture! It's great because not only did you get big George and Floyd, but it's got you in it too! What a memory. I think your predictions are spot on even though I'm not a huge contador fan. I'm rooting for Andy!

  15. Can I just say I am insanely jealous you spent a summer in France!?

  16. What an awesome experience!! And such a SWEET photo!


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