Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tour de France

Two years ago, when I had cable, Dave and I watched the Tour de France every evening during dinner.  Last year we tried to pretend we were okay with missing it, but this year we paid for full online access to the video to the tour.  Now, although I stand by my rule that it's silly to watch people who are not your friends play sports, for some reason I really get into this biking thing.  I'm the #1 fan for Dave's softball team and that's fun because I know everyone on the team, but it's hard for me to get too wrapped up in any professional sports team.  Yes, I used to go to Badger games, and yes, it's hard to not support the Packers, but the whole idea of paying professional sports players millions of dollars while teachers, the people who do the real work, get paid crap, really makes it hard for me to enjoy professional sports.  I think it's a horrid symbol of what we value here in the US. 

Regardless, the Tour is really weird because it's an individual sport within a team sport and there's so much going on, including a Tour of France.  I just can't stop watching it!  Even without Dave! I don't know what next summer will bring, but I'd LOVE to go to Europe and run into the Tour for a day.  We've never been to Europe, or, anywhere, really.  What are we waiting for? 

My understanding of the sport:  Each team has like nine-ish people who wear the same color jersey of their sponsor (Garmin, HTC, Movistar, Radioshack).  They bike every day for a few weeks and go really, really far each day.  I think today's was 182 km.  And they climb up mountains!  Each day the award the yellow jersey to the dude who has the lowest time overall, but you can also get other jerseys for best mountain climber, best young rider, and some sprinter thingy.  The point of the team is that you can all hang out together in a line and mooch off of each other's wake (I don't know what this is called.)  At the end of the flat days, they might have a line of guys and the head guy is doing most of the work, so he'll quit after a bit.  After the last guy has quit, the sprinter is the last guy, so he takes off and wins the race.  You can obviously hang out off the back wheel of people not on your team as well and so they prefer to be in groups and they'll politely share taking the front.  As a teammate, your job is to get your number one guy to win.  There's so much personality to the whole thing, which is probably why I really like it. 

While riding they do fun things like take "natural breaks," which I didn't actually think existed until the other  day I'm watching the TV and this dude just whips it out while riding and pees off to the side of the road.  I yelled out, "I see a penis!"  I wonder what the neighbors were thinking. 
"Generally, they pull over to the side of the road, stop, and shed liquid ballast in the usual way. Some time in the first couple of hours of the race, a senior rider (a team leader or team captain) will organise a comfort break and the whole peloton will slow down enough that riders can stop for a break and easily catch up afterwards.
The etiquette is that you don't attack while a large-scale comfort break is in progress, and you certainly don't attack the yellow jersey when he's taking a leak.
 It's considered extremely bad form for photographers and TV to shoot this whole process which is why, as some readers have observed, you never see it on TV or in pictures."

They also do things like get a bolt on their bike tightened while going 35 mph, pulled up next to their team's car, and some guy hanging out the car fixing the bike. 

They crash, like, a lot.  There were so many crashes this week!  One of them took out one of my favorite dudes with a broken collar bone and gave another red guy a concussion.  Concussion dude actually finished the race, but was extremely, extremely confused when he got to the end.  During crashes they rip their jerseys, bend their bikes, bleed, and they just get a new bike from their team car, and keep going. 

The fans are crazy too.  Sometimes on the up-hill climbs, you'll see fans in costumes trying to get in the way.  I've seen fans get punched, elbowed, and just generally yelled at. 

If you have Verses on your TV, check it out sometime in the next two weeks! 

1 comment:

Josh said...

It's called drafting when they ride each other's wake. It allows them to reduce their energy expenditure. And you totally know someone currently in Europe who you could crash with. :P