July 5th – Start of the Tour de France

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Out in California, the coverage for the Tour starts at 3 am. And it goes for over 6 hours. That is truly amazing. It’s a huge change from what it was just a couple decades ago. I guess we have to thank Lance for that???

I was talking to Tom Schuler, ex-7-11 Professional, about things he might regret in his career. He said first that he never rode the Tour. Tom was US Pro Champion and won lots and lots of races. But, he said he gets little respect from the young riders because he never rode the Tour de France. And he could have, very easily. Like so easily that he actually had to strategize or lobby how to NOT ride the race.

Back then, other than Andy Hampsten, Davis and a few others, no one wanted to spend a month in France racing a 3 week stage race. There was no media coverage and it really did nothing for a rider’s American contract. Plus, you lost out on thousands of dollars of prize money you would have won racing here in the United States.

Back then, I too, was never really interested in racing the Tour. One year, between my Levis Team and Schwinn days, I made a few phone calls to try to get on a Tour team. I called Phil Liggett, who was the point man of British Cycling at the time. There was a British team, sponsored by, I forget the exact name, maybe ANC or something. It was a trucking service I think. I knew that Malcollm Elliot and Adrian Timmis, guys I’d ridden the British Milk Race with a couple times, were on it. Phil told me that he thought it wouldn’t be a problem to ride the race, but there was something screwy with their support, pay or something. I decided to drop the whole thing and ended up riding for the Wheaties/Schwinn team for the next 3 seasons. I think most of the British guys riding the Tour that year race quit the race early, so it would have been just survival, at best.

The Tour wasn’t what it is now. It was shitty hotels, with only cold water. No team buses, just a couple team cars. It was a completely different deal that the race is now. The race is as much an made for TV entertainment segment as an athletic event. I guess that’s okay. Whatever it takes to get a bicycle racing main stream is alright??

Watching the Tour today, I was surprised how many people were out for the race. It was amazing. It seems like Britain has really signed off on the bike racing thing. I guess having the last two winners of the Tour coming from your country gives it a real boost.

The finish today was indicative of what field sprints have become. The riders started the ball rolling and the officials never did anything to stop it. Head butting, elbowing, leaning and contact seems to be the current state of field sprints. And the guys laying on the ground is the result. I didn’t watch the replay too many times, but it looked like Cavendish was at fault. He seemed to be behind Gerrans and initiated the contact. It was intentional contact for sure. The sport needs to address it, like I wrote here a couple weeks ago. The sport is dangerous enough on its own. This needs to stop.

And, how about Chris Froome finishing 6th on the stage. Maybe he is going to go for the Green jersey later on in the race? It’s been awhile since the GC riders participate at the front at the end of a sprinter’s stage. I’ve always thought, if you get to the end of the race, why not put out the energy the last minute to get a result. Plus, at the front, you are usually out of trouble a little more than further back. That might not be true now.

Okay, anyway, I’m glad the Tour is on. I’m still sleeping poorly and it is always something to look forward to. I’d much rather just be out riding my bike myself, but if that isn’t possible, then watching the Tour de France isn’t a bad alternative.

11 thoughts on “July 5th – Start of the Tour de France

  1. mark

    Harder for local officials with no tv replays, but they should at least do an awareness campaign, discuss incidents with riders. Officials can help riders learn what is proper without accessing penalties(,unless warranted).

    Reply
  2. Ken

    I also think things were different 30 years ago as far as body types. I remember Tom Schuler as a big, muscular guy – looked like a hockey player as much as a bike racer. In the TDF these days, Tom would have to starve himself down to unnaturally low weight. I look at a guy like Froome with the arms like pencils. The Tours then and now were for lean greyhounds, and there were a lot of riders who just didn’t fit that bill. Heiden rode one Tour, but he was superhuman. Ironically, Bob Roll has become a celebrity of sorts because he did ride the Tour, finishing no higher than 63rd.

    Reply
  3. The English cyclist

    Hi Steve,

    The British TDF team you are referring to was the ANC-Halfords team, they rode the Tour in ’87. They were the first British team to enter in many years, a tabloid journalist (Jeff Connor) was with them for the entire tour. He wrote a book about the his experience ‘Wide Eyed and Legless’ a great read about how teams were run in those days from someone with no insight into the sport. If you have the inclination check out the book it would be great to get your perspective on it. Heal up well and thanks for the daily posts, always interesting and thought provoking.

    Reply
  4. Lionel

    If you watch the replays, it appears Gerrans may have been more at fault than Cavendish. Cav was on Sagan’s wheel with Kittel on his right and Gerrans on his left but with space between Garrans. Cav was just to the right of the dashed line (from his perspective) and Gerrans more than a meter to the left of it. Cav started to accelerate up Sagan’s wheel and off to his right as the pace picked up and Gerrans moved to the right. Cav’s line kept fairly straight, just the the right of the dashed line. Cav didn’t have enough room between Kittel and Sagen, but Gerrans moved to the right to get on Sagen’s wheel, not leaving Cav with any room without running into Kittel or Sagen. Cav tried to get his room back by pushing Garrens back the safest way possible, with his head, but Gerrans didn’t respond quickly enough. Cav had to push harder which resulted in an overpush which then resulted in the both of them becoming tangled up and going down. If Gerrans had kept his straight line a meter to the left of the dashed line, Cav would never have gone down. Gerrans did what a normal sprinter would do, seeing a wheel (Sagan) opportunity, but didn’t have enough perspective to see Cav getting into a tight spot and causing a squeeze. There was no dangerous riding, only bad luck on trying to play the cards, holes and accelerations, those not coming together perfectly to avoid a mishap.

    Reply
    1. Stu

      This is some armchair quarterbacking, but I don’t think Gerrans had any business being near the front at that point in the race. He is not a pure sprinter and was fighting for a top 10 at best – not a podium spot. He had no business trying to come over on Cavendish with 400 meters to go. Let the big boys sprint it out.

      Reply
      1. Skippy

        Anyone seen Gerro win an Etappe ?

        Anyone remember O’grady & Mc Ewan , Headbutting ?

        Anyone remermber the reason Henderson was sent home ?

        Guess Cav was unlucky to dislocate shoulder , would have created a teacup if he had been sent home ?

        Gerro will be sprinting for an etappe every chance he gets , like everyone else it will be pot luck as to the winner ?

  5. The Cyclist

    Yes. Lance made the sport the way it looks today. I’m pretty sure UCI knew he doped but they also desperatly wanted to “create” a big American star to get the big TV money into the game.

    Reply
  6. Skippy

    Tweets from Gerrans :

    Simon Gerrans @simongerrans · Jul 5
    First and last use out of this kit! http://instagram.com/p/qFVTfopwT3/

    Simon Gerrans @simongerrans · 23h
    You know those double decker buses they have here in the UK. I woke up feeling like one of them drove one me during the night.

    Tweet from Orica on stage 2 reveals my earlier assertion that Gerrans is a Sprinter :
    Cyclocosm.com ‏@Cyclocosm 7h
    #beardupdate “@CyclingCentral: ► @ORICA_GreenEDGE Stage 2 update: http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/video/297896515628/at-the-orica-greenedge-bus … #sbstdf pic.twitter.com/oIrl5aRj5Y”

    Reply

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