Archive for July 2013

Have You Been Watching the Tour de France?   Leave a comment

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PORT DE PAILLERES,FRANCE- JUL 6: The peloton climbing the road to Col de Pailheres in Pyrenees Mountains during the stage 8 of the 100 edition of Le Tour de France on July 6, 2013.
Radu Razvan / Shutterstock.com

It’s July and there’s a big bike race wrapping itself up in France.  It’s the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France and the race will conclude on Sunday, July 21st as the riders arrive in Paris.

If you’ve been watching the race so far, you’ve seen plenty of excitement, from a bus getting stuck under the finish line during the 1st stage, to Chris Froome’s domination of the Ventoux.  If you haven’t been watching so far, it’s really worth a look.  In this month’s edition of the Bicycle World Blog, we’ll give you some tips on how you can best enjoy the remainder of the race, along with some entertaining stories from the history of the Tour.

This year’s race is being shown on the NBC Sports Network.  Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, cycling coverage on TV has decreased in the US.  The good news is that the technology and overall quality of the coverage we are able to receive has increased exponentially.  Even non-cycling fans can enjoy the breathtaking HD coverage of some of the most beautiful places in Europe.  Whether it’s unbelievable helicopter footage of the Alps or Pyrenees, watching the race pass through quaint and historic villages, or the up-close and personal footage shot from the back of motorcycles within the peloton, watching the tour offers a quick escape to France during the dog-days of summer here in the US.

In addition to TV coverage, the internet provides plenty of in-depth Tour coverage.  Sites like Velonews.com and Cyclingnews.com offer coverage of each stage, the riders, and all the news surrounding the tour.  The Tour’s official site, LeTour.com offers live updates in both French and English.  My favorite technological advancement, however, is the ability to follow the Tour through my smartphone.  There are a number of great apps that can bring you live coverage of the Tour as it happens.  Cyclingnews’ Tour Tracker is arguably the best of these.  This free app provides live commentary of each stage as it happens, allows you to follow the race live on each stage’s map or elevation profile, and keeps you connected to the race no matter where you are.  While I’m not suggesting that you keeping your smartphone open next to your computer as you toil away at the office is a good idea, I’ve heard that it’s something your boss is unlikely to notice (hint:  most stages end around 11am eastern time).

With all the Tour coverage available, there’s really no need to go into the actual news surrounding the race with this month’s blog.  Instead, I’ve picked out some favorite historical Tour tidbits from the past 100 races that you may not have heard about, and that show you how the race has evolved over time.

Who needs a mechanic…or a blacksmith?

In 1913, Eugene Christophe was leading the race as they climbed the famous Tourmalet.  At the top, he took off his wheel, and flipped it to get into a higher gear (bikes with derailleurs weren’t allowed in the Tour until the 1930’s) and began his descent.  Somewhere on the descent, he broke his fork.  Today, if a rider has a mechanical problem, a team car is usually readily available to provide any mechanical adjustments, wheel changes, or even a complete bike swap.  In 1913, however, the rules stated that riders were forbidden to get outside assistance for mechanical problems.  As a result, Christophe was forced to walk 10 kilometers to the nearest village.  Upon reaching the village, a young girl told Christophe of a blacksmith’s forge on the other side of town.  By the time he reached the forge, he had lost over 2 hours.  Unable to help Christophe due to the race rules, the blacksmith talked him through the procedure to weld his fork back together.  After 3 hours of welding, Christophe set off again over two more mountain passes to finish the stage.  In the end, he was penalized 10 minutes (which was later reduced to 3) because he allowed a boy at the forge to pump the bellows as he made the repairs.  He eventually finished 7th overall despite the 5 hour…and 3 minute…time loss.

Cheaters!

Through the years, there have been numerous instances where people have been caught trying to get an unfair advantage over their opponents.  In fact, cheating has been part of the Tour since the beginning.  The winner of the 2nd running of the tour was disqualified for a unique and entertaining breach of the rules.  The Tour’s first winner in 1903 was Maurice Garin.  In 1904, it appeared that he would repeat his accomplishment.  At the conclusion of the race, however, it was learned that he took a train during one of the stages and he was disqualified.  In fact, several other riders were also disqualified for taking trains and cars during the race.

Food

According to Thor Hushovd’s 2012 diary of the tour, he would consume over 9000 calories a day to keep his strength up during the race.  According to his records, he burned an average of 6000 calories while riding each day, and had to maintain a steady stream of 300 calories per hour while riding to keep from bonking.

Of course modern racers have nutritionists, chefs and coaches who help them with their race diet.  Back in 1903, Garin had to supply his own food, and over the 6 day, 1500 mile Tour he fueled himself with the following power diet:

“ lots of strong red wine, 19 liters of hot chocolate, 7 liters of tea, eight cooked eggs, a mix of coffee and champagne, 45 cutlets, 5 liters of tapioca, 2 kilos of rice, and oysters.”

froome

LE PONT LANDAIS,FRANCE-JUL 10: Yellow Jersey (Chris Froome, Great Britain) cycling in front of the Mont Saint Michel monastery, during the stage 11 of Le Tour de France on July 10, 2013
Radu Razvan / Shutterstock.com

Quite a different shopping list from the high performance diets of today.

Speed

You’d think that with today’s aerodynamic, lightweight carbon race machines, and scientific training methods that speeds would have increased exponentially over the years.  While speeds are higher than they were, it’s not by as much as you’d imagine.  In 1960, using steel-framed bikes with downtube shifters that weighed roughly twice what race bikes weigh today, the average speed for the winner was 23 mph.  In 2012, with all of the modern advantages factored in, the average winning speed was 24.7 mph.

Nevertheless, if you think you have what it takes to hang with the pros, keep in mind that in this year’s Stage 11 individual time trial, Tony Martin’s winning average speed was over 33 mph.  Even last place finisher, Assan Bazayv, averaged over 27 mph over the relatively flat, 20 mile course.  Next time you’re riding along at 30 mph, think about holding that speed for over half an hour on flat ground and you’ll gain some perspective of how strong these guys really are.

After the controversies surrounding the recent tours, many feared that the Tour would lose its popularity.  Happily this isn’t the case.  Fans in France are coming out in record numbers, and the racing has been fun to watch.  If you haven’t had a chance to tune in, you really should.  Controversy and intrigue will always follow a larger-than-life spectacle like the Tour de France.  That’s part of what makes it such fun to watch.

Testing, testing….is this thing on?

We hope you’ve been enjoying the Bicycle World Blog for the past few months.  Our goal is to provide you with something that will entertain and inform you, and maybe help you connect to the sport a little better.  Of course, without your feedback, we don’t know whether we’re accomplishing what we’ve set out to do, or whether we’re just ranting into the vacuum of cyberspace.

So we need your help.  Are you enjoying the blog?  Do you hate it?  Do you have suggestions?  While we want to continue to bring it to you, if we’re just “spinning our wheels”, we’ve got other ways of doing so that are a whole lot more fun.  So please chime in and let us know what you think and feel free to hit us up with some questions about anything related to bikes, and we’ll be happy to incorporate it into the next edition.

As always, thanks for reading and happy riding.

Bicycle World NY

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Posted July 24, 2013 by bicycleworldny in Tour De France

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