2020 Tour de France

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August 29th 2020
Published: August 29th 2020
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Much like other sports, this year's Tour de France has been postponed from June to August 29, 2020, through September 20. And needless to say, it is the premier cycling event of the year, eclipsing even Olympic year cycling events. And for many years, I had absolutely zero interest in the race, due to doping and various forms of cheating. Now that I am a semi-serious cyclist, and the sport is a bit cleaner, I have become a fan. I record every stage, watch them religiously, as only a cyclist would and can do, particularly during the pandemic. I do envy the stamina of the riders, though I would never subject myself to that abuse.

This year's race will be 2,156 miles, or 3,470 kilometers. Just for comparison, I try to ride between 25 and 30 miles a day, perhaps three to four times a week. The race is divided into 21 stages, nine flat, three hilly, seven mountain, and two individual time trials. In between will be only two rest days. Also, importantly, this year's race will utilize a bubble as part of their anti-Covid measures. The crowd will be asked to wear masks, social distance, refrain form selfies and autographs. The norm pageantry of the awards after each stage will also be rather subdued.

Again, it is almost incredible that upwards of 3.5 billion people will tune in to this event. Normally, about TWELVE million spectators line the routes, whether on the Champs Elysees, or the Alps. And it is FREE! The race involves 22 teams, of nine riders each (total 198 cyclists). They usually each have both a star sprinter, and a competitor in the general classification, or the overall race. The sprint generally involves the flat stages, and bonus points along the route. The star sprinter is my cycling favorite, Slovakia's Peter Sagan, who has won most of the last decade of sprint titles (green jersey) at the TDF. The winner of the race receives about $500,000. Each stage is about 225 kilometers in length, taking about 5.5 hours to complete. Each of the 22 stages has a winner, with the lowest cumulative time winning the overall title.

Each stage winner gets a yellow jersey. The overall leader also gets to wear a yellow jersey in the race. The top sprinter gets to wear a green jersey, and the best climber wears a white jersey with large red polka dots. I would prefer wearing the green jersey of the best sprinter! Each race is unique, and involve fairly detailed strategy and advanced planning for the terrain.

Almost every race begins in a ceremonial fashion. It quickly moves into a breakaway, where a few riders, anywhere from a handful to perhaps as large as 15, take off ahead of the peloton. Almost always, the peloton catches the breakaway before the finish line. Attacks occur generally on hilly or mountainous terrain, where a rider tries to break away from either the peloton or the breakaway group. The element of surprise is often their ally. Teamwork is very important, as are the support vehicles with extra bicycles, food, water, and medical assistance. Sprinters often position themselves on the flat stages to make a strong run at the end of the race. They use various techniques, such as slipstreaming to position themselves for the final meters of the race.

Again, the king of the sprints, Peter Sagan, is highly skilled in both strategy and sprint speed. Sprinters, with a different body type, generally do not excel at climbing. Lead-out groups or teams try to both control the pace, and protect their lead rider, whether a sprinter or climber. They keep the lead rider safe, and allow him to slip stream during the race to save energy. The reduced wind resistance is a big factor in the final sprints and climbs in the mountains.

Some other terms used:Grand Départ — The first stage of Tour de France.Peloton — French for “group.” Peloton is the main group of cyclists who ride together for coherence.Breakaway — A rider or group of riders who have broken away to lead the race.Slipstreaming — Riding close behind another rider in order to benefit from almost no air resistance.Bonking — Also known as “hit the wall.” This when a rider has completely run out of energy.Domestique — Every team has a leader, and the remaining riders (domestiques) support the leader in whatever way they can in order for them to win stages, accumulate points and hopefully win the tour.Directeur Sportif — Each team has a director, known as directeur sportif, that follows riders during the race and gives them instructions, water, helps with mechanical issues and replaces damaged bikes.Flamme Rouge — French for “red flag” this is used to indicate the last kilometer of the race.Lanterne Rouge — French for “red light” this is the last rider in the general classification/the tour. This is not a dishonorable term.Musket Bag — A shoulder bag containing food and water that is handed to riders at feeding stations.SAG Wagon — A vehicle that follows cyclists and picks them up when they can no longer ride due to injury, fatigue, biking failure, and also carries gear.

So, the question is, would I attend the Tour de France? The answer today is definitely YES. I have attended several other cycling events, and consider the TDF the Holy Grail of cycling. Wouldn't it be grand to find a nice little village in the French countryside, and drive to several legs of the race? But I would not act like some of the idiots along the route who need to show off on camera. Oh, it might be the only reason I would go back to France! Although the wine is a good reason too. This year, more than most, I wish I was there. After all, the route will cross many wine regions of France.


Tot: 2.685s; Tpl: 0.016s; cc: 16; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0191s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.5mb