So You’re On A Mountain For The Tour, Then What?

Gendarmes are the French Police.  Unless you actually have to work tracking down hooligans who throw tacks down on the route of the Tour de France, this might just be the best job in the entire force.  Can you imagine getting paid to ride a motorcycle up and down empty mountain roads all over France?  Not too shabby.

After the hike up, people spray paint cyclist’s names on the pavement, picnic and hydrate (and perhaps search for a place to pee).

Then, you wait for the caravan to pass through and wait again.  Since the waiting gives you time to enjoy incredible natural beauty and talk with other cycling enthusiasts, it is actually a lot of fun.   Soon, the helicopters will stream over the horizon like in the movie “Apocalypse Now.”  We hiked up to the mountain to a beautiful spot with a great few of both the mountains and the road leading up it.  We weren’t the only ones who liked the view.

With their giant lenses, they were able to get much better shots of Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky streaming up the mountain.

Normally, the first thing you see roadside is a breakaway group of riders.  They are usually accompanied by police and cameramen (who you can see in the back).  Usually, they follow one another.  Having a rider in front of you reduces the wind resistance allows them to expend less energy.  This gives the peleton incredible power if and when they choose to exert it.

This is how they get pictures for TV.  By the way the US commentators are better than the French ones.  Understandably, French commentators are biased toward French riders.  It’s not that.  They are much less interesting and I learn a lot less from them.  They don’t seem to show much of a sense of humor either.  Thankfully, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen do the British coverage we get here in Switzerland, but I miss Bob Roll.

Eventually, the last of the team cars go by and the helicopters move on.  After than, there isn’t much left to do except descend the mountain and watch the stage you just DVR’ed.

Just in case you didn’t know, I’m famous.  It is clearly me there on TV with the Detroit Red Wings jersey.

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The Vuelta is Coming! The Vuelta is Coming!

Spain‘s Vuelta (pronounced Welta) is one of cycling‘s three “Grand Tours.”  The other two are the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.

It starts Saturday, August 20th and continues through Sunday, September 11th. One of the nice parts about living here is that cycling is BIG.  I think that I will be able to watch it in at least four languages with my cable package.* He will not be excited about this. Our deal is I get to watch all of every stage of the Tour de France in July and he gets football season.  With better cycling coverage, the two seasons are colliding!  If I am sent back to the states, you know why.

Enjoy the picture of Taylor Phinney above.  Here’re the basics for this year’s Vuelta:

  • In the Tour de France, the lead rider wears the yellow jersey. In the Vuelta, the lead rider wears the red jersey.
  • The Spanish are disappointed because Alberto Contador (last year’s winner of the Tour de France) isn’t competing. He worn out after getting spanked in this year’s Tour and has upcoming legal actions (relating to his positive test in last year’s tour). It sounds like he has his hands full.


“Contador is god.” Graffiti from the road when we were over here last year.**


Taylor Phinney getting ready to start a time trial.
  • This year, the Vuelta is going back to the Basque region. Previous years have avoided it because of the constant fear of terror attacks. Basques are huge cycling fans and should show mad spirit.
  • There were so many crashes in this year’s Tour de France that a lot of good riders were out of contention in the first few days.  They will be looking for redemption at the Vuelta.
  • Americans who want to root for one of their countrymen can cheer for Taylor Phinney. We were lucky enough to see him ride in Greenville, South Carolina before we left!

* In the US, Versus has great coverage of the major races. Unfortunately, it isn’t as extensive, but the up side is the commentators are better. Expect a post devoted to the wonderful Bob Roll at some point.
**It is not the best shot and has to be dispalyed upside down to be legible because it was taken from a bike while going up the mountain at a snail’s pace. Please note that to do this, I was going so slowly that I was able to spy the graffiti, read it, get my camera out, focus and snap the picture.