Cyclists In The Flesh From The Tour De France

I know that I have posted a lot about the Tour de France.  I love it and know that my fellow cycling friends would be disappointed if I didn’t post some pics of the big riders.  If you aren’t a cycling fans, we’ll be back to normal programming tomorrow as the Tour ends.  Feel free to notice the slender arms and the shaved legs.  I like that I was able to get this close to the riders.  Above is Marcus Burghardt of BMC.  Sandy Casar of Francaise Des Jeux (FDJ is sponsored by the French lottery) is below.

Cadel Evans (BMC) with Janez Brajkovic of Astana, Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas Cannondale, and Alejandro Valverde of Movistar.

This is Chris Horner of Radioshack-Nissan.   I like that he looks like he is having a good time.

The new BMC General Classification (GC) rider Tejay Van Garderen.  He’s wearing the white jersey as the leader of the best young rider competition.  His tweets are pretty hilarious.  They include:

  • “Woke up this morning and found a married women in my bed.” – after getting married
  • “Tony Martin is making a call to his girlfriend. I can tell because his voice just went 4 octaves higher.”
  • “I’m really liking the ‘Young, Wild and Free’ song. Maybe that’s because I’m not allowed to do any of the things they sing about.”
  • “Non-flush urinals are good in theory, but every time I use one it wreaks of week old stale piss. And that is my 1000th tweet.”  Words to live by.

Alexander Vinokourov of Astana.  After testing positive for blood doping in the 2007 Tour de France, it was alleged that he had used his father’s blood.  Vino responded, “I heard that I made a transfusion with my father’s blood. That’s absurd. I can tell you that with his blood, I would have tested positive for vodka.”

Big George Hincapie of BMC a cycling legend from neighboring South Carolina (who married a podium girl) and is retiring after this season.

David Millar of Garmin-Sharp won a stage in this year’s Tour.  He is known for testing positive, admitting “yes, I did it,” serving his suspension and now willing to be quoted on the subject.  Interesting quotes of his include:

  • “To be brutally honest, it’s simple economics. If they want to come into cycling, sponsors need to know the team they are funding is clean, otherwise the risk is just too great.”
  • “In fact cycling has always been ‘saved’ by judicial investigations and not by the anti-doping controls we put in place. That’s the harsh truth. We have relied on them to clean the sport up.”
  • “My epiphany came in that police cell: I realised I was about to lose everything and it didn’t bother me, not in the slightest. I’d come to hate cycling because I blamed it for the lie I was living.”

Our Norwiegan friend cheered on the Norweigan National Champion Edvald Boasson Hagen.  In case you were wondering whether to address him as Mr. Boasson Hagen or Mr. Hagen, he said, “In my passport it says Hagen as a surname, and Edvald Boasson as first names. Boasson is a kind of middle name. But I prefer to use both as a surname.”   If you are still confused, you could try calling him Eddie Boss instead.

Nicki Sørensen of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff and Manuel Quinziato of BMC (I think) having a bit of a chat.  Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Sharp (gotta love a Chicago boy of Belgian descent).

How ’bout them ‘burns?  The yellow jersey holder and likely winner, Bradley Wiggens.  Apparently he has not heeded the advice on my sign to “shave the ‘burns.”

One of my favorite Swiss, Fabian Cancellara, who abandoned the tour after this stage.  He plans on competing in the Olympics, but before he does, it is his wish to be present and there for his wife at the birth of their second child.  Aaawwww. What a sweetie.

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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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Put On Your Thong And Cheer On Your Countrymen

The Tour de France is known for the wild enthusiasm of its fans.  The fans are part of the spectacle.   Where else do you see people camping in devil costumes replete with pitchfork or dressed as Borat running up a hill?  I have never seen so many men in thongs.  As one of them explained to me, “we don’t normally dress like this, we do it for the Tour.”

Others dress like they normally do.  These guys might not normally plan to all wear same hot pink jersey.  Then again, they might.

People show their enthusiasm for the Tour in their dress.  This poor lady from Luxembourg had a cast.  She painted her toenails in her country’s colors and drew red and white polka dots (to represent the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey), yellow and green stripes (for the Yellow and Green jerseys that go to the overall tour winner and the leader in the sprint points).

Although the Tour de France is France’s premier sporting event, its international aspect is an integral part of it.  We saw people from:

  • Norway,
  • Luxembourg,
  • Denmark
  • Belgium,
  • the Netherlands,
  • Germany,
  • Switzerland,
  • Estonia,
  • the United Kingdom,
  • Australia,
  • New Zealand,
  • and the United States (although Boris and Natasha said that there weren’t as many Americans as there were during the Lance Armstrong era).

Having a rider win the Tour de France, is a huge boost to cycling in that country.  People become more familiar with the sport, it gets more publicity, people starts buying more bikes and riding more.  Australian’s interest in cycling and the Tour exploded with the success of Australian Cadel Evans who won the Tour last year.

We saw tons of flags we’d never seen before.  There were tons of Brits and we saw several of these three-legged flags.  We learned it is the flag of the Isle of Man, the home of legendary British sprinter, Mark Cavendish.   Undoubtedly, the Queen, Prince William and Kate are all Cavendish fans.

Someone else had a theory that the nationalities of fans on the mountain revealed something about how economies are doing.  Vacations in France aren’t usually cheap.  We saw tons of Norwegians (who went nuts for Team Sky‘s Edvald Boasson Hagen).  Norway is definitely not hurting.  The UK, the Danes and the Germans have some of Europe’s strongest economies.  Then again, it could have something to do with geography and when people have vacation time.

French rider, Thomas Voeckler, won stage 10 from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.

How do Frenchmen celebrate a fellow countryman’s victory on a stage of the Tour?   With champagne, bien sûr.  We had to hustle to get to the next day’s stage so we didn’t stick around to see if they had thongs.

Checking One Off The Bucket List – On A Mountain At The Tour De France

I have said it before and I’ll say it again.  I love the Tour de France.  Being the dork that I am, I have watched every stage of the Tour for virtually the past decade.   How have I accomplished this feat?  I get the TV to watch the Tour in July.  The rest of the year, I give him the TV the rest of the year to watch all the football, basketball and hockey he wants.  It’s a fair trade.  Watching it on TV, I always dreamed of seeing it live.  Guess what?  It finally happened. On Wednesday and Thursday, I was on mountains in France in a Detroit Red Wings jersey, getting sunburned, and taking in the spectacle.

Watching the tour on TV, you can’t fully appreciate the beauty of the mountains the colors, the helicopters, and the excitement.  You can’t meet the other fans.  They are delightful and quite friendly.  I don’t know of many places where you can meet so many people from other countries in such a congenial environment.  The excitement was contagious and everyone made the most of it.

On the way up Col de la Madeleine, we stopped and bought this wonderful hunk of local cheese out of someone’s barn for our picnic.  Because you have to get on the mountain early before they close the roads, people picnic, eat, drink and are merry.  Everyone was having a good time.

True fans of bicycle racing appreciate seeing these guys and go to great lengths to do it.  My guests (Boris, Natasha and Mr. Peabody) hiked with me 18 miles up and down a mountain to see the stage on the Col de la Madeleine.   Others, biked up to the peak and back down.  Some people camp out on the mountain days ahead of the stage to get a good spot.  The rich and lucky get to ride in the cars (although I can’t imagine the view of the cyclists is that good) or get shuttled to a viewing area with a TV at the top.

Even the trip from one stage to another was exciting for us cycling fans.  We saw NBC Sports cars racing down the highway to Albertville.  Although we had no idea who was inside (NBC Sports probably pays their speeding tickets), since we couldn’t catch them. We’re swearing that it was Bob Roll (who doesn’t love Bobke) in one with Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett in the other.

It was just amazing to think that caravans travel from distant countries to experience the Tour.  Observers spray paint the name of a relatively unknown cyclist from their region on the pavement.  Some guy from a village in the Netherlands who drove a thousand miles and spray painted his countryman’s name on the mountain.  He’ll be lucky to finish in 45th place.

We have done the All-Start NASCAR race.  While there is huge excitement and the fans are devoted, you have a drunken, often belligerent atmosphere.  The most intoxicated people we met were some nationality censored who offered us beverages, told us some great stories and played us some great music.  Rock on.

We saw last year’s winner Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggens in the yellow jersey surrounded by team Sky.  We saw all of our favorite American riders: Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer, big George Hincapie, the hilarious Dave Zabriskie, Tyler Farrar, Christian Vande Velde, and the awesome Tejay Van Garderen (who should be BMC’s GC rider).  I even got to see some of my favorites: Frank Schleck and Fabian Cancellara.   Even going uphill, they whipped by us at amazing speeds.  I was still able to see enough to tell you ladies that Spartacus (aka Fabian Cancellara) is just as handsome in person.

Swiss Immigrants

A couple of Swiss immigrants

Switzerland has one of the highest percentages of foreigners of any country in the world.  Tons of famous, and not so famous people (us) have moved to Switzerland.  They have a very, um, generous tax policy.

Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 22% of the population (30.6% of the population is either an immigrant or first generation). Famous Swiss immigrants include: *

Courtesy of Top Gear and Hublot

Courtesy of jsp31’s Blog

Courtesy of Why Not? and OWN

For centuries, people have immigrated to Switzerland.  In general, its immigrants have been highly skilled and/or educated.  The Swiss watch industry was fed with French Huguenot’s who fled persecution in France.  Immigrant German professors started Zurich University.  Many Italian immigrants worked on Switzerland’s great engineering projects in the Alps.

courtesy of Leopard Trek

*For you cycling fans, famous cyclists who have lived/trained in Switzerland include: Fabian Cancellara (a Swiss child of Italian immigrants, until recently he was my most popular post), Oscar Freire, Francisco Mancebo, Jan Ullrich, Christophe Moreau, Cadel Evans, Markus Burghardt, Andreas Klöden, Linus Gerdemann, Thor Hushovd, Daniele Nardello, and Thomas Frei.