Blood, sweat and gears (the Tour de France)
Our fact-feeble guide on how to tell your polka dots from your peloton.

Dan Van Oss Complete Columns, Events and Holidays, Sports 2 Comments

Every year a contest plays out that punishes the participants in ways only the top competitors in their field can fathom; where once friendly teammates can turn suddenly hostile from competitive self-preservation, and even the slightest mishap can prove costly. The welcome end of each day offers only a brief rest before the beginning of another, grueling stage tomorrow, with the finish line seemingly months away. But enough about the upcoming Presidential Elections; let’s talk about the Tour de France.

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No, really; what is a “peloton”?

The Tour de France (Translation: “That Race Lance Armstrong Always Won”) is the premiere cycling event of the year…
The Tour de France (Translation: “That Race Lance Armstrong Always Won”) is the premiere cycling event of the year, commanding the rapt attention of the approximately 122 actual American cycling fans who actually watch it live at three in the morning. Held each summer in France (Official Motto: “Our Wine Can Beat Up Your Wine”), it was originally organized in 1903 by the French magazine L’Auto (translation: “Car”) as a way to boost paper sales, possibly by trying to convince riders that these new car things were a much less exhausting way to travel up the French Alps than wooden bicycles. Considered the premiere race in all of bicycledom, riders come from all over the world to see if someone can finally explain to them what a “peloton” is, and why they should be in it, and are there any dues for joining.

The Champion of Accented E’s vs. the Devil Baby

While the route of the race changes every year, each race always traverses the mountain chains of the Alps and Pyrenees before ending up at the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées (Translation: “The Champion of Accented E’s”). Riders spend three grueling weeks battling wind, rain, and devils holding babies all the while wondering why they shouldn’t just hop a ride in their air-conditioned support car instead.

Let’s get ready to rumble

The race consists of 21 days of racing over a 23-day period, and includes one individual time-trial stage, nine flat stages, five hilly stages, two silly stages, six mountain stages, one karaoke stage and one stage where all the riders agree to just sleep all day so everyone can win. The race alternates between clockwise and counterclockwise circuits of France, leaving the unfortunate riders using digital watches completely lost. Teams of up to nine cyclists compete against each other using bats, knives, chains and — sorry; wait; that’s the rumble scene from “West Side Story”. Actually, team members do their best to support their leader by setting the pace for him, running down attacks by other teams, grabbing coffee, returning any overdue videos he forgot to return before the race, and so on. The racer with the lowest overall time for each stage gets to wear the coveted yellow jersey, so named because it has never been washed, with other colors awarded for other accomplishments, including white with red polka dots (“King of The Mountain”), white (“Fastest Overall Rider”), green (“Most Lucrative Advertising Endorsements”), red (“Most Blood Spilled After Crashing Into A Fan Dressed As The Devil”), and black (“Most Needing To Do Laundry Real Soon.”)

Tour de France facts

  • The winner of the first Tour de France was Maurice Garin. He also won in 1904 but was disqualified when it was discovered he had actually been using a motorcycle the entire race.
  • The average cyclist will burn 124,000 calories over the entire the tour, equivalent to 243 McDonald’s double cheeseburgers, 619 Krispy Kreme donuts, or one slice of Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.
  • Coincidentally, each rider will produce enough pedal strokes (486,000) to power the making of 243 McDonald’s double cheeseburgers.
  • The nickname of the Tour de France is “La Grande Boucle” (“The Big Belch”); a reference to the frequent stomach gymnastics that riders experience after a finishing a particularly difficult hill.
  • Each cyclist will produce enough sweat during the race to flush a toilet 39 times, which is ironic because none of them will actually be able to use a toilet during the race.
Photo Credit: nic_r cc
Photo Credit: dizid cc

Comments 2

  1. Somehow I started watching the Tour de France several years ago, back when NBCSN, formerly identified with words rather than an acronym as NBCSports Network, was still known as the Outdoor Life Network, before it became Versus. This was shortly after Floyd Landis won by cheating and was disqualified, and after Lance Armstrong won by not cheating, because it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught and besides, everybody else was doing it too. Since I started watching the race every summer — yes, watching the TDF has become a summer tradition, because watching chemically-enhanced German guys ride bikes in the rain is more entertaining than watching chemically enhanced Cuban guys stand around on a field of artificial turf waiting to catch an occasional fly ball, mostly because sometimes they crash — Alberto Contador has won and then been disqualified for cheating, but they still let him race every year even though they banned Lance for life, which is totally not fair and I think the judges are just envious that they never caught Lance. Plus, there’s commentary by a guy named Bobke, and since David Letterman retired, Bobke is the most entertaining guy on TV with a gap between his front teeth.

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      My roommate used to record the Tour so he could watch it later. Never quite got how you determined who was really ahead of the whole thing until it was all over and somebody had won.

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