Friday, July 13, 2012

Tour de Lake Forest

I am a bicyclist.  I have established that much in this blog.  July is an exciting time because it is the height of my outdoor season.  I have already logged 1,067 outdoor miles and am on pace to hit the 2,000 mile mark.  That would make six out of the last seven years with over 2,000 outdoor miles.  Last year due to schedule constraints and a knee issue, I only did half that amount.   

July is doubly exciting because it is also the Tour de France month.  There are 22 teams of 9 riders each, the best cyclists in the world, giving it their all in one of the grandest and most grueling events in all of sport.  These riders are all incredibly lean and strong.  They have to be for the endurance required in this sport.

The first tour took place in 1903.  The Tour has been run every since with the exception of 1915 - 1919 and 1940 - 1946 because of the two World Wars.  The French dominated early and have 38 tour wins to date.  The Belge are in second with 18 wins followed by Spain with 12 and the US with 10.  The US never scored a victory until Greg LeMond won in 1986.  

In the early days of the sport, the bikes only had two gears and they were not easily changed.  The gears were on opposite side of the rear axle.  The riders had to stop, get off the bike, take a wrench to the rear wheel, and flip the wheel to engage the other gear.  They often had to change gears in the cold of the various mountain ranges in Europe..  This was a source of great frustration to an Italian cyclist Tullio Campagnolo.  Campagnolo was an even better inventor than he was a cyclist.  In 1930, he invented the quick release axle.  He founded the Campagnolo cycle component company.  He went on to invent derailleur and cable based gear changing systems.  Both these inventions are still used.  They have evolved but still based on the original Campagnolo designs.

Lance Armstrong has the most Tour victories with 7.  Eddy Merckx of Belgium, Jacques Anquetil of France, Bernard Hinault of France, and Miguel Indurain of Spain all have five victories.  

The longest stage of the Tour took place today, July 13.  It was 226 kilometers from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux.  226 kilometers is 140.4 miles.  140 miles!  David Millar of the UK won this stage.  He completed this distance in 5 hours 42 minutes and 46 seconds.  Millar, a 6’3” 170 rider from Great Britain, clipped along at an average of 24.6 miles per hour.  Amazing.

I cycle but it is a completely different sport than Millar and the other competitors are doing this month.  Cycling is no different from golf, tennis, baseball, and others.  Rank amateurs and weekend warriors dabble at these sports.  We use equipment that looks the same and some cases, for the well heeled, it actually is the exact same equipment.  We may even look like we are playing the same sport.  The difference is in the level of performance.  The professionals are so much better than the great majority of the rest of us.  This what makes it look like it is not the same sport.

In homage to the boys in France, I took my Schwinn Le Tour fixed gear out for a ride.   I did a whopping 12.3 miles at an even less impressive 15 miles per hour.  

Where is my yellow jersey?

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