7/16/2006

so I've been watching the Tour de France a lot recently, it's interesting stuff - for one thing, they ride literally 2,000 miles in about two weeks, which is crazy. Also, the scenery is beautiful - little villages, castles, huge mountains, churches, etc. Since it's on all day, the commentators talk a lot about the history and little stories and stuff about where they're riding.

There's also a lot of strategy which is pretty interesting. Since the tour is based on time and also by points awarded, whoever finishes first in each stage isn't always the overall first place person - whoever has the best total time is the leader, and gets the yellow jersey that they always talk about on TV. Plus each stage (which last a day each) is divided into different parts, and whoever wins (and finishes second, third and so on) in each part of each stage, called "sprints," gets a certain number of points. So whoever has the most points gets the green jersey, even if they might be way behind in the overall time. So it's strategy - do you go for the yellow jersey, the green, or just try win a stage, which is pretty prestigious in itself? And then, to add to the confusion/interestingness, the people who finish first, second and third at the end of each stage get some time subtracted too, so finishing first might give you a big boost.

And on top of that, there's the polka-dot jersey for the best mountain climber, as the top finishers in the parts of each stage that are climbs get points too. Pretty crazy.

Some other interesting stuff I like is the term "peloton," which is the big mass of riders that ride together to draft off each other and thus conserve energy - I just like the word. There are also lots of motorcycles with cameramen riding on the back photographing the race that swerve in an out of the race, plus various cars - doctors, the team cars with drinks and spare parts and such, and so on. There's also a Team Discovery Channel, which always makes me laugh because it reminds me of the Simpsons episode where the kids were infiltrating Shelbyville - they divided into groups of two and the first two teams came up with cool names like "Omega Team" and "Team Strike Force." Then Martin, the nerd, called his team "Team Discovery Channel."

The teams basically serve as helpers to their best rider, riding in front of him to let him draft, and sometimes they work as a mule, letting their team car catch up with them, then getting bottles of water for their teammates handed to them while still riding, then stuffing all the bottles of water into their shirt. It must be harrowing, and it's pretty interesting to watch. Then they have to ride extra hard to catch up with their team and hand out the stuff.

The doctors are pretty interesting too. They ride in a convertible, and if somebody gets hurt (a bee sting, falls off the bike, whatever) they'll slow down and let the doctor's car catch up, then hang on to the side of the car as it drives along as the doctor does whatever, just like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Nuts. The TV station keeps track of the riders' heart rate as well, which is interesting.

And the most famous American now in the tour, Floyd Landis, had a hip injury awhile ago. They had surgery on it a couple times and eventually blood flow stopped to the top of his femur, so it died! Basically he's riding with part of a dead bone in his leg, so it just sort of rubs. And he's still doing pretty well. Yow.

Wikipedia has a good (but somewhat confusing) overview OLN, the station that shows it, has a good site too.

1 comment:

xroldx said...

Personally I consider the Tour as one of the most exciting annual sport events. There's a lot of strategy and heroism as well as faul play and wounded people which makes it pretty interesting. If you have the chance please try and rewatch last years final days in which Danis cyler Rasmussen lost a lot of points on the last few days. It was a true tragedy