Velo Paris: Vive le Tour!

For some it was crazy, for others it was stupid, and others a day of courage and bravery. For me, it was a day to enjoy being on the bike.
Carlos Sastre on his ultimately futile attack in Stage 17.

Sunday, July 25th, 2010 saw Karen and I once again on the Champs-Élysées, this time not as tourists, but rather as witnesses to the spectacle that is the final stage of Le Tour on the streets of Paris.  Karen, bless her heart, had made reservations at Bistro Romain, a window-side seat on the second story overlooking the mass o’ humanity on the street.  If you ever go to see the tour finish, get there by noon; at that point, you can still find a place at the barrier.  Four hours later, by the time the peloton comes by, the fans will be 5 and 6 deep at the barriers.  If you want to catch the victory parade after the race, you will be there until 7:30. That’s a longgggg time to stand in one place.

Instead, we arrived at 2pm to our reserved table and enjoyed what turned out to be a 5 1/2 hour meal in five or six courses, complete with wine and champagne.  The management graciously opened the windows so we could take pictures and shout out to the racers.  What fun!

Well, enough about us.  Check out more recollections in pictures after the break.

Battered, bruised, and broken, yet victorious, “Super Jens” Voigt made it to Paris.  For him, that was victory (to find out why, see “One Tough Cookie” from July 22).  Q: Why doesn’t Jens have a shadow?  A: It decided to ride in the team car after getting dropped on the Tourmalet.  😉

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Here are some of the other heroes of Team Saxo Bank, the bothers Schleck (check out the adoring fans). Note that they were the only team to claim two jerseys, nabbing the white jersey (best young rider) and red jersey (most aggressive rider). Their reward? The team has been dissolved for 2011. Don’t worry, teams and corporations come and go. The men remain and will be back next year. They are a force of nature that will not be denied!

Alessandro Pattachi prevailed over Thor Hushovdt and Mark Cavendish to claim the sprinter’s jersey. They guy looks fast even when coasting!
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Hats off to “Gorgeous” George Hincapie, US national champ and thorough professional. The table next to us was a veritable fan club, screaming “George, we love you!” when I took the picture.  Ah, the life of a god!
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Australian mountain biker turned road racer and current world champ (notice the rainbow jersey?), Cadel Evans could have finished in yellow this year. He wore the yellow jersey briefly, but a broken elbow put an end to that in stage 8 or 9 (sissy boy!). Yeah, right. The dude continued on for almost two more weeks to finish in Paris. No jersey, but unfathomable personal reward.

Not sure who this lucky lad from Team Cervéllo is, but he appears to have arrived in Paris victorious. To the victor goes the spoils, as they say. She’s just glad he finally came home from the office!
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Alberto Contador won his third yellow jersey in a closely contested race against his opponents and against public opinion. The controversy that swirled around “chain gate” will hang in the air long after the riders have returned home. This was where Andy Schleck dropped his chain, loosing crucial seconds as Contador motored into the distance and eventually the overall win. Some say Contador should have been a good sport and waited for Schleck to recover. Others say “that’s racing.” Me? I’m looking forward to a real grudge-match of a race next year.  🙂

Though they did not grab any of the jerseys, America’s Team Radio Shack, won the honor of being the fastest team in the 2010 tour. Though Lance’s hopes for an 8th yellow were derailed by tire punctures and numerous crashes, the team never let up. Perhaps the biggest standout on the team was Chris Horner. Picked up just a couple weeks before the tour started, he supported Lance up the mountains and in the breakaway that saw Armstrong narrowly miss a stage win. Always humble and satisfied to be a team player, it was Chris Horner who finished 10th overall, better than the other big names on the team.

Well, that’s it. From Rotterdam to Paris, the 2010 Tour de France was an amazing drama, made all the more so by being there to experience it in person. More than a race, the tour is a cultural phenomenon that elevates all involved, from the racers to the sponsors to the numerous small towns that turn over main street only to see the riders blast through in a minute or two. I feel privileged to have seen a bit of it in person. Big thanks to Karen for encouraging me to go and take it in. Love you, hon!

Today’s stage gave me something more than a victory. I believe that victories are important, but the defeats are even more so, because they teach you a lot. Today’s stage taught me something new about myself that I didn’t know. I am content to have tried, to have fought and to have come back to the race that I like more than any other with motivation. – Carlos Sastre, loser, winner, philosopher.

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1 Comment

Filed under culture, general interest, Tour de France

One response to “Velo Paris: Vive le Tour!

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