Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tour de France 2009 - Stage 4

Greetings Readers

Once again I / we are at the time of the year that every true cyclist looks forward to. In addition, this also brings out the people who think they know the Tour de France.

I really do see two separate sides – no one is really in the middle of this particular time of the year regarding the race / tour de France.

Every year I get asked the questions – Who’s going to win? Where’s L.A.? Don’t you think the Tour de France is the most extreme sport? And so forth.

Well, I have answers for all those types of questions. The answers or my response may not be what they are expecting, but I do tell each and every one of them there is more to the Tour de France than just the winner at the end of the Tour de France, which is three weeks later from the Prologue day.

Also, I tell them that there is one team leader and all other team members sacrifice themselves to help the team leader to win the Tour de France for their team.

Even though the Team Leader may or may not be the winner at the end of the Tour de France it took the whole team (as long as there no conflict within the team) to help the Team leader to try and be the winner in the General Classification (GC) category. Sorry Readers, General Classification is commonly known as the Yellow Jersey Winner on the very last day of the Tour de France.

That Yellow Jersey is mistakenly known as the best rider throughout the Tour de France. This is not true. Throughout the tour a few or many individual riders hold the Yellow Jersey. The Yellow Jersey, during the Tour de France is the rider with the fastest time overall at the end of each stage. 99 % of the population believes that wearing the Yellow Jersey during the first weeks of the Tour de France is not the “right” thing to do.

One can argue, even I, but I am not going to. If a rider wears the Yellow jersey then the team supposedly has to defend that yellow jersey so that rider will wear the Yellow Jersey the next day. In the Tour de France, wearing the Yellow does mean a lot, but only so much. That rider becomes a statistic. However, in the corporate sponsorship of the team it means dollars/euros. In the media it means media coverage and the sponsor’s name/logo being pictured and mentioned in the news all over the world.

But, In addition to the Yellow Jersey there is the Polka Dot Jersey, the White Jersey and the Green Jersey. In addition, there is the winner of each stage in the Tour de France, the most aggressive rider and the overall best team riding with the fastest time among all teams at the end of each stage.

If the Tour de France did not have any of those other categories then it would not be the Tour de France. Again, the general public believes that the Tour de France is about the Yellow jersey and just the one winner at the end of the Tour de France.

In reality it is not. One year I may be rooting for the King of the Mountain Jersey, where as this year I am rooting for the Green Jersey a.k.a. Best overall Sprinter in the Tour de France.

I do not really follow the White Jersey, except for the recent past years when the Schleck Brothers came upon the scene. I have to believe… well, I do believe that we are seeing Andy Schleck as the most promising rider to be scene. Not only is he doing what he is doing, his brother Frank is helping him. Vice Versa Andy does help Frank during the tour also. The older brother helping his younger brother, as well as younger brother helping his older brother out in the Tour de France. I really like this since my brother and I have had this unspoken agreement to help each other out when I visit my family in New Mexico.

I digress Readers, sorry.

This year with L.A. being back and especially being recruited (or an automatic team member) onto Team Astana that had the Team Leader Alberto Contador - I was not excited. My faithful Readers know I do not care for L.A.

Among all the teams in the Tour de France I was not for or against anyone wearing the yellow jersey. I really did not know who the contenders were actually going to be until about two months before the Tour de France. There were some of the old names as well as veteran rider’s names that I recognized, but overall I felt that their time in the limelight of the Tour de France was nearing the end. I felt there are a new group of riders waiting to be known

Anyway Readers, what I want to point out even though that there is the overall winner, it takes the entire team to help that overall winner win the tour de France. All other riders for about 90 percent of the Tour are riding in front of the yellow jersey rider. Meaning, that the Yellow jersey rider is hardly doing the work. All that yellow jersey rider has to do is ride in the slipstream of the rider in front and let the lead rider(s) take the riding into the wind, which takes a lot of strength and watts. I also mention that the GC riders have other team riders get their water bottles for them.

In my opinion, the only time that the yellow jersey wearer really shines is in the Pyrenees Mountains and the Alps. As well as the individual time trials. Beyond these two different stages all the yellow jersey wearer has to do is stay in the lead peloton and make sure that no breakaway group with a rider that is close to the yellow jersey wear’s overall time gets away from the Peloton.

Jumping to the Breakaway group. In each stage there is almost always a breakaway group. This breakaway group most of the time includes riders that are not in contention of the overall General Classification. Meaning, that the GC riders really could care less, depending on the rider(s) in the breakaway group. Those riders will most likely not be a threat to the yellow jersey wearer, by taking away the Yellow jersey from the rider who does wear the jersey on that stage.

So, the breakaway group basically includes riders looking for a stage win in the Tour de France. Depending on the stage sometimes there might be a Green Jersey or Polka Dot jersey in the breakaway group. The green jersey rider obviously wants to win intermediate points in the stage to further gain overall points to retain the green jersey and hopefully win at the end of the three weeks of the Tour de France. The Green jersey wearer will take advantage of the flat stages, but most times the Green jersey wearer will try to stay with the Peloton since the more often than not the Peloton will catch up to the breakaway group before the finish line. When that does happen then the Green jersey rider as well as all other green jersey contenders will battle for finish line green jersey points at the finish line since that is where big Green jersey points are up for the taking.

The intermediate sprint points available during the stage are low, but in the grand scheme of things all those little points do help towards the end of the Tour de France. Some years at the last stage of the Tour de France the green jersey winner has been decided by mere points. And when that does happen more often that not it was because that rider went after the intermediate points throughout the tour.

Now, the Polka dot jersey will try to be in the breakaway group during a stage that has mountain category summit climb. Most of the stages have some mountains (or hill) that are categorized by numbers (1 through 4) and then a category that is “beyond category” and that is the infamous HC category. That is the climb that I often refer to as “the bitch” in my travels on the bike. The HC climb is a bitch to climb and waiting to destroy the riders in the Tour de France. Many Tour rider’s dreams have been crushed (or made) on an HC climb.

The Polka Dot overall jersey rider is determined by the rider who has the most points on each mountain climb summit that has a category number or “beyond category” attached to the climb. The Polka dot jersey rider competition can get pretty exciting some years, while some years there is no excitement. I do consider myself a good climber, due to my body type and how much I do enjoy riding up Mountains. Many years back I even trashed talked during The Santa Fe Century. Back then I was probably in the best shape of my life…

Sorry Readers I digress.

Yet, sometimes, sometimes, the breakaway group is made up of riders with no jersey wearing goals. Their sole mission is to outride the Peloton during that stage and to win the stage – for themselves, for glory, for dollars, and to go down into lore of the Tour de France as the winner of a stage in the tour de France. I love seeing the breakaway group survive and win the stage by out riding the Peloton. Whether it might two riders or just one rider. Even after riding a whole stage you see riders somehow find the strength to out ride the other rider(s) to win the stage. I always root for the breakaway rider/group to outlast the Peloton to the finish line. To see the Peloton catch the breakaway group is sad to see since I know that breakaway group had to pedal much more than the Peloton had to during the whole stage of the tour de France.

And I remember I think the last thing in the tour de France is the overall team with the fastest time in the tour de France. At the end of each stage whatever team has the three fastest riders gets to wear yellow rider numbers that indicate they are the fastest overall team in the tour de France. White numbers are used for all the rider’s numbers in the tour de France, except for the overall fastest team and the most aggressive rider in the Tour de France.

With all that being said that is really what the Tour de France is truly about.

Until the next time

Daryl Charley
The Fallen Athlete

No comments: