(Commenter hopper steps in to provide some observations about the Tour de France, which is now about 40 percent complete.)
Interesting tour for us Brits so far; Mark Cavendish – quietly fancied for a win in the first stage – collides with a fan at Farthing Common and then came off worst in a bump with Tom Boonen at Bourg en Bresse. Adding insult to injury, while Boonen’s bike was jammed into high gear, allowing him to go on and win Stage 6, Cavendish ripped all the spokes from his front wheel. He retired early in the stage today, sooner than he had planned.
By contrast Bradley Wiggins ride on July 13 (the anniversary of Tom Simpson’s death) generated more media frenzy than Boonen’s win. Despite finishing behind the peloton, Wiggins’ solo 120 mile ride was the subject of some fairly florid praise – from the French press! We are starting to catch up over here, but we have a long way to go.
Crashes have been a major influence on the race – although the most spectacular, the multiple pile-up in Gand has had probably the least effect on serious contenders. Vinokourov and Kloden were injured on Thursday in the Chablis-Autun stage. Michael Rogers retired today after his and Arroyo’s spectacular crash on the Cormet descent. Arroyo looked to be extremely lucky as he flew the barrier and ended up in the greenery, but he carried on with his race, finishing 17th.
These crashes got me thinking about luck in running, how some have it and some don’t. Joseba Beloki’s exit from the 2003 tour illustrates the point. Beloki was leading Armstrong on a steep descent into the town of Gap when his rear tyre lost traction, slamming him into the road. At the time, Beloki was in second place overall, just 40 seconds behind Armstrong. To avoid being brought down by the fallen Spaniard or his bike, Armstrong took a high speed detour through a steep, rocky “meadow”. At the speed he was travelling, it looked odds on that he would be joining Beloki in the ambulance (Beloki suffered a femur broken in two places, a broken wrist and broken elbow), but Armstrong managed to avoid disaster. It certainly doesn’t detract from Armstrong’s abilities or achievements, but luck certainly paid a huge part in that win.
I mentioned the perils represented by spectators; the perils of watching the race were revealed today.