As obscure a sport as professional cycling may be to most Americans, in the rest of the civilized world it is as popular as many of our most watched sports. This Saturday, the Superbowl of cycling (otherwise know as Le Tour de France) begins.
Some information on the race from the Tour de France website:
Running from Saturday June 30th to Sunday July 22th 2012, the 99th Tour de France will be made up of 1 prologue and 20 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,497 kilometres. That's 2,173 miles to us Yanks! 2,173 miles over 21 days...insane!
|2012 tour route|
And just to back up my statement about the popularity of the sport:
Last year's media stats:
- 100 TV channels, 70 radios, 400 newspapers and press agencies, 70 websites, that is to say 2,300 journalists representing 35 nationalities.
- Broadcasting in 190 countries of which 60 transmit live coverage
- Website: 14 million unique visitors
A great article from the LA Times said:
They're (tour riders) burning about 4,000 to 5,000. Yost adds, "It's not unheard of for a Tour rider to burn up to 8,000 calories during a single stage.Quick math 8,000x21 =168,000 calories burned during the race. Insane!
So, I suppose I'm trying to convince y'all to give the tour a watch this year. I guess I'd better throw out some other reasons why this race is so entertaining.
Last year, one of the riders got hit by a car (it gets worse) and subsequently ran into the rider beside him who was thrown into a barbed wire fence! The crazy part...he got back on his bike and finished the stage!
Johnny Hoogerland is one tough man!
At the 2010 Tour, the reigning champion, Alberto Contador attacked (rode away) the yellow jersey (the leader of the tour -person with lowest overall time, wears a yellow jersey) on a huge mountain stage. The yellow jersey tried to respond but lost his chain (it slipped off the sprockets making it impossible to pedal) and was left behind. Some argue that Contador should have waited, others say it was the yellow jersey's fault for not shifting properly and Contador was not obligated to wait at all.
With Lance Armstrong embroiled in a battle with the USADA -accused of using banned performance enhancing drugs during the tour, Alberto Contador (previously mentioned) banned from the sport for testing positive for a banned substance (Lance never tested positive) and the return of Alejandro Valverde and Alexander Vinokourov (both off a two year bans for testing positive) the entire races is marred with the black cloud of doping (taking illegal performance enhancing substances). While to some, this may deter them from watching, I believe it adds a level of excitement as the race organizers continue to crack down on the cheats.
Riders to watch.
I believe it will come down to three riders for the title this year. Bradley Wiggins, a British rider. Cadel Evans, last year's winner from Australia and Levi Leipheimer, an American rider whose just coming into form after breaking his leg earlier in the season when he was hit by a car.
|Levi's broken leg|
The race is also loaded with dark horses. One bad day can put any of the 'favorites' out of contention for the overall win. Each of the 21 stages is loaded with emotion as riders put it all on the line for either the stage win or to put time between them and the other favorites. The Tour de France (Le Tour de France as the rest of the civilized world calls it) will, as always, deliver. -crashes, drama, controversy, victories, defeats, pain, tears, resilience of the human spirit, physical feats beyond comprehension and, of course, the greatest endurance race there ever was.
Give it a watch, you won't be disappointed.
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