In the early 90’s, me and my mate Colin used to watch the Tour de France avidly. We’d set off on our own mini-stages around our reasonably hilly area of Scotland, churning out a not inconsiderable fifty or sixty miles in an afternoon. We kept up a decent regime for a good two or three years – it was the fittest I’ve ever been in my life, or hope to be for that matter.
But somehow, due to several reasons, I kind of fell away from road biking. Colin injured his back and, well, training on your own is as mind numbing as it is gruelling. I just got bored with it and then gradually stopped paying attention to Le Tour, too.
However, with the 100th Anniversary of the Tour de France this year, I have been trying to keep an eye on things. With all the travel and events over the last couple of weeks, I cant say I’ve managed it too well, but the climax of the stage in the Pyrenees last night was simply awesome.
With only a few kilometres to go, a plastic bag in the hands of a spectator catches on the right brake lever of Tour leader, Lance Armstrong. Down he goes, slamming hard onto the asphalt and jamming his chain while rival Jan Ullrich swerves to avoid the spill and continues up the mountain with the rest of the small group.
Now, in any other sport you’d probably see the more fortunate man launch an attack at that moment, to capitalise on the misfortune of his rival.
Not in cycling. Ullrich backed off and slowed the break group down until Armstrong had caught back up.
Wow. This was cool stuff.
Then another rider in the group launches an attack, Armstrong goes with him and in the space of a hundred metres, Armstrong has dropped the other guy and continues on – charging up the mountain to win the stage by more than forty seconds!!
And at the end, Ullrich was actually smiling – happy to have finished fourth and limited the damage done. The german said he would rather beat the american on the bike than with the latter lying hurt on the road. That’s sportsmanship – something Ullrich’s countryman, Michael Schumacher could do with looking up in the dictionary.