To be clear: I did not rest today. Nope, after two days off the bike, I was out there at 8:32 this morning. I arrived home at about 10:42, after a ride that lasted about 1:45 and (apparently) about 25 minutes of waiting for lights at intersections, plus my brief “rest” at the turnaround point. When I left the temperature was about 77; when I got back it was about 84; now it’s about 90. The humidity is creeping up. If I want to ride tomorrow I will probably have to start earlier or ride a shorter route. My ride this morning was about aerobic exercise, health and conditioning, and pleasure. I told my wife when I got back that “only an idiot would go out on a day like this.” But I’m a happy idiot.
Every rider left on the Tour rode this Rest Day morning too (offset by a 6-hour time differential). For many of them, however, it was about survival. Crashes in the first week of this Tour have been unprecedented in my memory for their frequency and severity. Eighteen riders have abandoned the race altogether, almost all because of injuries suffered in crashes, and there could be a couple more who announce their abandoning before the stage begins tomorrow.
One of the latter is Andreas Klöden of RadioShack. I spoke too soon in my prior blog about him staying out of trouble. He was caught behind a crash yesterday and lost a few seconds to the other main contenders. But he was relatively lucky. Contador actually did crash, and in the process banged his sore knee again. Klöden rode today, as did every other able-bodied Tour participant. But for many it was a training ride, just enough effort to keep their muscles supple and used to hours in the saddle. But Klöden was also testing his injured back to see if he can line up for the start in the morning. Others also were assessing their injuries.
Something really ugly, and in my opinion still underplayed, in this year’s Tour is the crash factor of motor vehicles colliding with racers on bikes. This has now happened twice in 2011. The first one was a photographer’s motorcycle, which is bad enough. Yesterday it was a car operated by reporters and photographers for French TV. The driver had the choice of sideswiping a tree or hitting a rider. he chose to hit the rider. That choice in itself shows such fundamental disrespect of the athletes and the race itself that none of the occupants of that car should ever be allowed in the Tour entourage/motorcade again, ever. Worse yet, the rider who was struck was pushed into a second rider with such violence that that second rider was launched airborne across the road and into a barbed wire fence. Incredibly both riders finished the stage, and the second rider currently holds the Polka-Dot jersey indicative of supremacy in the mountains (of course the big mountains really don’t start until Thursday). But he may not be able to start tomorrow depending on how his lacerations are responding to treatment.
Two vehicle-rider collisions in a Tour is two too many. I can’t think of one other instance in the last 25 years except for Greg LeMond being rear-ended by a team car at very low-speed when there was a sudden halt in the peloton. These journalists are getting to be like The News of the World. Abandon all principle in the quest for the best shot, the best quote. It’s all about them; they consider themselves more important than the race. There need to be strict new limitations imposed on their operation within the race during stages, and legal penalties for violations like these two idiots who thought about themselves and not anybody else. I deplore the fact that the Race Director and the ASO organization he represents have not been aggressively vocal in their responses to these incidents. They are not “accidents” in these sense that they should be absolutely preventable. Safety of the riders is paramount, a value that ASO seems to have forgotten completely.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.