Cherchez le Tour

Yesterday I was about ready to quit watching this year’s Tour de France, as the cold, ruthless hand of Team Sky fell on the peloton in a fashion eerily similar to the way the hand of US Postal would fall on it, in the first serious mountain stage each year.  Four-time Tour winner Chris Froome and his chief lieutenant, a Welshman named Geraint Thomas, took the field by the throat.  Froome almost seemed willing to gift the stage to Thomas, who attacked from the leader’s group with 5km left to go after the two stage leaders.  Froome did not counter until another overall contender, Roman Bardet, also tried to bridge the gap to the leaders.  In the end, Thomas made the final strong move

and it appeared nobody else could counter, even the favorite, Froome.  But Froome still finished third and put time into all his serious rivals except his own teammate.

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Geraint Thomas in yellow.

But today showed that the unexpected is always lurking. Team Sky may still be dominant, yet now the question is whether Froome has it in him to win the Tour again.  Today’s stage ended with a much, much steeper climb than yesterday, up the legendary L’Alpe d’Huez, with its twenty-one switchbacks over 13 km, average gradient of 8%, and 1700 meter (5570 foot) elevation.  As the end approached, one rider (Steven Kruijswijk) remained ahead; the leaders were in a fairly large group, led by another Sky rider (Colombian climber Egan Bernal), then Froome and Thomas (the two Sky teammates), then most of the other contenders.  After various feints and charges, as many as five or six were together across the road with just 4 km left.  Then attacks began, and in the last fairly sharp corner Thomas was took the best line and had the most strength.  Froome finished 4th, only three seconds back.  But his lieutenant has now beaten him two days in a row on terrain suited to Froome.  Thomas is the better time trialer, but there’s only one ITT in the Tour, on the next-to-last day.
Finally the booing.  Near the end the crowd was booing some or all of the contending riders.  Perhaps it was that they did not wait when contender Vincenzo Nibali fell with less than 4 km to go.  But the fall was too close to the finish line to establish a “level playing field” for all to contend.  The contenders had to contend, and they did.  Or was the booing directed at Froome, who was allowed to race only at the last minute because of an unresolved doping finding.  The Tour crowds didn’t show much love for Lance Armstrong in his last race up L’Alpe d’Huez either; he has booed and spat on because of suspected doping, which the crowd believed long before the eventual investigation, findings, and fall from grace.
Bradly Wiggins, former Team Sky Tour champion, said Sky would have a problem on its hands if Thomas won.  And he knows, because he was the victim of Froome, his then-young teammate who outpaced him and ultimately replaced him as team leader.
Stay tuned!  The Tour has more feats of derring-do and behind-the-scenes drama to offer in the next eleven days.
© Arnold Bradford, 2018.
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Cyclist Assault on the W&OD

This never happens.  Sexual assaults?  There have been a few over the last 15 years. Collisions?  Of course.  Cyclists hit by vehicles at crossings?  Sadly, several.  Angry words exchanged?  Every day, I am sure, and several within my hearing.

But “road rage” attacks?  Never, until I heard this on the radio a couple of days ago:

A bicyclist was seriously injured Sunday on one of the area’s most popular bike trails when another cyclist reached out and struck him as they passed each other, authorities said.

It sounds horrible.  Somebody just reached over into the other lane and smacked another rider.

But wait; there’s more.  In the expanded Washington Post report, the story goes on [I disavow and deplore the painfully clunky prose you are about to read]:

According to the sheriff’s office, the victim was headed west and reportedly on the center line of the trail as he tried to pass two other cyclists. A cyclist going in the opposite direction purposely extended his arm and struck him on his helmet, the sheriff’s office said.

The westbound cyclist fell to the ground, the sheriff’s office said. The other cyclist rode off to the east, the sheriff’s office said, heading toward Ashburn Village Boulevard.

In a statement, the sheriff’s office said the suspect in what they described as an assault wore a white/light green shirt, a helmet and sunglasses, and was about six feet tall.

According to the office, his bicycle was said to resemble a time trial bike or a triathlon bike. The bars on the bike were “aero bars” and his helmet was an “aero” helmet covered with a sun shade that covered half his face, according to the statement.

Now it’s a whole different thing, right?  Clearly the “victim” was on the wrong side of the yellow line, not “on” it.  Check out the photo, taken at a place not far from the incident;

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The W&OD Near Ashburn Village Boulevard

there’s not enough room on that section to pass without getting out of your lane.

So it is easy to infer that the “suspect”, the tri-bike guy with the white/light green jersey and the aero helmet, was faced with a speeding cyclist coming at him on his side of the trail, passing other bikes headed in his direction on their proper side of the trail.  He had no place to go except way over to the edge or off the trail.  The shoulder varies in width and quality, but it’s never a good place to be forced onto at a second’s notice.  It’s easy for me to see why the “suspect” would want to smack the “victim,” or true assailant, who had put himself, the “suspect,” and others in harm’s way.  Not that I am condoning a deliberate attempt to injure another cyclist in any circumstances, but the “victim,” it would appear, got what was coming to him.

It was a Sunday afternoon.  It was a rare (for this spring) warm April day.  The cyclists being passed were probably going slowly.  They might well have been a family.  They, along with the dog walkers, the septuagenarian couples taking walks, the second graders being taught how to ride their bikes, the riders stopped on the trail to take a cell phone call, and the rest of the human comedy that occupies the Trail on nice weekend days, can’t be expected to know or follow the Trail Rules.  If regular riders want to get out there on days like that, they have to ride slowly.  Period.

So it’s a shame it happened, and I am glad such events are very rare.  Two guys trying to squeeze too much intensity out of a rare recreational moment.

But I bet I know one guy who’s not going to be wearing his light green kit, donning his aero helmet, or riding his tri-bike for a while out on the Trail.

Copyright Arnold J. Bradford, 2018