Squadra di Vecchi Tori

July, I know where I’d rather be. by mpozzi
June 13, 2010, 12:09 pm
Filed under: Pro Cycling

For over 100 years the Tour de France has been part of part of France’s cultural and sporting heritage. Suffice to say it has also taught us more about French geography than any school textbook ever did.

In the last twenty years TV cycling coverage in Australia has come long way. In the late 1980’s, the only major race coverage was the Tour de France. Although a three week race, Wide World of Sports somehow extended it for four to five and its mixture of American cliché, little did we know early Phil Liggett’isms and a background soundtrack by John Tesh that attempted to make the race somewhat theatrically dramatic?

We were introduced to places like Aubisque, Tourmalet, Luz-Ardiden, Ventoux, L’ Alpe d’ Huez, Colombiere and Galibier let alone riders like Hinault, LeMond, Fignon, Alcalá, Hampsten, Delgado and Kelly.

In the late 1990’s SBS started coverage of key stages and then moved to full coverage. With better coverage came familiarity with these famous Cols and the exploits of the new era of riders, some more charged than others. Did we care, not really, we always suspected it and besides the Festina affair of ’98 only reaffirmed it.

It is these Cols where the crowds congregate to see the riders. We don’t seem to care to much for the flat stages, these are just transition stages before another Col. We want to see pain and suffering, we want to see someone jump away on the final ascent of the day. We remember the summits and the hair-raising descents that follow.

I remember the Tour in 1998. It was still reeling from the Festina affair and had reached the Alps. Stage 15 started in Grenoble and went over the Croix de Fer, the Télégraphe, the Galibier and onto a hilltop finish at Les Deux Alpes. Marco Pantani was fully charged and biding his time, Jan Ullrich was coming off his 1997 Tour success and carrying a few extra. That said, he was in yellow and controlling the race.

Heavy rain greeted the riders and set the stage for what would be a memorable day. Six kilometres from the summit of the Galibier and forty eight kilometres to the stage finish, twenty five riders remained. Pantani jumped and no one followed. He reached the summit of the Galibier, stopped, put on a rain jacket and set off in pursuit of an earlier breakaway which he caught and then dropped on the lower slopes of final ascent of Les Deux Alpes. By the summit, Pantani turned his three minute deficit on Ullrich into a six minute advantage. Damage done, the Tour was won.

For the 2008 Tour, twenty years since Wide World Sports, I was lucky enough to be on the summit of L’ Alpe d’ Huez, where will you be in July……………………………

Sufferfest………….Vande Velde, Evans, Valverde, ASchleck, obscured Menchov and Efimkin



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