Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mount Up!


Every July a special sporting event takes place which tests the absolute physical endurance of 180 of the world’s greatest cyclists. This year marks the 96th Tour de France and the return of Lance Armstrong to the Tour after a few years off from cycling. The Tour began on July 4th in Monaco with an exciting time trial and will finish in Paris on July 26th. Today is stage 10 of 21 which begins in Limoges and will finish in Issoudun for a total of 193 km (120 miles).

The Tour is considered by some to be one of the toughest athletic competitions out there. The race spans 23 days and when it is over the riders who finish will have completed 3,500 km (2,170 miles). The winner will be the one rider with the overall lowest time and the overall leader wears a yellow jersey (maillot jaune) to distinguish themselves from the rest of the riders.

To the first time viewer of professional cycling, it looks to be as exciting as watching paint dry, but after learning about the sport and watching more and more of it, I have learned that there is quite a bit of drama between teams, riders, and even riders on the same teams. This infighting makes for an exciting race filled with backstabbing and calculated strategy.

As mentioned above, the year sees Lance Armstrong return to the peloton (the group of riders) with hopes to win his 8th Tour de France. The interesting aspect is that Lance is not his team’s “leader”. On race teams there is a team captain and the rest of the 8 team members are there to support the captain. Lance Armstrong’s team, team “Astana”, contains a number of world class riders such as Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, and Levi Leipheimer. There was a lot of speculation leading up to the Tour about whether Contador of Armstrong would be the team captain going into the race. The team manager picked Contador and Lance said that he would support him during the race. That hasn’t necessarily happened and watching this unfold over the last 9 stages has been interesting. Currently an Italian name Nocentini is the overall race leader and Alberto Contador is 2nd place only 6 seconds behind and Lance Armstrong is in 3rd place 8 seconds behind the leader. This means that Lance Armstrong is has a good chance to win his 8th Tour, that is if his own teammate Contador doesn’t take it away from him.

The stages generally start around 12 or 1pm European time and finish around 5 or 6pm. France is 6 hours ahead of the East Coast. If you’d like to watch this year, the cable channel Versus is covering it on cable and online. The online coverage is pretty good and starts at 830am Eastern time at this link:

General information can be found there and the official Tour website is:

Posted by our guest blogger DVACJ

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