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The Tour de France – Happy 104th Birthday!

BLOG #30, SERIES #8

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

THE TOUR DE FRANCE

HAPPY 104TH BIRTHDAY

July 26, 2017

It’s over again and, as always, it’s sad to bid it adieu. Soccer, of course, is watched by more millions than for any other sport. But the Tour is watched by more people lining European roads than is true of any other sporting event in the world. And each year, the crowds seem to get bigger.

For Connie and me, it would be unthinkable to miss one. Fortunately, today it’s possible to pre-record so that we don’t have to miss even one stage. Indeed, for us, the Tour has become part of the very rhythm of our lives.

Every one of the 104 tours has had its own personality, its own uniqueness. This year has had more suspense than we’ve seen in recent years. First, because no one cyclist ever held a commanding lead at any point; even on the eve of the last time-trial, the top three cyclists remained only 27 seconds apart. And even after the time-trial, the still uncrowned yellow jersey, for the first time in history, rode into Paris with less than a 60-second leads over his competitors. It would be Froome’s fourth—an incredible achievement.

Fierce Competitors: Chris Froome, Romain Bardet, and Rigoberto Uran (Denver Post, July 20, 2017)

Second, the two fastest sprinters, Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish, were dropped from the race after one controversial “push.” With that loss, some of the wattage of the race for stage victories dimmed. The compensation has to do with the competition between sprinters who now had a chance to shine and win stages.

In the end, Chris Froome won by only 54 seconds. 167 riders somehow endured almost 2,500 miles, in the three-week tour, all the way from Dusseldorf to Paris.

Now, I turn to two gentlemen who have become so special to millions of viewers around the world that they seem like personal friends: Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Incredibly, this has been Liggett’s 45th consecutive, and the 39th consecutive tour for Sherwen as commentators.

Paul and Phil: Tour’s Everlasting Pair

Wall Street Journal July 1-2, 2017

This year the duo was joined by a new commentator, Christian Vande Velde, who did a splendid job. Behind the scenes is the irrepressible German, Jens Voight, “whose droll takes on the race and racers add much fo the three weeks. “Voight,” who is wildly popular with American cycle fans, attributes much of his cycling notoriety to the way Liggett and Sherwen would rhapsodize about his efforts during races. Voight was well known as a daring breakaway artist who would often launch valiant if doomed attacks.”

Yes, it’s over for another year—but not really, because in our inner archives are stored memories that will never die. And scenes of European roads (especially France’s) that will forever sing in memory.

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