The Tour de France starts Saturday!
This is a highlight of my year. I think that the major cycling tours are the most interesting sporting events on the planet. Part of it is length. Three weeks is a long time. Strategy and tactics are cumulative. You can’t go all out on day 10 unless you have a good plan for coming back on day 11. In a three week race, there are so many opportunities to random chance to intervene.
The other great thing about these grand tours is that there are multiple ways to succeed. The winner on general classification, the winner of the stages, the points winner, the king of the mountains. The multiple categories acknowledges the diversity of the skills required in cycling and it reinforces the epic nature of cycling. In cycling, as in life, there is more than one way to succeed.
My awareness of cycling has been slowly been ramping up over the past weeks. OLN has scaled back their coverage of the Giro d’ Italia which is a loss. The Giro is as interesting a race as the Tour, even though it doesn’t have Lance Armstrong. In fact, the scenery of the Giro is more compelling to me.
Reading about cycling is also a constant reminder of cultural differences. Bernard Hinault was being interviewed about the upcoming tour. As reported by .:. procycling .:. one of the central issues was why there have been no French victors of the Tour since Hinault’s victory in 1985. This was only marginally interesting to me, but there was this nugget of Gallic wisdom:
Moncoutie needs to learn to ride on the cols as one of the leaders, because when you are behind already, you are only able to pull back time which you have previously lost.
If you are a native English speaker, please try to wrap your mind around this statement. “If you are behind, you are only able to catch up.” Would you ever say that in English? The self-evidence of it makes it pointless to say, and yet somehow Hinault is conveying it as wisdom.
I’m not writing this to slam Hinault, or the French. I’m writing in wonder. Does this sound as obvious to Hinault as it does to me? Is he communicating something by saying it, or is it just a formal requirement of the language, or of Hinault education, personality or stature?
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