As usual, the Tour de France left me with many takeaways. First and foremost, it's an awesome race rich in history, intrigue and fierce competition. Sure, there's always seems to be a litany of complaint about one thing or another. To me, the worst complaints this year came from the many armchair Tour experts who, in watching the race on big screen TV's from the comfort of their up-scale living rooms, found the audacity to criticize the riders, likening the race pace to that of a casual Gran Fondo.
Each year the Tour de France brings with it a variety of adventure and drama and, sure, some years are prone to produce some more exciting stages than others. While the "Lance Years" definitely seemed action packed, and this year's race seemed down on drama, I nonetheless came away impressed with the race; Sagan's spirit, Cavendish everything, and even Sky's dominance. Another reason that I come away so impressed with the race each year? Ladies and gentlemen, it is a HARD race. I'd love to see one of these many TIVO critics gather the courage to look Mark Cavendish in the face and tell him what an "easy" race it was this year after the Manx Missile hit the deck at 40 mph, before remounting, riding to the finish and then starting the stage the following day! Maybe that same remote control coddling wanker could convince Tommy Danielson that his pulling out of the race (after suffering from two separated shoulders) was the act of a real sissy. Yeah, that Saturday group ride that meets with a latte at Starbucks is sooo much tougher & faster than the Tour de France!! Please.
Look, the Tour de France is not like some preordained "reality show" where every move, ever moment is scripted to maximize the spectators sense of excitement. Simply put, it doesn't get any harder and tougher than the Tour de France.
Beyond the obviousness of how hard both the race and the riders who compete in it are, there was one takeaway however that truly had an impact on you, the recreational cyclist. It was on stage 5 when I learned that on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that one bike maker had already spent for a season of racing, that they had to spend an addition $24,000 to have custom steel bottom bracket spindles built for the team bikes so that they would make the UCI's weight restriction. Hallelujah! For years we have opined on the stupidity of the millions of bikes that cycling consumers buy and ride having to first meet the UCI guidelines that really only impact about 200 Pro riders.
While I will continue to argue that a light bike in and of itself can have certain drawbacks when it comes to performance and durability, to find out that this bike maker had to go through that amount of cost and trouble to modify a production bike, well, that means you and I have the chance to get bikes that are lighter and maybe more responsive than what the Pros are riding. Best of all is the notion that someone is getting the better of the UCI and some of their more inane rules that would have ProTour riders aboard straw bikes in their quest to hold back technology. (BTW, I agreed to not name the bike maker for their fear of UCI retribution). Okay, enough rant...
AS FOR THE LAST OF MY 2012 TOUR TECH...
Oakley's Kiko Garcia explains the new Radarlock glasses to Katusha teammates Denis Menchov and Joan Horbach. Prior to his Oakley gig, Kiko was a Pro on the ONCE team.
The Argos-Shimano team may have had a quiet three weeks in France, but the black Felt bikes stood out with their neon green accents. Pro Components
continue to dish out the massive carbon stems designed to maximize stiffness.
Despite their being stereotyped as a saddle for the Gran Fondo set, there are still a few of the "holed out" type saddles to be found in the Pro peloton. This is the Selle Italia SLR Super Flow (claimed 180 grams) found on Matthieu Sprick's bike.
Of course the traditional SLR Team saddle remains a popular choice among the six Tour de France teams that Selle Italia
It may seem minor, but this positioning of Cadel's number plate was pretty clean, especially when compared to the taped on style used by the BMC riders on the new TMR01. Although Cadels' bike had the exterior look of a standard Team Machine, it was actually constructed of with a new, lighter, carbon lay-up. Look for a handful of 2013 race bikes from different brands to maintain the same frame design, but with weight savings due to advanced resin/carbon.
Millions of dollars spent on carbon frames & wheels, wind tunnel time, and custom kitchens on wheels, and still, the best riders in the world roll out with a a ration of safety pins stuck to them. So modern, yet so primitive.
Alexandre Vinokourov stood out among his Astana teammates with his Nokan cables and one-piece FSA carbon/stem
finished off with a somewhat garish handlebar paint job.
This is what defines everyone's existence at the Tour de France and as far as the security guards and Gendarmes are concerned you either are someone with a pass or you're a nobody!
Everything about Peter Sagan is exciting and it's cool to hear people talk about the new age of Cipollini when mentioning his name.
I was fortunate to share the celebratory moment with team Liquigas following Sagan's stage one victory. That was good champagne!
Really?! Frank Schleck was in need of a diuretic?
It's always good to run into friends in the Village Depart. NBC Sports commentator Craig Hummer (L) and Oakley's Steve Blick could usually be found comparing notes and rumors.
In the Katusha team car for Luca Paolini in the prologue TT, in Liege, Belgium.
These American riders have served us well in France...and now for the days to come with Tejay and Taylor!
Chris Horner remains one of the nicest, soft-spoken, and yes, oldest riders in the peloton. Let's hope he gets another chance to show the world what he's capable of at the 2013 Tour de France.
No BOA fasteners for Cavendish.
The orderliness and presentation of the team bikes is always impressive.
One of the coolest parts of the race was the climb up to the Citadel in Namur
, Belgium. Stacked with cobbles, bricks, history and spectators.
I can't help but think that these Mavic hubs
are not just a technological marvel, but also, just plain pretty to look at.
The Tour makes available a handful of these Kawasaki 1400s to use for journos who don't make the grade as an official photo moto rider...
...like me. This is Francois Meylan and he was my "pilot" for the 205k stage 1 route. Talk about an awesome experience. Merci
Halfway through the stage in the middle of nowhere, Francois pulled over and asked if I was ready for lunch...the Tour was kind enough to pack us both box lunches. Merci
Between the season that Phillipe Gilbert has had, and Tour results of the Spanish teams, I suppose I would probably be wearing a similarly forlorn look on my face as this young fan.
The Tour de France is a fantastic race, full of drama, passion, and thankfully, some zaniness too (imagine having to drive this around France for three weeks). Until next year....au revoir
WIN ZAP'S TOUR SCHWAG...
Okay, we had a great vote on the best Tour ad...the Specialized Tom Boonen advert was the big winner and Luis Poessy was the random winner chosen. Luckily, being the Mexican scoundrel that I am, I happened to finagle a second Tour backpack that all the journos were given in Liege which means now YOU have the chance to win. All you need to do is tell us what your favorite moment of the 2012 Tour de France was. Simple. Answer on Facebook or mail your entry to Road Bike Action
As always, thanks for playing and stay tuned for yet another schwag contest coming soon...