We have another great post by superstar guest Bob Joy. He has been on many Trek Travel bike trips and captured many great moments through his camera. Here he discusses the joys of July and the 3 weeks of the Tour de France.
If you are a cyclist, July is the best month of the year. Not just because the long days and warm weather are ideal for riding, but because for three magical weeks the Tour de France comes around. For the committed, the Tour eclipses March Madness, the Stanley Cup, and the World Series in importance. It’s like having a Super Bowl every day for 21 days, but with a caravan of vendors instead of the beer commercials. And the best part is that you get to stand right on the sidelines!
The Tour de France attracts the largest live audience of any sporting event in the world. This year, fans will stretch out over 3,430 kilometers of some of the most scenic roads in France. Seeing the Tour in person, especially with Trek Travel, is an amazing experience! No other travel company has the connections to get you inside the action.
The photo below was taken about one kilometer below the summit of the Col d’Aubisque on the final mountain stage during the 2007 tour. Our group had dined with the Discovery Channel team the night before and learned that they were planning to change out the rear wheels for three of the riders – Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, and Yaroslav Popovych – after the first steep climb up the Port de Lareu. This would enable them to start the day with larger climbing cogs “as the road turned up in anger,” as Phil Liggett might say, and then switch to a tighter cluster for the rest of the stage. This novel strategy required split-second timing; the mechanics in the support vehicles had be in just the right positions to switch the wheels without causing the riders to lose precious seconds to the peloton. The gambit worked! Even the commentators were taken by surprise and exclaimed that Levi, “must have had a mechanical or a flat tire.”
We also knew that Leipheimer was going to press race leader Michael Rasmussen on the final climb to the summit finish on the Col d’Aubisque in an effort to soften him up for Contador. Johan Bruyneel thought that Rasmussen was at his limit, but that was not the case. Just after they passed us, with Levi setting the pace as planned, Rasmussen accelerated to the finish and won handily. You may recall that he was then whisked away by his team management and forced to withdraw from the Tour, not for testing positive for any banned substance, but for lying about his whereabouts several months earlier.
Alberto Contador thus became the race leader overnight and started the next day in Le Maillot Jaune. He went on to win in Paris and we were able to join the celebration at the team bus. Few people in the crowd knew what had happened in the pivotal mountain stage that led to his victory. But as Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story!