Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tour de France 2016 week one summary

Tour de France route 2016
Tour de France route 2016

We have reached the end of the first week of the 2016 Tour de France and what a week it has been. I’ve probably spent far too much time watching it on TV, instead of gardening, quarter-end accounts or housework, but it’s been a welcome distraction and helped to lift my post-referendum blues, and with four stage wins by British cyclists in seven days it has given me one reason to be proud to be British.

I thought I’d do a quick, fun summary of some the action so far, but please note there are plenty of real cycling sites out there if you want the serious facts and figures.

198 cyclists (22 teams each with 9 riders) started the race last Saturday at Mont St Michel in Normandy and unusually (first time ever) all 198 are still there, despite a number of crashes that have resulted in ripped outfits, blood, stitches, road rash, bruises and a lot of pain. Being a professional cyclist is not a job for wimps. 

As part of the Tour there are 10 doctors, 5 nurses, 7 ambulances, 2 medical cars (with doctor onboard), 1 motorcycle and 1 x-ray truck accompanying the cyclists every kilometre of the way.

They have so far covered 1,401 kilometres (870 miles) and the longest day saw them cycle 237.5 kilometres (148 miles) from Saumur in the Loire to Limoges in the Limousin.

Time spent in the saddle so far has added up to 34 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds for the current leader (and wearer of the Yellow Jersey) and 36 hours, 36 minutes and 17 seconds for the rider at the back, or the Lanterne Rouge (red lamp, named after the red light hung on the back of French trains.)

They have travelled from Normandy in the north (D-day beaches), sped through the flat lands of the Loire (chateaux and vineyards) and the Limousin (cows), which warmed their legs for the first mountain climbs of the Massif Central (more cows and cheese). They then raced through the Aveyron (medieval villages and wine) and Tarn et Garonne (fortified villages and foie gras), before arriving in the Pyrenees (big mountains).

A professional cyclist must consume an average of 8,000 calories each day while competing, so a quick calculation tells me that each team needs to provide 72,000 calories in food everyday to keep their cyclists fully fuelled. Add feeding of the support staff that keeps the team moving behind the scenes and I’m glad it’s not me in charge of shopping or cooking.

A fact from the early years, before team catering trucks (taken from Tour de France Records – the ultimate nerds coffee table book), on hot days the peloton (main group of riders) would stop cycling and rush into cafés to raid their refrigerators for cold drinks. This often included alcoholic ones.

Mark Cavendish was the first rider across the finish line on day 1 earning him the first Yellow jersey of the Tour and his first ever Yellow jersey, despite him having won 26 previous stage wins since 2008. Since his win on Saturday he also crossed the line first on day 3 and day 6, giving him a new total of 29 Tour de France stage wins. Only Belgium champion from the 1970’s, Eddie Merckx, has taken more wins, at 34.

Steve Cummings, Dimension Data team mate of Mark Cavendish, took the forth British stage win this week on day 7, when he left everyone trailing behind him and stormed up the Col d’Aspin in a solo breakaway.

The other holders of the Yellow jersey this week have been Peter Sagan, who held it for days 2, 3 and 4 and Greg Van Avermaet who won it on day 5 and is still holding it today, day 8.

If you are watching it, I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.

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