It's all about the fan!
Wednesday marked the second-longest stage of the Tour, and it was also the hottest so far. It makes for long days on the wheels and it's never easy. On stages like this -- stages that are up and down and windy and single file -- you stay on the wheel as much as possible. This is when you'll see teammates come to your aid and keep you out of the wind and move up when you have to.
The most important thing for riders is to drink and eat enough. That might seem easy, right? But it's very difficult to eat in high heat -- since your body is using so much energy to cool down, you don't feel
hungry and you have to force yourself to eat. You're also simultaneously losing liquid through sweat, so riders will have to drink at least two bottles an hour, if not more, just to stay even.
After the race, you get a massage, eat and go straight to bed. Not many riders are going to cafes or picking up newspapers. Yes, the sport can be a little boring! Eat, sleep, ride bike.
But we cyclists do have our little tricks to stay cool. Many European hotels do not have air conditioning, so some of us bring little fans with us during the Tour. You have to hope you're rooming with a guy who likes fans as much as you. Most Americans were born and raised with air conditioning; many European cyclists were not. So, some of your roomies might not like the fan for fear of getting sick. I don't think there's any scientific proof of getting sick from a fan, but some think it affects them. But I say the fan is your friend.
(Earlier in my career, I once apologized to a teammate for bringing so much stuff on a trip and I was told a famous story about how Greg LeMond used to bring his own portable air conditioner to races. I never saw it myself, but it sounded like a great idea!)
A lot of riders also bring their own pillows. As you can tell, we really concentrate on comfort! But a pillow is a personal thing. So, you'll see us carrying suitcases
and bags of pillows. Other tricks to relaxation: You'll see a lot of riders carrying PSPs, iPods, Game Boys
and heaters for our shoes. You see these heaters more during the cold spring classic races, when there's a lot of rain, rather than the Tour. The heat dries them out.
No matter the method, on days like Wednesday, it's all about the recovery.
-- Bobby Julich