Sunday, July 7, 2013
5 things to know about Tour de France
BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, France -- Five things to know as the Tour de France enters its first rest day on Monday:
1. TRY AS YOU MIGHT: Chris Froome single-handedly quashed several attempts by rivals to wrest the overall race lead from him as the Tour left the Pyrenees and headed into the first -- and widely desired -- rest day of the three-week race. With his Sky teammates worn out after helping him capture the yellow jersey a day earlier, the 28-year-old Briton found himself alone against his top rivals for much of Sunday's Stage 9 ride up and down five mountain passes. A relieved Froome said he understood his teammates might've been tired, and that he was happy that the other contenders like two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador and fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde didn't press the pace more.
2. FAMILY TIES: Daniel Martin became the fifth Irish rider to win a Tour stage in the 100-year history of the race on Sunday, and the first since ... his own uncle. Stephen Roche became the only Irishman in 1987 to win the Tour. He collected three stage wins in his career, the last in 1992. "It's staying in the family, eh?" quipped a silver-haired Roche at the finish of the 168.5- kilometer (105-mile) ride from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre. His sister is the mother of Martin, who was born in Birmingham, England. The proud uncle -- whose son Nicolas Roche is riding in the Tour for Saxo Bank -- told French TV that Martin, the 26-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider, is an under-recognized talent who could one day finish on the Tour podium. "It's wonderful that Daniel won here ... He's a good guy, and he deserves it because he's really worked hard to get there," Roche said.
3. HOLLANDE'S HOPES: What Tour de France would be complete without a visit from the French president? Francois Hollande dropped in on Sunday, making good on what's become nearly a rite of passage for the head of state in recent years. Jacques Chirac visited; so did Hollande's immediate predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy -- a cycling buff and longtime admirer of Lance Armstrong. Despite the heat and relaxing weekend feel, Hollande wore a suit as he rode in a car with Tour chief Christian Prudhomme during Stage 9. He then expressed hopes in an interview with French TV that cycling has turned the corner on doping. Cycling has "paid a heavy price" in the past, Hollande said, adding "I want to believe the Tour is clean."
4. KEEPING COOL: Cyclists' bodies generate lots of heat when they ride and it's even worse during mountainous stages and under scorching days like Sunday, when temperatures topped 30 degrees Celsius (86 F). So keeping cool is crucial. Teams have different tricks. Andreas Goesele, team doctor for RadioShack Leopard Trek, gives his riders black wristbands or necklaces drenched in "Liquid Ice," which evaporates over time and helps keep the body temperature down and improves energy production. The Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad has rolled out an inflatable pool that can be filled with chilled water in a team van, so riders can cool down right after the finish. Before the team time-trial in Stage 4, some riders donned tops that look like space-age feathered vests -- but cold. And some teams cool down the old fashioned way, too -- at Garmin-Sharp, managers dunk towels in cases of chilled water and then wrap up their riders.
5. BACK ON THE BIKES: After hours of racing, some Tour riders finish the long, hot stages by getting right back on their bikes. BMC rider Amael Moinard of France said his "cool-down" on a stationary bike lasts 5 to 10 minutes and aims to eliminate toxins from the body. "At the finish, it's good to churn the legs a bit just to clear out the system and help recuperate -- you just have to make sure you're in the shade!"