Actually, the future for France could ride on the shoulders of a young man who didn’t even make the podium. Romain Bardet is younger than 3rd place finisher, Thibaut Pinot, or 2nd place’s Jean-Christophe Péraud. The latter is now 38 or so, he’s on his last legs, but Pinot at 25 and Bardet at 24, well, Vive la France!
Bardet is no pedaling pushover and no dummy either. He’s taking courses from the Grenoble School of Management – via correspondence. But he shows up for tests and showed up, coming 6th in the 2014 Tour - but to look at him - you’d think he just graduated from grade eight. He’s thin as a stick, as are all competitive cyclists, but he knows - as we should know – that the Tour and management - BIG Business - share one HUGE characteristic, a characteristic that allows one to hit the heights:
Timing. Is. Everything.
And, for this Le Tour, with its 3,344 kilometers, there will be plenty of instances to apply timing techniques.
You know what, let’s forget France for a sec. Who can, for example, the Americans pin their hopes on? Their best rider in the 2014 show, finishing 5th, was Tejay van Garderen. The self-proclaimed pizza lover, and rock star fan, rides for the BMC Racing Team.
BMC is quality. Period. It ranked second world-wide in 2014.
And Tejay wore the Polka Dot Jersey, awarded to the “King of the Mountain” - for a day, in his first Tour de France foray...
American or French favorites aside, all teams and nationalities will get going from this year’s Stage 1, all 13.8 km worth, in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
It’s a totally nifty fit, given Utrecht city scapes show about 50 bicycles – of all colors and sizes - to each car. Churches, cyclists, cut-stone causeways, canals, cafes, predominate. Bicycles standing, leaning, sprawling, when not pedaled by commuters, school kids, sightseers....have major meaning in this motto, for this medieval-to-modern city: Utrecht we all cycle.
OK. We all cycle, and the French, Americans, and a myriad of other nations have high hopes but here’s the lowdown on how this may run out. Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, of Team Astana, is the big Kahuna, having won the 2014 edition. Then and there he was Mr. Consistent and Mr. Maestro Dominant, winning four stages and the overall title. (This season, as of April’s end, he hasn’t won, however, so – are all bets off? Or on?
Maybe keep ‘em on. Astana team director, Giuseppe Martinelli, says Vincenzo is 100% focused on the French race. So, possibly, probably, he can defend and keep the yellow jersey.
Martinelli sees Vincenzo peaking, pedal perfectly, by the time wheels roll for La Grande Boucle on July 4th, no small thanks to his training at the rarified and rough heights on a Tenerife goldarn volcano, the 12,198 foot peak, Mount Teide. It was a perfect setting to clear his head and beam in on training and technique, after all the hoopla and hurrah he has experienced in winning the 2014 trophy.
This year, to the winner and the almost 200 losers, the fast charging, exhausting race will be featured by, and on, “Dimension Data.” Purists and geeks alike will, in the opinion of Tour owner, Amaury Sport, and creator Dimension Data, dig the cool graphics and love the real-time information “stuff” available to possibly 190 countries – and perhaps even to the 10 million roadside fans - if the latter stare at their apps instead of stare at their athletes whizzing on by...
But, basically, my oh my, looking up at reality or looking down at app technology - either way - the Tour de France will feature and reside in what it does: foes will pedal furiously over hill and down dale. They'll fall peloton pell-mell, or singularly in personal-unique hell, they'll nearly blow lungs and almost burst hearts, climbing, chasing, catching and...
Chivalry and cruelty will reign.
Chivalry will, if you crash around a hairpin turn, rule. The peloton, the “flying ball” - will wait for you. Cruelty is plain. Teams use members as “domestiques” who only differ from slaves by wearing aero-dynamic skin tight garb, as they grunge and grind - and gear along - doing the scut and muck work of the team’s favorite, front runner.
(Sidebar: at least all of these cyclists, slaves or stars, share one, common to them, but uncommon to us, characteristic. Their heart sizes are up to 40% bigger than average!)
But in the end, we are all toast. We viewers have always toasted happy, memorable times. We’ll grab the bubbly – and we will witness one winner, who willingly won over, and put one over, the 7 mountain stages – for this 2015 is all about the mountains - and the 21 stages in total, and who will too, grab the bubbly. He’ll wheel, happy, into Paris proper. We’ll squeal. His hair and ours, figuratively and literally, will be let down - a partying on the town - as we simultaneously, in sync, kick back, celebrating with that champagne-filled flute, drink.
To think that this flute thingy compares, like not at all, with car racing where men in cars make a few one-day afternoon turns and then spray bottles of champagne at deafened crowds – and to think – of what finally, has not purposely been discussed here – but matters most:
The points of contention and spirited debate for elite road cycling will remain: who is using illegal drugs, what’s being used, will they get away with it, and should we care?