You watch the Tour and you think the whole country of France is nothing but rural beauty, punctuated by small villages and the occasional town that exists only as a place where bicycle races end. Perhaps your own regional pride forces you to defend the beauty of your little area of the States as a beautiful place too. Maybe it is. I like to think the Sandhills region of North Carolina is gorgeous, but you have to try to see it. On the roads of the Tour, you don’t have to try.
Like most recreational riders and amateur racers you spend portions of the race each day comparing yourself to the professionals. When the peleton cruises along you think how nice it would be to sit on an expensive bike following the wheel of some Spaniard in an orange kit. Maybe only occasionally do you realize you could barely maintain that speed for a few hundred yards before you’d blow up, crack, be left breathless with your heart pounding at the side of the road as the Spaniard and his multinational cohort left you as they continue on for another hundred miles at an unreal, leg breaking pace. You don’t realize how slightly built these men are, how unlike your body are their small frames.
Without realizing it, you learn each day the behaviors and habits you’ll adopt and use on rides until next year’s race. Sunglasses go on the out side of the helmet straps. You think maybe you’ll be able to dance on the pedals like Contador. Although you’d never admit it, you really would like to throw away one of your water bottles right after you take the last swallow. When you picture the sprint point on your club ride you are always Cavendish and never Renshaw, although you admit, it might be fun to headbutt someone. In short, unless you actually have the benefit of being a categorized racer, your competitive training consists of time spent on your couch making detailed mental notes of how the big boys do things.
And then there is The Yellow Jersey. Above all things, paramount, the most important thing in the race to honor The Yellow Jersey. It is drilled into you. Your stomach tightens when you feel The Yellow Jersey is treated unfairly, when etiquette is breached. There are ethics, traditions, standards that must be met. You don’t have this kind of relationship with any other article of clothing, not even your wife’s wedding dress.
You may or may not admit to any or all of this. I am.