We’ve all fallen off our bikes as children, with grazed knees and elbows usually being the norm and as adults, many of us have also hit the deck and one thing is for certain, it hurts like hell! Whether you’ve landed on your head, hands or shoulder, washed out on a corner or slid along the tarmac at 45mph on your backside, most of us then spent the next few minutes or hours groaning and fighting back the tears in front of our less than sympathetic mates or an assortment of less than concerned motorists. What professional cyclists do however is the exact opposite of what most normal people do. They get back on their bikes and try to catch the bunch!
As someone commented recently on our facebook page about how pathetic the average professional footballer is when they get kicked: ‘let’s see how a they like being thrown out of a car at 40mph in their underpants’ – to ride in the peloton and descend as fast as they do takes some real nerve and bravery.
This years Tour de France was a prime example of just how much pain and suffering the riders are willing to go through to be able to proudly ride into Paris. The first rider which was mentioned in the office was Cadel Evans who rode the final stages with a fractured elbow but for the sake of not encouraging attacks didn’t announce it until he’d finished – most of us would have a few days rest at home with a fractured elbow! Not a Pro cyclist though.
We hadn’t finished the first stage of the 2010 Tour before riders went down, the most notable and graphic was Footon’s rider Cardoso: After losing traction on a corner, he missed the barriers but the fall took it’s toll and he broke his jaw and collarbone. How he rode afterwards I don’t know (anyone who’s broken a collarbone will know what I mean!) and this fall did sadly put him out of the Tour – his first, very bad luck.
The Tour wouldn’t be a Tour without a dog making an appearance. If one of us hit a dog out on a fast ride it would wreck our day, not a Pro! David Millar and Ivan Basso were the big names who came down on an early stage, but in usual spirit their team mates came back and waited for them to jump back on (after the obligatory wheel check!) and be escorted back onto the peloton. For all dog lovers out there, the dog was OK, but it begs the question….What the hell are you doing taking your dog to watch the tour and not having them on a leash!
We all dread that sound when carbon, alloy and body come together during a race, what must be worse is that happening in a 70-80KM H-1 sprint finish as the Pro riders showed us on stage 1. There were bikes everywhere, this was one of those ‘proper’ pile ups. Remembering correctly Tyler Farrar dragged this AG2R riders’ bike along for a good while with it caught on his pedal/foot much to his annoyance – even the Pro’s don’t like walking in cleats!
There are a few riders who I want to remind you of who this year showed just how tough a cyclist is. Next time you’re out and struggling to hold onto your 1st cat mate who’s dragging you up a hill take this feeling of uselessness and imagine how much of this each and every Pro has been through in making it to the top.
One of the most striking images from the Tour which shows how much finishing means. There were plenty of jokes about his Transition lenses not working that well but to see one of the ‘hardmen’ on the floor and in tears reminds you that these guys are through and through cyclists – they love bikes, the sport and racing hard. Amazingly he was back on his bike the next morning, I like to think I would to but I reckon I’d be recuperating in Barbados if that had just happened to me!
Another Garmin casualty was Christian Vande Velde who battled on despite crashing multiple times and breaking two of his ribs. Andy Schleck, Christian Vande Velde and Alessandro Petacchi all came down hard, the latter two eventually rolling into the finish many minutes down on the front group. He retired sadly retired that night.
The next big injury and retirement was of Frank Schleck, touted by many as a contender. It had been a talking point for months and it delivered the spectacle for which everyone had hoped. Cobbles, crashes and a general sense of calamity again turned the Tour de France on its head during stage three after the previous three days had thrown their fair share of mishaps and surprises. As soon as he hit the cobbles Frank went down hard, as did team mate Matti Breschel, RadioShack’s Jani Brajkovic and several other riders at the front. Another rider with a broken collarbone and this sadly put Frank out for this Tour. No doubt he’ll be back and ready to battle again next year. Perhaps after being able to prepare ideally for the Vuelta in a few weeks.
No article on the Tour or just cycling in general would be complete without Mr Lance Armstrong. His final Tour didn’t go quite to plan and the worst day came in the Alps when he managed to come down 3 times which combined with a poor climbing performance really must have hurt both physically and mentally. Also being taken down by the Euskaltel team at a feed station won’t have gone down well!
Lastly and already talked about is Cadel, the Aussie started brilliantly and seemed to enjoy his time in Yellow. Evans injured his elbow in an early-stage pileup in Sunday’s summit finish to Morzine-Avoriaz, but didn’t realise how serious it was until Monday. He started Tuesday’s stage without sharing the troubling news with team mates and simply hoped for the best. Evans decided not to tell his team mates, who buried themselves to keep Evans in position in the gruelling, five-climb stage across the Alps. “We decided not to tell anybody because we didn’t want anybody hitting us on the first climb,” said BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz. “We controlled the race and we were going to see what the outcome was … you saw the outcome.”
An image which struck a lot of people was Robbie McEwen who managed to lose most of his blood over the medical bike’s left pannier:
It seems the Aussies are pretty tough!
We’ve seen now how cycling is dangerous, exhilarating and relies a lot of camaraderie. After looking at all these just remember that cycling and racing is a sport and with it come risks – it wouldn’t be fun otherwise! If you do crash accept it and learn from it, you can’t get to the top without giving it a go!
Just so you don’t get disheartened, some of the Pro’s still haven’t gathered the whole ‘you can’t ride sidewards up a kerb’ manoeuvre that we never managed to perfect as a kids and always resulted in a less than graceful face plant into next doors garden! :
The list of professional cyclists who have ridden through the pain barrier is a long one and like them, some of you will have some epic tales of carrying on when you really should have sat down and wept! Feel free to let us know your experiences and of any more examples of pro cyclists who simply won’t quit.