Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vive La Tour (or Cyclists Are Crazy Too)

Obsessively watching the Tour de France again. Here's a story from Stage 9 (Sunday).

Stage 9 was the last in the Pyrenees. There's a big HC (unclassifiable) climb, a peak named Tourmalet, about 3/4 of the way through the course. The descent just after the summit is a little tricky, down a narrow twisty mountain road. The riders went over in a few groups, two guys in the front, and then a group of 7 or 10 guys, and then the peloton (main field), followed by about half the race, who couldn't keep up on the climb, in variously sized groups of stragglers.

By the way, you might not want to be eating when you scroll down. I'm just saying.

Laurens ten Dam is a dutch rider who went over the summit with the second group. Apparently, he crashed like hell just after that. The TV didn't have video of the crash, but it looked like it must have been pretty impressive. This is what ten Dam looked like when he got back on the course:

This is a screen grab from a video I found on YouTube (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qeU2HlDZFA) but I think you can still see the dirt and the fact that his jersey is shredded. He's also ripped up his left elbow and knee.

See, in the Tour, you don't get an injury time out. If you can't finish the stage, you're done. You go home. If you finish too slow, you're done. So you just have to go. In one early stage I saw a guy crash and ride the last 20 miles anyway with a broken wrist. Oh, my mistake - the TV just did a recap of injuries and it was Robert Gesink, and he actually rode 75 kilometers (46 miles) with a broken wrist. Right now I'm watching Kurt-Asle Arvesen, who's been grimacing and riding slow since a crash about 10 km earlier, hanging on to the doctor's car trying to decide if there's anything he can do to finish the last 40 km.

Actually ten Dam's crash probably wasn't very bad. It looks like he hit dirt pretty quickly, which is better than pavement, and he slid on his back a lot, which is better than sliding on your arms and legs. Oh, and though he didn't catch up to his breakaway group he rode the rest of the stage with the peloton no problem.

So here's the fun part. Laurens ten Dam is on Twitter.

Twitter is actually a great thing when it comes to connecting to "famous" people - or at least people with an inside view of things you see on TV. I follow two Mythbusters, NHL staff, some NHL players, Penn and Teller (he's actually quite chatty), and a bunch of pro cyclists. Especially for cycling, where there isn't a big US media presence, there isn't a lot of pressure for them to watch what they say. I mean, they do, of course, they're professionals, but also you get a lot of visibility into their lives. Like what they ate for dinner, problems with hotels and non-air-conditioned buses, and pictures of Levi Leipheimer in fluffy slippers.

Here's the photo Laurens ten Dam posted after Stage 9.

This is what you call "road rash." He also posted that the team doctor had to go shopping for more supplies.

Apparently the worst part of an injury like this is when you go to sleep, and you wake up and the sheets are stuck to you. Because, you know, your skin tends to ooze when it's like this.

So, road cyclists are officially crazy in my book too.

And you can read all about it on Twitter.

Vive la Tour.

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