CURRENTLY CYCLING FANS ARE BEING TREATED TO THE SPECTACLE AND EXCITEMENT of the 2018 Le Tour de France. The 105thevent will be made of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,329 kilometers, indicates a page from the Velo Peleton Tours company website velopeloton.com, covering the Tour. The UK’s Telegraph also extensively covers this race.
The competition began Saturday, July 7 and will finish Sunday, July 29. The geography varies; there are 8 flat stages (days of riding), 5 hilly stages, 6 mountain stages, and 3 ‘altitude’ finishes. Not all days are spent with cyclists moving en masse on the route from a start to a finish town. Two days are spent in rest, and two will be spent in time trials (1 individual, 1 team).
The course is not continuous and moves from region to region (see the map). The scenery of the mountain stages is breathtaking for riders and spectators, literally. Eleven stages are in the Alps, 4 in the Massiff central, and 10 in the Pyrenees. All but a very small section (in Spain) of the route lies entirely within France. The race begins on the Atlantic coast but in ends in Paris.
Unlike many other long-standing formal or informal competitions, the course changes from year to year. Sometimes it’s longer; this year it is shorter. Towns through which the cyclists pass and in which they stay the night change.
When I began researching to report on this race I quickly realized I would not be able to do so with expertise. There is so much complexity to the route/course, terrain, sponsor, rules, teams/individual participants, challenges, and strategy, just to name some of the aspects of the race, that I gave up.
Even the history is complicated. Although there are doubtless many lessons and insights that Earned Runs can learn and take from this famous event, I felt inadequate for the task. In this way, it is similar to the America’s Cup sailing competition. Too huge of a project to take on for a single post.
But as I talked daily to my daughter about each day’s happenings (she and her husband are avid cyclists), I realized that a staged competition might be something Earned Runs could present as a potential custom-designed challenge.
For runners, walkers, or cyclists who don’t find a streak of daily performance, or turning in a personal best in a fastest race, enough of a challenge, perhaps a staged event might generate more excitement.
It’s possible that in one summer, a route with a number of ‘stages’ might be identified to conquer by some. Perhaps there are scenic route segments, not necessarily connected, that are beloved or the object of inspiration that could be traversed in sequence if not in continuity. In states that I have lived, like Michigan, California, and Texas for example, I can imagine doing this to enjoy the natural beauty of some areas. The stages would approximate a ‘highlights’ tour. Others might focus on building an event in which skill was a factor rather than scenery, and plan what cyclists might call “technical’ stages. If the term is not appropriate, the idea behind it is that more or less experience and ability would be required to complete specific stages.
Famous competitions have achieved fame/infamy for a number of reasons. The Tour de France represents a geographic and athletic spectacle that tests skill and endurance. There have been scandals. Women do not participate in it, nor is there an equivalent French race. There are other races that may be more beloved by the cycling world.
Earned Runs isn’t qualified to comment on its greatness or compare it with other tests of human sport performance. But we can suggest that athletes might look to it as an example of a type of challenge that can be scaled and adapted for personal use.
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. In 1978 I began participating in 10K road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health and longevity.
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