July 20, 2006

The Tour de France Comeback Kid

One of the greatest comebacks in sports history occurred today in the Tour de France bicycle race, and few people in the U.S. probably even know about it.

The comeback occurred during stage 17 of the Tour de France, and American Floyd Landis is the racer who accomplished it. It would take too long to describe the ordeal of endurance and pain that is the Tour de France. Suffice it to say that it is like racing several world-class marathons every day for three weeks in a row, including 120-mile rides up and down the French Alps. On top of that, the tactics involved are extraordinarily complex, involving an unmatched level of sportsmanship and cooperation, due to the riders' need to take turns "drafting" and blocking the wind for each other at the front of the pack.

Landis led the Tour going into yesterday's Stage 16. Then, during one of the stage's brutal mountain climbs, Landis "bonked." That is the term for when a biker runs completely out of gas and his body shuts down. It is often accompanied by hallucinations. I have bonked in the Kaibab Desert in Arizona, at about mile 90 of a 96-mile ride, and it's a scary feeling. I remember being freezing cold in the 90-plus degree desert heat. In a race where the leaders are typically separated by seconds, Landis lost an astounding eight minutes during the final 18 kilometers of yesterday's stage. He fell to 11th place. Experts said that his Tour was over. To add more drama, this could be Landis' last tour. His right hip has been completely degenerated for at least two years, and he plans to get a hip replacement this year. No bike racer has ever been able to race in the Tour de France after a hip replacement. Imagine the grinding pain he feels during every turn of the pedals.

Today, during the third stage in a row in the Alps, Landis grabbed the lead early on a climb and kept extending it. Riding alone for a large portion of the stage, Landis made up nearly the entire eight-minute gap that he had lost yesterday. He now sits in third place, just 30 seconds off the lead. This Saturday's stage is an individual time trial, where riders are let onto the course at spaced intervals instead of all at once. Landis excels at this event. He is now the favorite to grab the leader's yellow jersey during the time trial, which is just a day before the final stage, a ride to Paris and the finish around the Arc de Triomphe.

The Outdoor Life Network will air Saturday's race at 8:30 a.m. eastern time, and will rebroadcast it at 8 p.m. If you have cable or satellite tv access, and want to see history and a legend made, tune in!


At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised your blog is strangely quiet about the Lebanon/Israel crisis?

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Thanks for the suggestion. It's the second topic in two days that people have suggested I blog about. The first one had to do with cars. Blogs are by nature personal forms of expression for the writer. The subjects chosen and their timing may not always make sense to readers, but hopefully they are interesting nevertheless. As I said to the first person yesterday, if a subject interests you, I strongly encourage you to post an entry about it on your own blog if you have one, or to start a blog if you don't. Your views might be much more interesting than mine.

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand your points- I assumed that you would be flattered that people are suggesting topics to you. That would imply that they want to know what you think. And isn't getting your viewpoint out into the world at least part of the purpose of this particular blog? I have just found it interesting that this blog which is typically political (and democratic) in nature, which typically addresses current events immediately, is quiet during a time when there is a major political story going on. A story that I fear will escalate (and be manipulated by our government). You are clearly a gifted writer and while I enjoy reading about bike races and bumper stickers, I am just curious about the timing.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Matt said...

It just so happens that today's post is about World War III, so maybe that will satisfy your interest. But I have to take issue with you as to some of your points. First, my blog is not strictly about politics. It's more about the media, which is why it is called Media Concepts as opposed to Politics Concepts. Second, while you dismiss bike races and bumper stickers, I say that both are very important. Bumper stickers are a democratic form of mass media that anyone can afford to broadcast and which can be seen by many people. Bike races and other sports such as olympic events and world cup soccer matches can help bring the world together. And finally, I hope I'm not expected to be serious, relevant or topical every day. Sometimes we all just want to lighten up! Again, thanks for your interest, and I hope you will keep reading and, at least on occasion, find the topics to be ones in which you are specifically interested.

At 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Matt- I enjoy this blog and will continue to read. And maybe at some point you'll comment on the media's pro-Israel-at-all-costs slant when it comes to middle east conflicts. In the meantime, thanks for writing this blog, I definitely find it interesting.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Matt said...

If you don't have a blog, you should! If you do have one, you should address this. It sounds like you have some provocative opinions on the subject. Why on earth would you want to wait for me or anyone else, who might not agree with you, to address topics of strong interest to you? My blog might become the bike racer's journal, then where would you be?


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