Walter Mencken 3:39 p.m., June 18
I’ve decided to take on one of the ultimate challenges in all sports—follow and understand the Tour de France. The tour covers 2,173 miles over the course of 23 days with rest days on the 10th and 16th days.
For years I’ve heard terms like peloton, domestique, time trial, and sprint. I’ve heard rumors of yellow jerseys, green jerseys, white jerseys, and polka dot jerseys. There are teams and the teammates have numbers but how do they choose the numbers or are they assigned?
There is a winner everyday but the daily winner is rarely the leader. What gives? The whole thing appears to be convoluted and just so—French. Was the tour designed by Jean Paul Sartre?
What is the peloton? It’s “the pack”. The French word means little ball or platoon and is related to the English word pellet.
During a stage of the tour, a few riders will break away while the bulk remain in the peloton. As the stage progresses, the peloton reals the breakaway group in and the stage winner usually comes from the peloton.
A rider who goes out with the breakaway rarely wins the stage. It works, maybe, one out of ten times. Why go ahead of the peloton? I’m not sure what the strategy is there. It could be any number of things.
Those who break out do get their name called more often and they also avoid any of the massive wrecks that can plague the peloton. The riders who go out in front also give their sponsors more visibility.
Perhaps those rides just want to get away from the cramped quarters of the peloton. A breakaway can also be a team tactic.
If a breakaway has fewer than seven or eight riders, it is doomed to fail. There just aren’t enough riders to create efficient drafting. Meanwhile the peloton is cruising along with the advantage of numbers to decrease wind resistance.
This is a start. I still have 18 days to figure out the rest.