Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

11 July 2014

Reflections On, And Memories Of, Stage 7

I caught some of Stage 7 of the Tour de France.  The course followed roads and flew by (The riders do seem to go faster every year!) sites that formed parts of two bicycle tours I've taken.

The stage began in Epernay and ended in Nancy.  I'm not going to talk about leaders or jersey-wearers because, really, I'm not rooting for anyone in particular.  (These days, that's how I often feel when I watch sporting events.)  Rather, I'm more interested in the route itself and how the riders approach it.

The stage is listed as a flat stage, which it mostly is.  However, I know that the particular parts of France through which the peloton coursed--some of the Marne, Champagne , Aube and Alsace-Lorraine regions of the country.  If you watched the stage (or, better yet, if you've seen the region), you realize that it's an area of picturesque towns and lovely countryside.  In fact, the Champagne countryside is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Not surprisingly, many of the homes are used by Parisians, and wealthy people from other parts of France and the rest of the world, as weekend or vacation retreats.

More to the point, watching the peloton reminded me of something that surprised me about the area.  In spite of its flatness  many of the roads feature the sorts of virages (sharp turns) one would expect to find in mountainous areas lke the Alps and Pyrenees.

What that means is that someone who isn't familiar with those roads and is pedaling (or driving) at high speeds has to be careful!  On my loaded touring bike, I was probably riding at about half the speed of the racers in Stage 7.  That's probably the reason why I didn't meet the same fate as Darwin Atapuma, who had to abandon the Tour after a nasty crash.  It also seems to have taken its toll on the rest of his BMC team and on Simon Yeats, who also went down in the collision.

The reason for the twisty roads, I think, is that most of them were first laid out long before the invention of dynamite.  In fact, some of those byways were originally built by Romans and later paved over.  Although most of the terrain is flat, there are some rolling hills which of course, couldn't be blasted or burrowed through.  And, near Nancy are the Vosges, a range similar in elevation and other features (like the rounded peaks of the ballons) to some parts of the Appalachains.

In case you didn't already know,  Matteo Trentin won the stage with a last-minute push to beat Peter Sagan who, for much of the stage, looked as if he would take the day's honors.

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