It was a pretty quiet weekend, cycling-wise, too bloody hot to do much. I rode over to the Riverview Theater Saturday morning to watch the OLN Tour de France coverage. I'd not done this before, and it was great fun. It's free, for one thing, and you can buy a bagel and orange juice and coffee and watch the coverage on the Big Screen in air-conditioned comfort.
I chose my days well. Saturday there was a breakaway by five riders that got 28 minutes out in front of the peloton, described as cruising along as on a Sunday ride, though at a pace that would kill me. One guy got dropped from the breakaway group after trying an aggressive breakaway of his own, then just 5km from the end the remaining four split into two pairs, the front one consisting of Jens Voight and Oscar Pereiro. Voight won in a final sprint, the other pair rolled in 0:40 later, the fifth guy, dropped some time back, came across 6:24 after the winner and, if the rules were strictly enforced, those five would have been the only riders left in the Tour. It was 29:57 before the main peloton came across the finish line and that would have left 152 riders outside the stage's time limit and therefore out of the Tour. The race jury moved the limit from 9% to 10% and the peloton could remain in. Whew! Though CBS on their Sunday Tour de France weekly wrapup didn't make much of this day, to me a nearly half-hour pickup by these two riders (giving Pereiro the yellow jersey) seemed like a hell of a gain for one day.
Sunday I suggested that Henry, Karla and I go to the Riverview, watch the coverage for a while, have a bagel, and Karla could go off and play the 9:00 service then come back and get us. We did this, driving over in the surprising but very welcome rain. It was another great day to watch, a six-man breakaway getting 5:40 up on the main peloton. The peloton began reeling these guys back in until there was a crash. You must have seen the coverage of this, it even made the local news station sports report on Sunday night, six guys go into a corner, front two slip, one of them falls, number five brakes and falls over, slides into metal barrier, number six brakes, locks up back wheel, in control behind falling number five, but crashes into barrier and flips over in extremely dramatic fashion disappearing behind the guardrail, the bike tumbling down, then, in a final touch, a water bottle flying up from the bike. The remaining three racers carried on. Rider One (Rik Verbrugghe) suffered a complex fracture of his left femur and is out for the year, Rider Five (David Cañada) broke his right clavicle and Rider Six (Matthias Kessler), whose dramatic tumble over the guardrail will long be remembered, actually got back on his bike and carried on. He tarried until the peloton caught up with him and ended up finished 12 minutes down. Those of us who find helmets useful admired the rocks stuck in the air vents of his helmet as he carried on.
With just three riders, the time gap narrowed, ticking down to under two minutes and then under a minute. The race got really spread out, and the peloton was pretty small but ruthlessly tracking down the remaining riders. On a final climb before the downhill into the finish line the breakaway dwindled to two riders and the lead to 0:25. Down the final descent and you almost could hear the Jaws theme as the main group closed the distance. It was oddly compelling, shots of the two lead riders coming around a corner and then, startlingly close, the main group. A rider broke away from the main group and began pushing hard, closing the gap to the breakaway riders rapidly but then the Finish Line went by and they'd held on, Pierrick Fedrigo winning the stage, Salvatore Commesso right behind, Christian Vande Velde at 0:03 seconds back, his attempt to catch the breakaway guys at the finish having fallen just short, and then the pursuit group of 33 riders 0:07 back. Other racers continued to drift in for quite a while including Kessler in a group of 12 riders 12:04 back. OLN doesn't broadcast them all coming over the line, of course, but it's interesting to see the official results, with a group of four riders coming in at 22:08 behind the first place finisher and one final straggler in at 32:05.
It was still raining when Karla returned and we went home. The CBS Weekly show got moved from it's 4:00 time frame last week to noon this week, and we watched that show as well. The bit about the last two days seemed not to convey the drama, but maybe every day's like that and it's just that I saw those two days of OLN coverage (we don't have cable at home). I did putter with the bikes a bit in the afternoon, installing a U-lock holder on the red Schwinn and buying some odd bits of hardware to try and permanently mount my taillights to my rear racks.
I highly recommend the Riverview's Tour de France coverage. The French scenery is lovely and well-shot as the helicopters, cars and motorcycles cover the ride. The commercials are doubly-annoying on the big screen, unless they're doubly amusing; the Flomax ad for male urinary difficulties in particular seemed a crowd favorite. I'm not sure why the Riverview does this, the crowds don't look big enough that they'd make a lot of money on bagel sales, but I'm glad they're doing it and hope to continue attending. See you there!