Now that I’ve entered my fourth yr of retirement I need to say, there are nonetheless issues I miss concerning the Tour de France, an annual 21-stage bike race that traverses round 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) in and round France. I still cycle recreationally and continue to deal with new challenges, however the Tour remains close to my coronary heart. When I feel back on the 17 occasions I raced it, these reminiscences rise to the highest.
1. The Bond of Brotherly Camaraderie
When you spend almost a month with an incredible group of men, you undergo lots together. My teammates and I shared triumphs, agony, and a number of laughter. We gained and lost together, survived crashes and sketchy situations, and helped raise each other up during low factors. We educated, ate, and lived in such close proximity that we turned a band of brothers, not just teammates driving collectively. Looking back, I snigger once I keep in mind the occasions all of us had street rash. Needless to say, the sensation of surviving the Tour as a gaggle was special and distinctive.
2. The Perks of Fresh Gear and Gadgets
Arriving on the Tour annually was like waking up on Christmas morning; I all the time had the opportunity to check out new sports know-how. We’d get new bikes—typically with a special paint job only for the Tour—and new helmets and footwear. We’d additionally get a totally new package, the cycling time period for our jerseys and shorts. The opportunity to attempt new efficiency gear never received previous. Even throughout my final Tour, at age 42, I still beloved that feeling. Let’s be trustworthy, who doesn’t like free swag, am I right?
three. The Feeling of Elite Fitness
When you’re surrounded by teammates you admire, and also you’re putting excessive among a gaggle of elite athletes, you wake up considering you possibly can take on the world. The feeling of figuring out you’re among the fittest and strongest individuals on the planet is unbeatable. You educated all your life, acquired chosen for the Tour, and now it’s your probability to point out the world what you’re made from. Proving your self on a worldwide stage is filled with strain and expectation, nevertheless it’s also a serious adrenaline rush.
four. The Power of Being the X-Factor
Every rider on a group has a task, and mine was dispensing pain. One yr, whereas driving the Giro d’Italia, I spoke with British rider Charly Wegelius. As we talked concerning the position of every rider on the staff, he stated, “You’re like the nuclear warhead in the Cold War. Everyone is happy to have it as backup, but actually no one dares set it off.” That was the most effective compliments I’ve ever acquired. I prided myself on being the not-so-secret weapon in cycling’s premier occasions; I performed that position in the Tour, too. I liked being someone who might put worry in others and help carry my staff to victory.
5. The Flood of Emotions
The Tour de France is an emotional rollercoaster. You begin the Tour filled with delight and excitement but in addition an entire lot of respect and worry. I nonetheless keep in mind the morning signing-in ceremonies, the place fans would welcome every rider with applause and admiration.
The positivity of the send-off was adopted by the tough reality of the problem we have been about to undertake. Every yr a few quarter of the starters do not make it to the end line in Paris as a consequence of issues like crashes, sickness, and burnout. Out of my 17 Tours, I’ve finished 14 occasions. And each time the Champs-Élysées “victory lap” has been a huge highlight. Hundreds of hundreds of people wait until the race has ended to see you do one straightforward, relaxed lap of honor on that well-known road. The feeling? Pure goosebumps.
In the top, you’re overcome with a huge sense of aid however, shortly after, you’re awash in unhappiness that one other journey has come to an finish. It’s throughout moments like that once I keep in mind considering: “This is what I trained for; this is why I’m alive.”
This article is just not meant to substitute for knowledgeable medical advice. You shouldn’t use this info to diagnose or deal with a health drawback or situation. Always verify together with your physician earlier than altering your eating regimen, altering your sleep habits, taking dietary supplements, or beginning a brand new fitness routine.