John Seivert: Trying to stay motivated in the heat of summer? Watch the Tour De France
I know it may sound odd that I would suggest watching hours of TV on a hot summer day, but, yeah, sometimes epic sporting events can create motivations that are life-changing. While in high school, I remember watching the movie “Rocky.” That movie inspired countless other people all over the globe and me to get off the couch and start training to become healthier versions of themselves. Great athletes in so many sports have motivated us in many ways. Every one of you reading this right now can remember the date when a game, event, or race inspired you to make a change in your day-to-day life. Maybe it was Lance Armstrong winning one of his seven Tour de Frances from 1999 to 2005, or LeBron James winning the NBA championship four times that had you running outside and shooting 3-pointers from your gravel carport and believing you could still do it or start doing it.
It was October of 1984 when I watched Dave Scott of Davis, California, win the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Those images of Dave crossing the finish line pumping his fist is still a vivid memory. I had just graduated from the Northern Arizona University PT program and was ripe for selecting a sport that would provide a way of life that was healthy, allow me to stay strong and compete. I must have a competition on my calendar. However, back then, I was a triathlete. Or, on that day in October 1984, I announced to the world that I was a triathlete. I would race in over 140 triathlons and compete in ten Ironman distance races, two in Kona till 2005 when my aging knees required me to trade my endorphin fix to bike racing. So, biking it is, and I find my yearly cycling motivation happen in July watching the tour de France. The super bowl, world series, NBA championship, or world cup finale of cycling.
Understanding the Tour de France
The Tour De France is a three-week race where the cyclist’s race over 100 miles every day for 21 days. OK, they do give them two rest days, but there are 21 stages. Imagine running a full marathon or more twenty-one days in a row over mountain passes in freezing rain and then drop down into the sizzling heat of the French valleys. This year’s race has twenty-three teams of eight riders comprising one hundred and eighty-four riders. The U.S. teams racing this year are EF Education-Nippo & Trek-Segafredo. The European countries make up most of the other teams. Every team hires riders for their specialty. Like a basketball team, each player has a role. In cycling, there are four specialties.
A domestique is a rider who works for the benefit of the team and leader. Each team has up to five riders that function as domestiques. They are typically some of the strongest riders on every team. The domestiques must drop back to the race caravan of cars, find their team car to get water bottles, and bring them back up to the team leader in the front of the pack of riders, called the peloton.
A sprinter, think of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who runs the 100-meter races. Sprinters are hired to win stages that end in flat open roads with sprint finishes. The sprinters can be so muscular and weigh more than the other riders on the squad that they have a difficult time finishing the mountain stages.
A hill climber is a next specialist on the team. Think of Jose Altuve, the second baseman for the Astro, which is typically smaller as they are built for climbing thousands of feet in a day at wicked speeds. Hill climbers are pretty versatile.
A time trialist, think of the 5K or 10K runner, are the riders that can ride solo efforts with impressive speeds for long periods. Most bike races that are longer than six days have a time trial race.
Lastly, the general classification (GC) rider is the guy that can do all of these with fantastic skill. Currently, the guy in the lead at the time of this writing is Tadej Pogacar, a twenty-two-year-old rider from Slovenia who has won the individual time trial and finishes near the top of every stage. He is a GC rider for his team.
Why all the different colored jerseys
The Green Jersey
Every stage is a race within a race. Each stage has designated mini finish lines that are sprint points. And at the end of each stage, if it is a flat stage, the winner gets awarded a relatively large number of points. The leader in the points competition wears the green jersey throughout the race. This year’s race has seen Mark Cavendish take the green jersey on stage 4, and he still has it with the chance of breaking the record of 34 stage wins in the history of the tour de France. He tied the record of Eddy Merckx on Friday, July 9. This is a story for the ages. You have to tune in the rest of this week to see if he can top Eddy’s record.
The White Jersey
The white jersey goes to the rider under the age of twenty-three with the fastest total time.
The Polka Dot Jersey
The polka dot jersey goes to the leader of the hill climbs. There are designated hill climbs that award the first riders across that line a series of points on each stage. A mountain top finish of a stage gets bonus points.
The Yellow Jersey
The Yellow Jersey goes to the rider with the overall fastest time for all the stages. Back in 1919, the race organizers decided to switch the green armband to having the leader of the race wear a yellow jersey so that his competitors and the fans could easily pick him out in the peloton. Each day is an awards ceremony, and the jerseys are presented to the top three riders in each category.
The Wild Cards
Bike racers are very specialized these days. Once you become a pro cyclist, your specialty is groomed, and you develop that role. Local kid Nielson Powless from Roseville, California, is racing on the EF Education-Nippo squad for his second season as a domestique with the characteristics of a breakaway specialist.
Two world champion cyclocross bike racers from Europe that are breaking the mold for specialization in racing are Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel. Think Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders excelling in professional football and baseball at the same time. Both riders have won sprint stages, mountain stages, and time trials. This year, Wout has won a hilly stage and almost beat Cavendish, one of the best sprinters in the world, in a sprint.
Why are so many motorcycles and cars with what looks like an entire bike shop on top of the car riding behind the peloton of riders?
Think of the team car as the dugout or the sidelines. Each twenty-three team cars are full of food, drinks, spare bikes, clothing, a team director, and a mechanic. The riders do everything while riding. There are no timeouts. Riders get medical attention from the team doctor while holding onto the medical car at 30-40 mph. They also eat, pee, and get mechanical help all while riding. Several times in each stage, you will see riders swap out their bikes for another due to a flat tire, mechanical, or any number of reasons.
Stage 16 has finished today, and the airing of the races can be seen on NBC Sports Network. I know where I’ll be after work. I’ll be on my trainer in the garage with the TV on NBCSN as I watch five hours of recorded bike racing in less than two hours while I imagine myself catching the breakaway and sprinting to a victory. I love July. Imagine a super bowl game twenty-one days in a row.
Find your passion for fitness and get after it.
John Seivert is a doctor of physical therapy and he has been practicing for 34 years. He opened Body Logic Physical Therapy in Grass Valley in 2001. He has been educating physical therapists since 1986. Contact him at bodylogic2011@ yahoo.com
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