Le Grand Boucle, the Greatest Race on Earth, call it what you like. For many people, and not necessarily ‘died in the wool ‘ cyclists, the next three weeks hold more drama, excitement and tension than 50 episodes of ’24’.
Yes, that grand spectacle The Tour de France started last Saturday in Monaco, and over the next few weeks it will cover 3,500 kilometres in 21 stages. And not only in France either! This year the tour will pass through France, Spain, Andorra, Switzerland, and it will also briefly pop into Italy.
In among the 21 stages will be two individual time trials, one team time trial, ten flat stages and seven mountain stages, three of these will have mountain top finishes. The first mountain top finish will be next Friday 10th July at Arcalis in Andorra, which is 2240 metres above sea level. The next is on Sunday 19th July at Verbier in Switzerland, a mere 1468 metres above sea level, and finally on the penultimate day of the Tour on Saturday 25thJuly at the legendary Mont Ventoux in France, at 1912 metres.
A mountain stage on the penultimate day of a tour has never happened before in any previous tour, and it could very well be the stage that decides the winner. Do you remember the last stage of the1989 tour, an individual time trial in Paris? If you do, you’ll remember that Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon by a slim 8 seconds to take overall victory after three weeks of gruelling cycling.
Saturday 25 July could see history being made. Whatever you do don’t miss it!
Stay up to date on the official website www.letour.com
Braking (late) News
Amsterdam traffic jams?
Perhaps not totally earth-shattering news, but now it is official. People who live in Amsterdam do use their bikes more than their cars. Figures just out, say that Amsterdamers ride their bikes, 0.87 times a day, in comparison to the 0.84 times that they use their cars.
What is surprising is that this is the first time that car use has been beaten. Despite car parking restrictions in the town centre since 1990, it has taken since then for the number of car movements in the town centre, to drop from 235,000 in 1990 to 172,000 in 2006. During the same period cycle movements have risen by 60%, going from 86,000 to 140,000.
Boonen’s Tour hopes hang in the balance
With the 2009 Tour de France about to start, as I write this on 28 June, there is still a big question mark hanging over Tom Boonen’s place in the Quick Step team. Is it his fitness you may wonder? No, not fitness at all. At present, Tour Officials are pondering over the suitability of having cocaine user Boonen, who has been tested positive twice for cocaine use in the past year, riding in the peleton.
Although cocaine is not listed by the Worlds Anti-doping Agency as a performance enhancing drug (unless it’s used during competition) it is still nevertheless illegal. This is why Tour Officials feel that having Boonen riding does nothing at all for the image of the race.
Quick Step said that if Boonen is barred from the race, then the Australian sprinter Allen Davis will replace him.
Are the Cycling Cities working?
A study, undertaken by the University of the West of England, hopes to find out if the millions invested in the Cycling Cities and Towns are bearing fruit.
The study will see if cycling is becoming a regular mode of transport for commuters. The leader of the research team, Dr. Kiron Chatterjee thinks that it could require a huge change in culture. ‘Cycling is uncommon in most parts of the UK, only 5% of people cycle at all,’ said Dr.Chatterjee.
Dr. Chatterjee and his colleague, Professor Graham Parkhust, will be conducting their research over the next four years. The team will find out what peoples’ views are, both before and after various cycling initiatives have been put in place. They will also find which measures have the greatest effect on getting people on their bikes.
A big hurrah and good luck to Jeff Ferguson, Chris Fancourt and Jason Cleeworth who set off on 5 July to cycle over 1000 miles through Italy. In doing this epic ride, they hope to raise money for two charities: Cancer Research UK and Everyman. If you’d like to support them go to www.justgiving.com/cycle italy.
• Arthur Lamy is the manager of Boudins for Bikes, in Sand Street, and author of Jersey Cycles. He has spent 15 years as a tourist guide and writer, and is also a keen photographer. More information can be found on his website: www.arthurlamy.com