Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Fever Of Maillot Jaune

When the festival ended last year, it left me craving for more. It was a festival of team-spirit, embodying the spirit of sacrifice. Eight men riding on their magnificent machines, with one aim: their team leader finishing first. Eight men, with no regard to their placing or ranking in the race, working as a team to make sure the team leader finishes first and more importantly safely without crashing. Eight men, who are willing to push themselves to such an extent for the team that they find themselves being eliminated from the race. And not to forget, they need to ride through the pain barrier, covering almost 200 – 300 kilometers every day, for 20 days. They need to face their own demons in the process, their own personal battles, discovering a new limit to which they need to push and go beyond. A unique festival, which silently speaks of blood, sweat and tears; literally. At the end of the festival, each rider has his own sordid tale to tell for generations to come, but nothing comes to close to this one single phrase “I was a part of the team that had won.” Around 190 riders, 19 teams with 9 men in each team, it was truly a festival of sport itself.

A festival called “ Tour de France.”

With merely hours left as I write this post for the Tour de France – 2008 to begin, another epic in the making, of which I am sure.

It’s a majestic sight to behold. Around 200 cyclists bunched up close, almost touching wheels, yet, riding at speeds of 30-40 miles per hour; it seems these cyclists are out to enjoy the sunshine. Of course, it requires exceptional bike handling skills to ride in a bunch so close to each other. But when they crank it up, the entire ‘peloton’ (the whole bunch of riders which contains the leader) often gets stretched into a straight line 2-3 kilometers long, moving over 60 miles per hour.

The Tour de France started in 1903 and is the world's largest cycle race. The first Tour de France was designed as a publicity stunt for the French sports newspaper L’Auto, a race that was for the most gutsy and tough of professional cyclists of the time. In all, 54 men have shared 87 Tour de France wins between them, riding thousands of kilometers in search of their holy grail, the yellow jersey, also known as the Maillot Jaune. It’s called the yellow jersey because the pages of the newspaper, L'Auto is yellow.

It is a 23-day, 21-stage bicycle road race usually run over more than 3,500 kilometers. The race consists of 20 to 22 teams with nine riders each. The route traces a circuit around most areas of France, and often passes into neighboring countries. The race is broken into stages from one town to another, each of which is an individual race. The time taken to complete each stage is added to a cumulative total for each rider, to decide the outright winner at the end of the Tour.

The 2008 Tour de France is set to begin on July 5th, running until July 27th, 2008.

Image Source: BBC,

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