23 Days in July 2019 – Le Tour – Stage 1.

The start of a new Tour de France.

21 days of racing and 2 days of rest.

I may not watch the televised coverage as obsessively as I once used to but Le Tour will definitely take centre stage in my thoughts until that fantastic finish around the streets of Paris in 23 days time. I will probably catch mostly the highlight shows, still faithfully following Gary Imlach’s ITV4’s coverage; no longer able to indulge in youth’s ability to ignore everything else in life because nine and a half hours of a mountain stage is being televised live! Also The Cycling Podcast will be an entertaining and invaluable source of information about each stage.

At best I was reasonably average on a bike, but even now on infrequent rides the urge to push those pedals to my limit, rather than just amble along and look at the countryside.

This is the 100th year since the Leaders/winners Yellow Jersey became synonymous with the Tour itself and 286 riders have worn this coverted garment. This edition of The Tour – the 106th – has 30 Cat 1 or HC climbs (blimey that’s high to I think we are near the top of Everest now!) and a possible winners list of at least fifteen names. Chris Froome’s spectacular crash – 54kmh to 0kmh in an instant – means the Tours’ modern day colossus isn’t pencilled in for his 5th Tour victory, leaving the pundits to pin the tail on the donkey of those most likely to be in the top 20 at the end.

Life is like that I think.

We do our best to make predictions about the next few days, or weeks, or months, and have events pencilled in, only to encounter curve balls. For Tour riders, they have the weather to contend with, the tactics of other teams, the road conditions, their physical and mental capacity on any given day. We may have commuter traffic to contend with, awkward co-workers or the demands of bosses, racing around to meet family commitments, as well as our own mental and physical wellbeing.

The difference is the peloton are professionals and train/plan for the next 23 days.

Do we?

Have you thought seriously about your intake of food and fluids to fuel the demands placed upon your body? Have you looked closely at the route for the day and identified the pinch points? Have you prioritised your recovery from the exertions of the day?

Probably not.

I am not suggesting that you become as obsessive as a professional cyclist and open doors and lifts with your elbows – besides they have a whole team of people facilitating their superhuman exploits on two wheels – but they are deliberate in their progress and often we are not.

Try these 3 takeaways from The Tour riders:

1. Plan your day. Tour de France riders all are given a handbook with maps and times for all of the stages. From this they can begin to map their progress and arrange tactics amongst the team. You have a calendar which probably has the odd haphazard entry scrawled on it. Try being more deliberate. Include more things on it and look at it before half of the events have already passed. Think about travel times and when you will eat and drink. Include your downtime more specifically.

2. Think about your food. We probably all subscribe to eating more healthily, but what are you doing about that. A big day of travelling has a much bigger impact on what and when you eat compared to a normal day in the office.

3. Exercise and relaxation. If your job is physical then the exercise part might be sufficiently taken care of – Tour riders don’t pop down the gym after a day’s racing – but most of us probably need to think about this. Go for a walk at the very least. Relaxation is mental as well as physical. Prayer, journaling, meditation, are all specific practices which help your brain distress and recover. Physical relaxation might be stretching, yoga, a bath, throwing a ball for your dog in the garden.

Stage 1 Summary:

194.5km – Brussels to Brussels – Brussels being host to the Grand Depart for the second time, with the first being back in 1958, and paying tribute to one of the Tour’s most famous riders, Eddy ‘the Cannibal’ Merckx, winner of the final yellow jersey 5 times.

Breakaways from the first flag, the King of the Mountains Polka Dot jersey being awarded off the first rider across the line at the top of the famous Muur climb, several crashes in the closing stages – most notably taking out Jacob Fuslang – before Mike Teunissen took the final sprint and the first Yellow Jersey. Teunissen also became the first Dutch rider since 1989 and Erik Breukink to wear the leaders jersey.

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