Badgers have a unique jaw. Their jaw, literally, cannot be dislocated. This enables the animal to take hold of something and nothing can make the badger let go. No wonder famed cyclist Bernard Hinault is known as “The Badger”, or as the French say, “Le Blaireau.”
Frenchman Hinault won the Tour five times. He won all three grand tours more than once, and is one of the greatest cyclists ever. His relationship with the great American cyclist Greg Lemond in good times and bad is legendary. There is no reason for me to keep going on and on. Hinault was really good, and is my all-time favorite cyclist.
Hinault never backed down from a fight as a rider. Nothing has changed in retirement. His opinions are terse and tough even now. A lack of toughness by any rider is sure to draw his ire.
Hinault works for the tour organization now. He is a regular feature on the podium. When an imposter jumped on the podium in 2009, Hinault never hesitated and quickly shoved the interloper off the stage into the photographers standing below.
The attached video highlights some of the famed badger-like traits. It comes from the new cycling website Cyclimas, one of a bevy of sites that enjoy taking an irreverent look at the Tour. Make sure you look at the videos of casual riders – climbing actual race routes – greeted and treated by a mob of fans and media as if they had just won the stage of the Tour. Hilarious.
Very late to the world of Twitter, Laura and I lurk and enjoy the tweets of the riders. Mark Cavendish is blunt as expected. Geraint Thomas’ funny videos from the Sky bus are worth a look. Ben Swift is entertaining and American Dave Zabriskie’s tweets are insanely hilarious – though a crash Sunday took Zabriskie out of the race with a broken wrist.
What was not funny was the shocking video of American Chris Horner crashing on stage seven. Horner had absolutely no idea how he finished the stage after being involved in a massive pileup that left him unconscious and laying in a ditch at the side of the road.
Somehow, Horner remounted and rode the final 35K in a complete stupor. How any Tour doctor allowed this is beyond belief. In our American sports the word “concus” is the new buzz word. If anyone thinks that is overkill, watch the Horner video and it will be overkill no longer. Truly scary.
Strange crashes marked the first week of this crazy Tour, with two caused by the insane driving of a Tour television car and a camera motorcycle. Usually the mayhem comes on the mad kamikaze sprints of the peleton’s speed merchants with bike flying everywhere. Instead crashes abound long before the final meters. Many strong riders are now sidelined. The race’s best rider – Alberto Contatdor – suddenly can not stay on his bike but soldiers on waiting for the high peaks. Popular American Levi Leipheimer’s crashes have crushed his hopes of a podium finish.
Because both Horner and Leipheimer ride for the American team RadioShack, Versus announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen – having long ago sold out any of their real journalistic credentials to shill for the American contingent – have lost two of their favorites and been forced to ask questions of team boss Johan Bruyneel about the team’s dwindling rider pool.
In years past, Bruyneel would be all over the telecasts since Lance Armstrong rode for Bruyneel throughout his seven Tour victories. However, the revelations by former riders about the team-wide drug use and specific drug use by Armstrong made Bruyneel seemingly off-limits for interviews until his riders began falling nearly every stage.
On the positive side, HTC’s Tejay Van Garderen, riding in his first Tour, showed signs he might be America’s next bright hope. The strong man of the sprints, world champion Thor Hushovd, continued to defy all logic by lifting his huge sprinters’ legs over the small mountains to keep him in the yellow jersey – until today.
That jersey now belongs to Tommy Voeckler, a rider that has never seen a breakaway he would not join. His efforts are always good theater but rarely result in success. All the insanity of the crash-filled day and Voeckler’s never-ending efforts brought “the golden fleece” to his back once again. The last time Voeckler took the leader’s jersey in 2004, he locked his jaws on it for 10 days. Even “Le Blaireau” can appreciate Voeckler.
Ah, but the big mountains loom in the final two weeks with the epic climb of Luz-Ardiden coming Thursday. The real contenders will emerge. The drama is sure to make funny videos and interesting tweets.