fade away. But, I cannot be so hard on the cyclists. I have ridden too many of the great cols and watched too many of the great climbers to dismiss the sport out of hand. I do know what great efforts the riders make and the truly amazing conditioning they achieve. There is not a baseball or football player in the bigs who could even touch the conditioning of the lantern rouge in the Tour de France. Yes, the last place guys are really quite the athletes and amazing riders.
This year Jimmy Casper of
France missed the lantern rouge palmares by one spot. He lost the dubious honor to Igor Flores. But has won it twice before: in 2001 and 2004. To win the rider must finish the Tour- all 3657 kilometers of the bloody thing in 2006. He also must not be disqualified for being outside the time limit to be sent off the course and not start the next stage, and not be ahead of and any other rider?s cumulative time. But Jimmy is more than a joke by far. He is a bona fide quality rider who wins races. He won the first stage this year in
Strasbourg. He beat them all over a 185 kilometer race. Not bad. Needless to say, he is a great sprinter. He beat out Thor Hushovd of Credit Agricole and Robbie McEwen of Davitamon-Lotto to take the victory that day. He also made it over all the mountains, the Pyrenees and the Alps and all the way into
Paris. Did I tell you that it was over 3650 kilometers ? Quite a ride for a last place habitu?.
Now it is in getting over all the mountains that Jimmy Casper suffered and really earned a spot on my cycling heart. He was clearly struggling. He is a sprinter and does not have the lithe, lean body of many of the best climbers. But he did offer up some tidbits of wisdom after he climbed for a couple of days. He was dropping back down through the ranks of the GC standings searching for the shiny red caboose. After a particular tough day where he lost lots of time, Casper said, ?I love seeing the
Pyrenees; I just don?t want to see them over the handlebars of a bicycle.? He then proceeded on over the
Alps, suffered some more, and dropped back near his accustomed last place spot. But he did finish. He said he really wanted to win the last stage into Paris also which would have given him the first stage win, and the last stage win, but he would forgo his attempt at a third lantern rouge . To even flirt with such a notion, the rider must be both good and something of the poet. That is why we probably better look to