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This post is, of course, already out of date. I am watching Stage 3 of the 2010 le Tour. That’s the one with the pave. The cobblestones in the road. That’s the stage that followed on from the carnage of Stage 2; the stage of the BIG CRASH. You know, the stage that most of us are embarrassed to admit we enjoyed; being the sadists that we are…

So, we are now four stages in. That’s enough to note a few things.

I must say that Christian Prudhomme’s attempt to relieve the usually underwhelming opening week sprinters’ stages has worked! But at what cost? Certainly at the cost of a few bruises, some broken bodies and LOTS of broken bikes. From the riders’ demonstration parade at the end of Stage 2, it’s obvious that at least most of the them aren’t particularly impressed. But what was the alternative?

You see, in my view, Le Tour has outgrown itself as a rider’s race. It’s outgrown itself as an icon for the cycling community to admire. Now it’s all about the show. Now it’s all about impressing the masses who do not ride; impressing the car-driving Charlie set who drink 2363kj Green Tea Cream Venti’s at McStarbucks. It’s all about impressing those who like blood. Someone else’s blood. Not theirs…

Which, I think, is why the new self-appointed le Patron le Peloton, Fabian Cancellara, decided to make his point. The vision of that Swiss superstar herding his flock as a protest parade across the finishing line was something of a downer for all those who can’t really tell the difference between football and cycling; except one involves a ball and the other being the sport without one…Pass the MacStarbucks please…

Was that a spectacle of angst against an overly hard ride? Hardly that. No. It was a display against the gladitiatorisation of a sport that requires more brains to follow that with which the football crowd are usually equipped. I don’t think le Patron was concerned about the narrow roads, or the crashes, or even leaving poor old Andy Schleck sitting beside the road. No, I think the concern was to do with the spectacle of those events becoming the reason for the show. Is this the way Prudhomme intends to boost ratings growth? Le crash, le burn. The footballisation of le Tour. Appealing the the deadheads who love gladiator sport. Appealing to those who love to watch pain and hurting – unless, of course, that pain’s their own. Cowards of the couch. Non-cyclists to be sure. No wonder Fabian decided to react. I am on his side.

Onwards to another observation of mine. If the Belgians love cycling THAT much, I’m off to Belgium to live… What a crowd! They were Alpe d’Huez crowd crowds along the entire route. The God of God’s must surely favour Belgium with passions such as those.

Which leads me to the laws of physics. Bernoulli’s theorm to be precise. That’s the one that says the pressure in a fluid decreases as its velocity increases. Velocity is high when pipes are tight and flattens out when the pipes get wide. Which must mean that pressure goes up when the pipes funnel out. Consider Figure 1. During any given time interval the same volume has to pass through the narrow section A1 of the pipe with diameter 2h1 as through the wide section A2 (V1 = V2). Therefore the velocity v1 is larger than the velocity v2, and the pressure in the narrow part is smaller than in the wider part. Now, was it just me or did someone else start thinking about Bernoulli’s theorem while watching le Peloton negotiate those incredibly narrow Belgian roads? This explains why there were so many crashes! Those Belgian pipe-like roads are pretty narrow. And the same volume of bikes has to pass the narrow bits (like A1) as has to pass through the wider roads, like at the finish line (let’s say, A2). Watching Stage 2, we sure could see the pressure at a peak when the pipe got wide! At the finish line…

And finally onto bikes.

For many years, I used le Tour as my shopping menu for new bike dreaming or purchase depending on degrees of freedom available through the constraint of familial impediment… Pinarello’s are ceasing to appeal; now that the makers of that mark seem so intent on supplying the flabby dentist set with overpriced equipage through which to satisfy a tragic predilection to conspicuous consumption… No, I am looking more subtle these days. I’m becoming impressed by the subtle, yet ruthless technological statement-making by firms like Scott and BMC. Team Columbia HTC’s Addict RC is an astounding achievement more likely to appeal to riders who could actually tell the difference through use rather than pose. Likewise, the new BMC SLR01 is a design for a purpose where the purpose is winning. And did anyone else notice the bike Contador chose to ride the pave on Stage 3? He chose Specialized’s S-Works Roubaix! The bike blokes choose when the road gets rough. The bike I choose because all our roads are rough. I am taken by the BMC. Particularly because Team BMC is using Campagnolo and not that poncy electro-nonsense from Dura Ace… And finally, is it just me or has Trek finally, at last, discovered a colour scheme for their Madone’s that could – almost – encourage attention from people with taste… Thanks to Team Radio Shack for that.


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