Bonjour Tash Appreciators,
Cast your mind back to the last time you were really out of breath and sore following some kind of physical exertion. It might be running, lifting weights, swimming – anything.
Now make the breath harder to catch and the pain several times worse. Then make it last three weeks with alternating days of crushing pace or morale sapping climbs. In fact, let’s add some numbers and context. Imagine you were going 3,497km and climbing the equivalent of Mt Everest… thrice.
If you can imagine that, then the picture in your head is very similar to the Tour de France. It starts this Saturday and it’s hard to be hyperbolic about just how tough it is. It’s not got the steepest climbs or longest stages but only the best cyclists attempt the Tour and so the pace is unrelenting.
This year’s Tour is different because a British rider has a genuine chance of winning. If you haven’t noticed already, this guy is getting a lot of coverage:
Take Eddy “the Cannibal” Merckx – the greatest rider there has ever been. He won everything and he did it in style. On the 1969 Tour he achieved what would now be impossible – he won the yellow, green and polka dot jersey. That means he went round the 3,000+km in the shortest time, won the most sprints and climbed the mountains quicker than anyone else. Lance Armstrong, for example, only ever won the yellow jersey as overall winner. Merckx was class:
The fans, however, can. In a past Tash Friday we saw El Diablo (the German chap who dresses up like a devil and follows the Tour round) but this week’s Tash is a Merckx fan: