As of this writing, the 2015 Tour de France is gearing up for Stage 17, after more than two weeks of standout performances, epic crashes, spectator assaults, and, of course, doping allegations.
Tony Martin took the race lead after a solo stage win, only to have to drop out of the race due to a compound collarbone fracture suffered in the final kilometer two days later. Current leader Chris Froome surged ahead to an “amazing” stage 10 win, followed by a flood of doping allegations against the rider and his Team Sky.
A pro tour bears little resemblance to the riding we do every day. Even the fittest amateur athletes don’t reach the high speeds or watts of a Chris Froome or a Tony Martin. But we can learn from the way they ride and the way they race.
First of all, regardless of temperature, every rider wears a helmet. That wasn’t always the case. The UCI made helmets mandatory for pro cyclists in 2003. If a rider with the experience to race as a professional has to wear a helmet, so should you. Whether you are commuting to work, to the grocery store, or riding for the sheer joy of it, your brain is more important than your hairdo.
Second, the pros ride assertively, but not aggressively. They ride close together in a pack, and don’t generally make erratic moves that would put themselves or their competitors in danger. Follow their lead. When riding in traffic, ride assertively and predictably. You have as much of a right to be on the road as a car, but you need to use common sense. In a car, you use turn signals. On the bike, you use hand signals. If you wouldn’t run a red light in a car, why would you on the bike?
Finally, riders take calculated risks. Watch any mountain stage and you will notice how swiftly riders take corners. They can do this because they have practiced flying around corners hundreds, maybe thousands, of times in training. They know just how wide to take a turn and where to cut in. On some occasions, they overcook a turn and end up in the weeds. That’s racing! The recreational rider or commuter should consider sharp corners a bit differently. It’s a journey, not a race. You won’t earn any points for taking a corner too fast or trying to outrun a slow-moving vehicle. Err on the side of caution and get to your destination in one piece, please!
Le Tour continues through Sunday, July 26. Watch the race on NBC Sports or online on steephill.tv.