Stage 7-218 km
Le Mans to Châteauroux
In every Tour de France the riders must get from here to there. The roads take them by mountain, stream, forest and field. The journey’s aesthetic palette is reliably more interesting than the start or the finish line. Today may be no different but the Heroes feel they must remark on the start at Le Mans. Our memories of this town were framed by watching the famous auto race of the same name with our fathers while they drank American pilsners and smoked unfiltered Pall Malls as we fell asleep to the drone of the engines.
Among the race’s many traditions was the famed Le Mans Start where drivers faced their parked and idle racing-machines. When the Tricolor was dropped the drivers then ran to their respective cars and began. In the ensuing melee many drivers often failed to put on their safety harness until they were around the track two or three times or in some cases never fastened them at all.
The Heroes were just wee pups in 1969 when the Belgian rookie Jacky Ickx won the race. However our fathers never failed to tell his story every year we sat down to watch. At the drop of the flag, all the other riders ran for their cars. In protest, Ickx walked to his car, risking death by the drivers who ran. 24 hours later he stood atop the podium relegating a tradition mute and calling attention to the issue of safety. Tragically driving home Ickx’s point, British driver John Wolffe died in an accident during the first lap of the race.
Another Belgian rookie who, like Ickx has a name that ends in “ckx,” won his first TDF that same year.
And Honey Badger Cavendish wins his 17th career stage win in a textbook sprint. Hero thought on the Boy Racer is like a roller coaster between affection, bewilderment, and envy. It is hard to measure his full talents (cycling and speaking) with no apparent rival when all things are equal.
On the GC front, how many times do our hearts break during the Tour de France? Wiggins abandoned due to an injured shoulder– heartbreak. Cavendish voiced his own heartbreak perfectly when he said, “I’m just gutted for him.” Again Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer further adrift. Heroes note that Andy Schleck is the favored son on this tour. We recommend that he does not mention chain-gate for the rest of the tour as other riders bad luck has been his fortune.