Endurance endures without ever repeating (despite the structure of that sentence)
Words by Alexa Daugherty
This year Le Tour is like a black and white photo colored-over by a young artist and his Marshall’s Photo Oil Set. By which we mean this 100th edition of the Tour de France is steeped in equal parts history and reinvention. From Corsica’s first time appearance to the double-ascension of Alpe d’Heuz, Le Tour de France 2013 (#TDF2k13?) is quite ambitious. Here, we (p)re-trace the trek upon which 198 international riders will soon embark – from the first stage’s exhilarating possibility to the 15th stage’s mountain climb atop scorched tarmac.
Porto-Vecchio: It usually takes 3km for sweat to bead-up on a rider’s brow. This is Corsica, though, so like Gaul catching up on Bobet 55 years ago, let’s cut sweat’s crop-time to 00:00:25. As relief, the town’s Forêt de l’Ospedale, an old hideaway for pirates in the 16th century, will have to offer up its cooling shade to sweaty cyclists.
Subtract the pirates and add in Genoan Leonello Lomellino’s governing force to get Bastia – also known as the end point of Le Tour’s first stage. Perhaps Bastia’s looming Genoese Citadel will enable the Italian Lampre-Merida team to become this town’s newest commanders.
Is Bastia the plural of Bastion? Ajaccio, start of Le Tour’s second day, highlights Napoleon’s home whilst exiled from his well-travelled namesake highway. The tour’s turbulent Corsican voyage ends in Calvi where all eyes, minus the one Horatio Nelson lost here in 1794, will be on a coastal finish.
The Tour-de-France requires an exquisite blend of resilient muscles and enduring focus. Truly, its competitors are behemoths of two-wheel epics. Still, every classic has its new translation; every Hamlet its Guildenstern & Rosencrantz Are Dead. At the looping stage of Nice-Nice (with sprints through Saint-Laurent-du-Var), riders will contend on terrain well known to competitors of a different sort of bipedal lore – rollerblading – thanks to the annual festival Nice en Roller.
Cagnes-sur-Mer: Here, Renoir painted olive groves. Here, riders will pant past olive groves. Here, competitors will draw a cage-sur-terre as their path cuts across L’Hexagon’s southeastern point en route to Marseille.
Marseille: Aux vélos, citoyens! Roulons, Roulons! Closer and closer to Languedoc-Roussillon!
From Marseille to Le Massif, Le Tour will next appear in Aix-en-Provence. Perhaps stories of one champion’s feat (or feet) will be retold more times than Cézanne painted nearby of Mont Sainte-Victoire.
De Aix-en-Provence, Le Tour rides on to Montpellier. As Heros we try to hold back on making a plethora of assumptions. Meaning this stage might refer to:
1) The house James Madison built. Note that this is even farther, as water-filled rides go, from mainland France than Corsica.
2) A location from which many flora and fauna are falsely identified as having originated. This is due to a true inhabitant of the town, botanist Caolus Linnaeus, who made sure to note that each specimen he studied had been in Montpelier (e.g. Ciste de Montpellier = Cistus monspeliensis). On a tumble, riders might still experience a bit of the region’s true flora.
3) A Vermont town that hosts the annual Bike and Pedestrian Forum each October.
Albi: Old, new, and hopefully nothing else collide in this ancient town, where 13-year old skateboarders now meet in squares once home to meditating 13th-century monks.
Castres, once a stop-off point for Jacobean pilgrims, now becomes a starting spot for followers of the newly appointed Astana Team leader Jakob Fuglsang (+ everyone else).
Ax 3 Domaines
From Castres to riders cast in the flashes of high-res cameras, the 8th stage’s summit climb to Ax 3 Domaines will whittle down riders into two groups: those who submit and those who subsist amidst the Pyrenées’ storied spires.
Downhill lies Saint-Girons. Even farther south, rests a town famed for crafting bridal wooden shoes out of just one weathered block of walnut. With shoe tips that curve up for at least 7-inches, these clogs mimic the steep slopes down which Tour riders will have just cruised.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre:, B-d-B broke its tradition of being A-and-A (Antiquated and Ancient) by playing host to the 1953 Cosmic Ray Conference. Now, racers will partake in their own recreation of this town’s illustrious celebration of high-energy acceleration.
Saint-Naizaire-Loire-Atlantique: After passing through the marshy region known as La Brière, all teams will be blessed with a rest day. We’d like to think this means the opportunity to drink a good Bière – L’Ambrée du Bouffay or une Brigatine Blonde – but its more likely that the only thing on players palates will be a lighter day of riding.
Until then, we’ll dream of Poulider vs. Anquetil, drink Pietra, and desire a dazzling start to this Tour de Force, knowing its (mostly) all uphill from here.