My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
Sunday, August 11, 2013
The 100th Tour de France, blankets and jam
As you can see from the title above, this is another eclectic post - the Tour de France, blankets and jam don't have that much in common. But first - this post is late because I have been away for a while. We went to visit our younger daughter and family in July to celebrate our second grandson's 5th birthday and we just came back. Prior to that visit I had been watching the Tour de France and, as usual during the last few years, was knitting a baby blanket, or two. I finished a rainbow blanket for our new baby granddaughter, then finished another bluish striped car blanket for the third grandson's second birthday in mid-July - they are below. The orange and green-yellow blankets are from last year. These are small car-seat or security blankets. (Please click on collages twice to embiggen.)
The Tour de France this year celebrated its 100th Anniversary. It ran from June 29 through July 21st, 2013. When they finished in Paris, the cyclists had covered a distance of 2,087.81 miles or 3,360 kms. This year there were 19 teams in the competition from France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, the USA, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg and Russia. The riders represented many countries, such as France, Germany, Denmark, The USA, Italy, Estonia, Slovakia, Spain, Canada, Lithuania, Russia, Colombia, New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Japan, Ireland, England, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Kazakhstan and more. Where can you watch a sport event representing so many countries integrated in just a few teams?
The race started in Corsica this year (see my post of July 20, 2013) and included 21 stages (a one long day segment.) There were 7 flat stages, 5 hilly stages, 6 mountain stages with 4 summit finishes, 2 individual time-trial stages, 1 team time trial stage and two rest days. Below is the route and a photo of Robert Marchand, a cyclist record holder still biking at age 102, next to Australian Cadel Evans.
This race was organized in 1903 and has been held annually since, except when it stopped during the two World Wars. I gave explanations on the Tour de France and its history in my post of July 22, 2009, entitled What is the Tour de France? Please go and read this post here. Below are some early photos from the Tour.
I did add a PS to my post of 2009 as I had been giving glorious reports on Lance Armstrong then. Unfortunately in 2012 the US Anti-Doping Agency stripped Armstrong of his 7 Tour titles as well as other honors and he was banned from cycling for life - he did admit in January 2013 to having used drugs for athletic and performance enhancement throughout his career. Some people decided then not to watch the Tour anymore because of drugs being used in the sport. But other athletes have been using drugs in football, baseball, tennis, boxing and even in the Winter and Summer Olympic Games - should no one watch those sports anymore? What about film stars and singers who used drugs - will people stop going to the movies or listen to music? If we want to live in a world free of people using drugs then we may as well be a hermit and live on top of a mountain, or go to a nunnery such as in Ireland (although I have heard some bad reports of happenings in some of those nunneries...) Too many good people and fans are involved in those sports and they should not be penalized for a few bad apples.
The Tour de France has many international fans. In 2011 fans from 38 countries came to France to follow the Tour. Below are some of the fans from 2013 - they are a varied group, from the proper to the brash. Top row on left are French Nuns encouraging Kevin Reza of France, next are Norwegian fans. In the center are two Japanese fans, then an Australian youngster; next is a French fan, and then a group of shameless fans from Switzerland calling themselves "The Swiss Borats." On the bottom left are fans from Colombia, then a cheering group of Nursing Sisters from Marseille and then Christopher Froome cycling under a variety of flags, held mostly by British fans.
The Tour de France is truly the biggest and most famous cycling race in the world. I read statistics showing it - it is watched by 15 million people along the roads, free of charge. The French Government has to be involved because many highway and safety personnel are necessary for the safety of all and roads need to be closed. Each day 1400 beds have to be available for the cycling organization alone. There are 10 Emergency Doctors, nurses, seven ambulances, 2 cars with other medical teams and 47 highway policemen on motorcycles following the racers. More than 14,000 policemen and women, 9,000 motorway police plus assorted city and village police are retained. In 2011 there were 2,300 reporters and photographers, 700 Media from 35 countries, 100 TV chains, 80 photo agencies and 70 radio channels involved in the Tour. The Tour was televised to 190 countries, 60 of which received live transmissions. There were 700,000 fans in Facebook following the Tour that year.
Also in 2011 3.5 billion people watched the Tour on TV around the world - yes, billions. When 50,000 people and vehicles stop in a small town for a halt on the Tour thousands of volunteers are needed. Just the city of Cambridge, England, is asking for 1,000 volunteers for 2014 when the Tour comes to their area! I am sure we will see some wonderful background landscape from England. Just watching the surrounding countryside is always thrilling.
The last two Tour de France have been won by British racers - Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Christopher Froome in 2013. Christopher Froome was born in Kenya and moved to South Africa when he was 14 - he started riding bikes when he was a child in Nairobi and became a professional racing cyclist in 2007, aged 22, with a South African team, then he started to bike professionally under a British passport.
One of my favorite racing cyclists is Peter Sagan from Slovakia. He is a sprinter and a bit of a clown. He is the only cyclist I saw to make tricks with his bike. He won the Green Jersey, as faster sprinter overall, in the 2013 Tour de France. He had dyed his goatee green to match his racing jersey.
Cities and small towns bid to have the Tour come through heir communities at least one year or more ahead of the Tour - town overseas bid as well. In 2014 Leeds, Yorkshire, England, will host the start of the Tour. Yorkshire beat off challenges from Edinburgh, Scotland and Florence, Italy. All the cities and towns on the Tour get an enormous amount of publicity but they also have work to do such as resurfacing the roads where the cyclist will ride. The cities have to be cleaned, buildings painted, no rubbish should be found along the race and enough parking for the 1500 vehicles following the Tour, not counting all the vehicles from the fans, are necessary. Barricades need to be set up toward the end of each stage as the crowd is so enthusiastic that fans come too close to the riders. The scenery along the Tour route is always superb. I love watching the camera work from the helicopters and motorbikes. Hundred thousand people, many in camper homes follow the Tour and waive flags from a variety of countries. It has an atmosphere of happiness, of real "joie de vivre."
This year, for the first time, the Tour de France finished on the Champs-Elysees in Paris in the evening, and also for the first time the riders rode around the Arc de Triomphe - before they always turned around on the avenue. TV channel NBCSC kept the coverage till the end and I was able to watch the glorious laser show on the Arc. I took some pictures from my TV but many were fuzzy as you can see below.
Grandson number 2 had asked me several months ago to knit him a "Georgia Tech" blanket for his birthday while I watched the Tour. His father attended several universities including Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Emory and the Medical College of Georgia but grandson is fixated on Georgia Tech and is a great fan. I had to think about how I could knit or crochet such a Georgia Tech blanket. I started during the Tour but had to finish it after the end of the Tour, since I had already worked and finished the other two baby blankets shown above. I used the Georgia Tech colors of golden yellow and navy blue and added the yellow jacket mascot - here it is below.
The blanket was still not finished when we arrived at our daughter's house in Tennessee and I finished it while she was baking the birthday cake. Grandson no. 3 was happy waiting for his brother's birthday cake while having a taste of another earlier cake, a chocolate cake. Baby granddaughter wondered what all the fuss was about.
The birthday cake was covered with marine life since grandson number two is a dolphin fan. Then it was time to make a wish and blow all the 5 candles while older brother was taking a picture and younger brother was patiently waiting for a piece of the cake.
The birthday boy likes to eat my homemade jams and asked me if I would show him how I made jam. So I brought my pans and jam paraphernalia to Tennessee and we made three different jams: cherry, blueberry and strawberry jams. He helped quite a lot.
When we returned home to Georgia we thought that our potted plants would have dried up after two weeks of our non-watering. But it seems that it must have rained often as the leaves were quite large and the flowers healthy.
Just before I took the above photo, it rained again.
Now, I just have to wait till July 2014 to watch the Tour de France on TV. It will start in England and go through the Yorkshire Dales - it should offer stunning scenery once again.