Monday, July 22, 2013

History of Svein

In this year's pretty terrific Tour de France, Canadian rider Svein Tuft "won" the lanterne rouge.  That's given, unofficially, to the rider who finishes dead last. He was 169th out of 169.

Lanterne rouge is not a mocking award. It actually acknowledges what an accomplishment it can be to finish at all.  Another rider, Lieuwe Westra, made it all the way to Paris and then had to withdraw in the midst of the last day's ride, right beneath the Arc de Triomphe, with just 40 km left to go out of 2100. Anyway, last place in overall time is hardly the only measure of how one performed in the Tour. Sprinter Marcel Kittel was 166th of 169, but he won several stages, including the final glory run down the Champs Elysées, making him a new star of world cycling.

This was Tuft's first Tour de France, and at 36, he is said to be the oldest rookie in the history of the tour - another reason why just finishing was a notable achievement, though in fact he did great work throughout for his Orica- Greenedge team this year.

There is a terrific profile of Svein Tuft here in Bicycling magazine, and it makes him sound like a very unusual athlete and a very Canadian (laid-back West coast variety) personality.  They should give him the Order of Canada for his lanterne rouge.

Update, July 24:  The blog Science of Sport has provocative essays on doping in cycling, and on measuring current performances against benchmarks set in the drug era and against estimates of what is physiologically possible for an undrugged athlete.  They have not concluded that the doping era can be assumed to be over.
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