Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Tour 2019 2: Stage 3 to Epernay

I've never been in eastern France, but from the Tour de France coverage it always seems like a platonic ideal of la France:  lush, rich rolling farmland, beautiful villages, prosperous towns like Epernay, where the final stretch of yesterday's race when roaring past the headquarters of every champagne brand you have ever heard of. If the bike racing is a little flat, the team colours still a bit of a blur and the contenders still too numerous to follow, there are compensations.

Watching Grand Tour bike racing, you sign up for the long haul.  It's not like a soccer game where you can pick up the story by tuning in for the last half hour.  It takes days to sort out the teams, the personalities, the strategies, the possibilities, so as to be ready for the mountains of the final week where the winners and the others get sorted out.. 

After Stage three -- the first real day on the road, after an opening in Brussels and then a team time trial -- the Canadians are keeping up. Michael Woods is a hill climber and a prospective Tour contender.  His principal job this year is supporting Rigoberto Uran and doing a little freelancing in likely stages, but so far he stands eleventh overall, slightly ahead of Uran, in fact. Should Uran falter, their roles could reverse.

Hugo Houle is there to support a real contender, the Norwegian Jacob Fuglsang, and yesterday he was right up there at the front pulling for Fuglsang and then dropping back burned out as the finish line approached.  He's 85, but he's not looking for placement, he's looking to make Fuglsang's race easier.

Happily, the Tour continues down through the glories of la France profonde for several more days. 
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