The thoughts, stories and advice of Bill Riddell.

Le Tour de Armchair Cushion – Part 2

July 30th, 2009 Posted in personal, writing

A Spectator Spends 4 Days Chasing Down Lance Armstrong from the Discomfort of his Own Bedroom and Stationary Bike by Bill Riddell

Here is the final part of my Tour de Armchair Cushion diary, where I try to keep up with Lance Armstrong during the Tour de France.

Instead of just spectating I am using the cushion from my usual sports going armchair to pad my butt from the rigours of pursuing Lance on my stationary exercise bike; watching him and the 170 riders hurtle through the French countryside.

If you missed the first half of this epic sporting saga be sure to read it first, otherwise let’s move on.

STAGE 3 – Sweating it Out

Today the riders will cover a 196km stage from Marseille to La Grande-Motte – sweeping their way around the South of France after starting in Monaco. It is a fairly flat stage with three sprints and 2 smallish climbs.

There are four types of riders on the tour, general classification is the most prestigious – those competitors fight for overall honours and the yellow jersey based on the time it takes them to cover the entire 3,500km tour. Then there are the sprinters and the climbers, they chase for the green and polka dot jersey respectively. They both compete for points based on their position at certain places on each stage. Finally there are the domestiques, the workhorses who compete not for any awards but to support their teammates and make a name for themselves in order to be selected for the more prestigious positions in one of the 20 or so teams selected each year.

The field had an uneventful start, with an early breakaway. As Lance had a mechanical problem the 4 man breakaway skipped ahead by 12 minutes before my local coverage got underway at 10:40pm with 140km remaining.

After just a few minutes on the bike I was already suffering extreme saddle soreness, a terrible cold and a sore throat. After a quick adjustment to my ride height and the addition of my armchair cushion I am able to find some relief and pick up the pace closer to 25km/h. I am armchair racer.

Sadly neither lasts long. After 10 minutes of riding I have covered 3.7km – almost as far as the breakaway pack who are slowly losing time to Saxo Bank who have again assumed control of the peloton.

In the time it takes the leaders to ride a further 10km, with 130km remaining, I have ridden 6.75km in just under 20 minutes.

After a quick break I discover riders had covered the first 100km’s in almost 2 and a half hours of riding, I had achieved 18km’s in less than 50 minutes. That’s an average of about 3 and a half kilometres every ten minutes – if I could keep that pace over the same time as the professionals I would have ridden over half of the distance as them. Once again I’m half as good as Lance, provided I have my armchair cushion.

Sadly though my body cannot cope with the prolonged pace and I collapse on my bed for a few minutes. The saddle soreness gets too much.

I rejoin with just under 90km remaining for the leaders. My nose is running like a tap, my temperature seems to rise and fall every few minutes and my throat is under attack. Saddle soreness aside, I brainwash myself into believing I’m doing the right thing – sweat it out. Perhaps Lance sweated the cancer cells out of his body?

Shortly after I collapse on the bed, for real this time. Perhaps I sweated out too much, or maybe my body is just run down. I had ridden 23.7km’s in 67 minutes.

There is 60km to go for the leaders as I rise from my bed and replace the cushion in my armchair. We both assume the position in front of the TV as my nose keeps running. Perhaps this is where I’m meant to be, on the chair which is reunited with its cushion.

I doze off in the armchair, exhausted, and awake to the sound of commentators in hysterics as Colombia’s riders stage a breakaway and are followed by Armstrong and some of his Astana teammates as well as Cancellara in the yellow jersey. They skip ahead of the peloton and quickly take down the earlier breakaway group.

Cavendish again cruises across to keep the sprinters jersey while Armstrong goes from 8th overall to third, my countryman Evans slips from 5th, barelly keeping himself in the top 10.

The peloton rolls along - keepps
The peloton rolls along – keepps

STAGE 4 – Silence in the Saddle

Today the riders tackled a 39km team time trial, circumnavigating the small city of Montepllier, just inland from the Mediterranean coast.

I am seriously under the weather now, doped up on cold and flu tablets with my nose running like a tap. There is no way I can make the race distance. My aim instead is to start peddling as a team leaves the line and hopefully still be on the bike in the 50 or so minutes it should take the team to ride the 39km’s to the finish. There are 9 riders sharing the duty so I’d be happy to ride 1/9th of the race distance in that time which is 4.3km – although since it is 5th places time that counts i think i should cover 7.8km or a fifth of race distance.

As riders from Bbox Bouygues Telecom team (as they will not claim a jersey surely they should get an award for that name) ran wide into a turn, several crashing into a metal barricade. I hope my body will not crash out mid race. Before climbing on the bike my head is a concern, I feel dizzy and almost lost.

I climb on the bike as Team Silence Lotto of Cadel Evans rolls down the start at 11:37pm. The pain in my butt and legs quickly takes priority over my head, but it’s not long until I reach for a handkerchief.

Russian team Katusha set the early pace of 47 minutes 52 seconds – not surprising since there name is more suited to a rocket. Shortly after I settle into the groove, churning out a steady 25 km/h average speed as Silence Lotto’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck falls after touching wheels with a team mate.

After 10 minutes I have already ridden 3.5km and celebrate being ahead of schedule by resting my butt and stoking the fire to simulate the Mediterranean heat while it is -1 degree celsius outside my bedroom. Silence Lotto is 4th fastest at the first time check. However as I pop a berocca into my water bottle to get some much needed vitamins and get back on the bike, they are dropping riders. I count just 5 others in the train with Cadel.

As Silence Lotto hits the second checkpoint in 7th place I go to the toilet and become concerned at the alarming colour of my urine. It appears as if it would be better suited to highlighting text books or as a glow in the dark additive.

After 26 minutes of riding I pass my 7.8km goal. I push on as Evans and the Silence Lotto team finish the stage in a dismal 59 minutes. In the same duration I completed 9.32km’s despite being in the saddle for barely 30 minutes.

My body is truly spent, I watch on as the all star Team Astana squad, lead by Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, claims the stage. With a time of 46 minutes, 29 seconds they defeat Garmin-Slipstream and Team Saxo Bank.

TOUR RECAP – Alberto Wins & Cushion Returns To Its Rightful Place

As I edit my diary from the first four days of competition the final day of the tour, Stage 21, is underway with the riders forming a procession to the Champs-Elysees where Alberto Contador will claim the top spot of the podium.

hyku
Alberto Contador riding to the Champs-Elysee – hyku

Although Armstrong did not win you cannot underestimate his achievement, how many athletes after 4 years away from completion could come back and achieve the same results as him. Also were it not for his team mate and eventual tour winner, Alberto Contador, its possible Armstrong may have challenged for the lead with second placed Andy Schleck from Saxo Bank instead of playing the team role.

Armstrong will return next year with his own team sponsored by Radio Shack and without the internal competition from Contador, he may well claim the tour once again. He proved in the ride up Mont Ventoux on the penultimate stage that he still has the legs to win.

My fellow Australian Cadel Evans, after finishing runner-up twice in a row Evans floundered this year. After losing some time to the leading trio on Stage 3 and then the awful team result the following day he was unable to crack back inside the top 10 general classification riders, who compete for the coveted yellow jersey claimed by Contador. I’m sure he will return next year, hopefully with a stronger team that can support him in the same way Contador and Armstong were supported at Astana and Schleck with Saxo Bank.

My armchair racer with the tour on TV
My armchair racer & tour TV

My result overall was quite good, despite being diagnosed with a throat infection after day 4. My doctor advised me to take it easy. I told him not to worry “…it’s not like I’m attempting the Tour de France from my bedroom.” He laughed and handed me a hefty bill to pay off his BMW.

I did take a few days off. As my body recovered from the infection I got back on the bike and averaged around 25 kilometres over remaining stages. I have added just over 400km to the odometer on my stationary bike, only 3,100km less than the professionals. Just as importantly I have shed almost 4kg’s of weight.

Though I have gained a greater appreciation for the achievements of elite athletes and a healthier body, I will most likely ease up on my riding regime, for the sake of my butt if nothing else. Besides my armchair misses me and the cushion.

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  1. 4 Responses to “Le Tour de Armchair Cushion – Part 2”

  2. By BannanaMan on Aug 1, 2009

    Realy good writing and a great series of posts. I spent hours glued to the TV watching the TDF, guess I should have done the same thing and spent my time a little more constructively.

  3. By babafisa on Aug 4, 2009

    A successful blog needs unique, useful content that interests the readers and this is certainly it. Nice stuff!!!

  4. By bill on Aug 4, 2009

    Thank you BannanaMan and babafisa (the more B’s the better), I’m glad you liked the Tour de France posts.

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