Off the back is the worst place to be. Photo: Tim De Waele TDWsport.com

Reverence: The Ghosts of 2am

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The Prophet had never been dropped by anyone in a race-threatening situation during his entire Grand-Tour career. But he was dropped on this, a relatively minor climb to Pra Loup due to a combination of circumstances involving a chest injury, overconfidence, and savvy Frenchmen who could read the road surface well enough to understand what side of the road to attack on.

He had never lost the Tour, but Merckx was dropped on the short but steep climb to Pra Loup and refused to quit the Tour in 1975 because you don’t quit the Tour de France. He would rather lose than quit. These are the sentiments of a champion who has not only known, but become intimately accustomed to, the sensation of victory: reverence for the race he once dominated and the one he can not quit.

He came second, and thereby legitimized Bernard Thevenet’s victory. Reverence.

For non-Velominati Americans, Cycling is the Tour. From Greg LeMond – the only American to win the Tour three times, to Lance Armstrong – the only American to lose the Tour seven times all at once, to Floyd Landis – whose legacy was too short to excite the American Public but long enough to take down the greatest legacy in Sports History.

Tejay Van Garderen was sitting solid in 3rd place when he fell ill and had to quit the Tour de France, something no rider does with a light heart. So long as your name isn’t Mario Cipollini. Dropped every time the ride pointed uphill, he had little choice but to climb off. I have had races ripped from my grasp when I was at my peak for reasons I couldn’t control and, to this day, they are there when the Ghosts of 2am come knocking. I can only imagine what Tejay is thinking tonight.

Nothing feels as good as winning, and nothing haunts you as deeply as quitting. To quote a legendary cheater, “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.” Which just goes to prove that just because you’re an asshole doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

// Racing // Reverence // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. @wiscot

    We can agree to disagree. If he was GT quality he’d be posting wins in a lot of the lesser stage races but he’s not.

    His occupancy of second place was as much due to the failings of the other main contenders who’ve done bugger all in the Tour.

  2. @chris

    @AJ

    @chris

    It was a real shame to see TvG go out yesterday, no one want’s to see a contender retire sick, but he has no place on the podium of the tour. Maybe in a couple of years but not yet.

    But at the same time, he is really our only American hope. I would compare it to growing up in a town with a shitty football team. There are a lot of things you don’t like about it, but you keep rooting and hoping because that is where your heart lives. I regularly flip flop from despising TvG and wanting to yell at him to HTFU, but I feel bad for the guy a lot too. I will always root to see an American on the podium and even hope to see one in Yellow again…. one day.

    As an American you can root TvG all you like, but as a Brit, I tell you the next big thing is GT and the Yates twins.

    I would like to throw Talansky into that mix. I think he might be the next American hope, I think in a few years we will see him leading a team.

  3. I like what Vos said about quitting something along the lines of not doing it so her body doesn’t learn what it feels like.

  4. @chris

    @frank I know you don’t like getting facts get in the way of a good story (and you can just about get away with it here) but lets not forget that, whilst, technically not dropped, Eddy got roundly thumped by Ocana on stage 11 of the ’71 tour and lost a lot of time.

    It was a real shame to see TvG go out yesterday, no one want’s to see a contender retire sick, but he has no place on the podium of the tour. Maybe in a couple of years but not yet.

    Ocaña was never going to win that Tour.

  5. I like what Vos said about quitting something along the lines of not doing it so her body doesn’t learn what it feels like.

  6. Even though I’m not a Brit, I agree that the Yates brothers are the next GT up-and-comers. A few more years are needed for them though. Talansky has great promise, but I think he needs a stronger squad to back him. I love Ryder (I am Canadian after all), but Andrew needs more than one GT lieutenant to have a real shot.

    BMC sent a stellar squad this year, and I have no doubt that TvG would have held on to a podium spot if he could have stayed healthy. Here’s hoping for a quick mental recovery for him.

  7. @frank

    Possibly, but no one else put time into him like that in a GT that he won. 8′ 42″.

    I think Ocana has killed all of us today, just like bulls are killed by el Cordobes.

  8. While watching TJ slowly dying up one of the clinbs, the camera angle showed the ground beside him and in his shadow, I swear I saw “The Man with the Hammer”. A short while later, he was in the car. I think the Hammer claimed 6 on the day.

  9. skratch labs posted this:

    “…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” T.R.

  10. “One does not simply ride to Pra Loup” – bastardized internet meme

  11. @The Oracle

    Nothing spoke more of TVG’s devastation at having to abandon than when he collapsed into the BMC staff’s arms when he stopped. At that moment, you could feel all the misery, the pain, and the disappointment. Of all the “human” moments of this years tour, I think those images will stick with me the longest.

    Couldn’t have said it any better. I managed to tune in just as that was happening. I obviously wasn’t aware of the shape he was in previous to that, but as soon as I saw the BMC guys holding him I knew he was wrecked. I think that image will stay with me as well.

  12. @unversio

    It’s the best way that I would know how to summarize it. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But in the end is so much better than being apathetic.

    I’m quickly discovering that being at the end of yourself is the essence of cycling. It’s the worst thing in the world, but I’m strangely addicted to it.

  13. @unversio

    skratch labs posted this:

    “…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” T.R.

    Nice. Do you know who the T.R. is referring to?

  14. @Bespoke

    Theodore Roosevelt. awesome fella that one.

  15. @Chickenmcnasty

    @Bespoke

    Theodore Roosevelt. awesome fella that one.

    Thanks.

    I have a soft spot for those who have tried but failed. Sometimes there are physical limitations. His relative FDR, certainly knew about those.

  16. @unversio

    @Chickenmcnasty

    @Bespoke

    Theodore Roosevelt. awesome fella that one.

    He was also shot before he was meant to deliver a speech. What did he do? He gave the damn speech. All ninety minutes of it.

  17. @Matt

    “Fuck — off!”

  18. @Chickenmcnasty

    @unversio

    I’m quickly discovering that being at the end of yourself is the essence of cycling. It’s the worst thing in the world, but I’m strangely addicted to it.

    Two years ago I began referring to it as my “unlimited maximum” — inspired by Emerson. No end in nature — no end in cycling.

  19. turn

    an unlimited maximum

    will

    there is no end

    pedalando

    verso una strada gloriosa

    victory

    one truth to find

    unversio

  20. @Matt

    @The Oracle

    Nothing spoke more of TVG’s devastation at having to abandon than when he collapsed into the BMC staff’s arms when he stopped. At that moment, you could feel all the misery, the pain, and the disappointment. Of all the “human” moments of this years tour, I think those images will stick with me the longest.

    Couldn’t have said it any better. I managed to tune in just as that was happening. I obviously wasn’t aware of the shape he was in previous to that, but as soon as I saw the BMC guys holding him I knew he was wrecked. I think that image will stay with me as well.

    Was a moment for sure. For me, it is the OGE mechanic vid, with Matthews walking around (obviously concussed) groaning like a wounded dog. That shit was straight up harrowing. The other was Geschke bawling in his interview after the win. Love seeing how much it means..

  21. ” Do, or do not, there is no try ! ”

    From one of the greats !

    I also have several limitations on a bike. But try not to give up.

    Miss Vos’s quote is a great one.

  22. @frank

    Bahahaha!

  23. Interesting to note the tone of commentary re TVG as compared to Porte in the Giro.

    Obviously youse Americans love your riders as much as we Australians love ours.

    Porte was pretty much written off as a GT contender post his Giro crash and subsequent illness; in spite of the fact that he won every single fucking stage race he entered this spring (except Tour Down Under – second).

    It’s really sad for TJ to have to abandon in that position. My humanity acknowledges that. I’m just not sure that his assessment of his ability actually squares with the evidence. Keep up with Contador, Froome, Quintana on any given day? That’s a long bow to draw.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Porte and TVG are on the same team next year.

  24. @Beers

    The other was Geschke bawling in his interview after the win. Love seeing how much it means..

    I watched Stage 17 again tonight (much to the chagrin of the VMH and VMHette). Smoking! Great racing. Best stage so far. Geschke’s descent off the Col de’ Allos with Talansky’s chase was riveting.

    The best part of Van Garderen dropping out is no longer hearing Liggett talk about “TeeJay”. My god, it was endless. We spent 30 minutes yesterday watching Van Garderen pedaling squares with sweat dripping off his nose, but no coverage, no video, and not a word about Sagan and the break-away going over the top of, and descending, the Col de la Colle. Too bad, would have been a good show.

  25. @mouse

    Obviously youse Americans love your riders as much as we Australians love ours. It’ll be interesting to see if Porte and TVG are on the same team next year.

    Nope. I’m a Bardet guy (also now known as “Salad” in our house). That kid has enormous potential, he can obviously climb, a nice steady rhythm, but most of all he descends as well as anyone in the peleton, even riders ten years senior. He should be a groomed as a GT contender by a team that can put him on the top of a GT podium.

    Anyone else notice Froome is doing a good job on the descents, keeping up with Nibali?

  26. @Oli

    Nipple lube…

  27. @Minnesota Expat

    @mouse

    Obviously youse Americans love your riders as much as we Australians love ours. It’ll be interesting to see if Porte and TVG are on the same team next year.

    Nope. I’m a Bardet guy (also now known as “Salad” in our house). That kid has enormous potential, he can obviously climb, a nice steady rhythm, but most of all he descends as well as anyone in the peleton, even riders ten years senior. He should be a groomed as a GT contender by a team that can put him on the top of a GT podium.

    Anyone else notice Froome is doing a good job on the descents, keeping up with Nibali?

    Absolutely, for someone who looks like shit uphill (fuckin’ fast shit), he actually is descending really well, and he even looks like a bike rider!

  28. @Minnesota Expat

    @mouse

    Obviously youse Americans love your riders as much as we Australians love ours. It’ll be interesting to see if Porte and TVG are on the same team next year.

    Nope. I’m a Bardet guy (also now known as “Salad” in our house). That kid has enormous potential, he can obviously climb, a nice steady rhythm, but most of all he descends as well as anyone in the peleton, even riders ten years senior. He should be a groomed as a GT contender by a team that can put him on the top of a GT podium.

    Anyone else notice Froome is doing a good job on the descents, keeping up with Nibali?

    I had pinned my hopes on Bardet this year. He needs to toughen up on a few spring classics. Once he has, he’ll be the shining hope that the french have been desiring for years… What a descender!

  29. @Minnesota Expat

    I can’t explain the camera feed’s focus on TVG, since I think NBCSN just taps into the French feed, but I always assumed that Phil and Paul’s focus on TVG was because the broadcast is aimed at an American audience, and he was the highest-placed American shooting for a podium spot.

  30. @The Oracle

    @Minnesota Expat

    I can’t explain the camera feed’s focus on TVG, since I think NBCSN just taps into the French feed, but I always assumed that Phil and Paul’s focus on TVG was because the broadcast is aimed at an American audience, and he was the highest-placed American shooting for a podium spot.

    That’s what I figured, maybe there are multiple French feeds that can be cobbled together by NBCSN producers? But I will not believe that the Italians, Brits, Dutch or French care more than a little about Van Garderen.

    But here we go, we get Perino on the moto-bike following VnG and reporting every wobble, Schlanger at the finish trying to find someone at BMC for comment, we have Voigt telling us how VnG feels, and Vande Velde telling us how teammates are supporting VnG on the road.

    And of course Liggett telling us for the 53rd time since the beginning of the stage, that “VnG is the highest placed American, at number 3!” Thank you Phil. Any idea on the time to the break? Where is the break? Who is in the break? Who is on the front of the Yellow Jersey group?

  31. To get back to Bernard Thevenet’s win that year. He admitted he was not sure he was going to win that Tour until a few laps of the Champs. Even with a broken face Eddy could never be counted out.

    TeeJay, yeah, I can’t get excited about him. Froome makes them all look powerless. I would like to see Nairo crush but he can’t match him. And Froome is such a well spoken nice guy too! I miss Twiggo calling people out when he had a microphone in his face.

  32. @Gianni

    apparently, not so well soken

    Shocked Nibali protested his innocence, claiming he did not know the race leader had ground to a halt, shrugging: “Froome was very angry at the finish, but that’s his problem.

    “I cannot even tell you the words Froome said to me. They are too harsh to repeat.”

  33. Witnessed this drama unfold in front of my very own eyes at the grueling hot slopes of le col de la Colle-Saint-Michel. Paired with this being my first time I have seen the pro peloton live in all its glory made it a truly profound experience.

    The flurry of Glistening Guns, Maginifent Machines and Fantastic Form.

    Overwhelming.

    The desperation of the weak and failing.

    Gut wrenching.

    The moment when all that is left is to suffer no more.

    …glorious

    The family made a few futile attempts to understand why daddy was silent during the following drive home, but soon realized that he had simply too much to process to bother himself with trivia such as everyday life.

    I will never look at myself or my cycling the same again.

  34. And then there’s a perfectly healthy Cavendish quitting because there were too many hills and he lost his pack mules.

  35. @@BacklashJack

    And then there’s a perfectly healthy Cavendish quitting because there were too many hills and he lost his pack mules.

    Did Cavendish get in the team car?! I don’t see it anywhere and that would be unlike him. Say what you will, he might be down a couple hours, but he’s a competitor and would be looking forward to the Champs-Elysees.

  36. @Shatterhand

    The family made a few futile attempts to understand why daddy was silent during the following drive home, but soon realized that he had simply too much to process to bother himself with trivia such as everyday life.

    This.

  37. @ped

    @Gianni

    apparently, not so well soken

    Shocked Nibali protested his innocence, claiming he did not know the race leader had ground to a halt, shrugging: “Froome was very angry at the finish, but that’s his problem.

    “I cannot even tell you the words Froome said to me. They are too harsh to repeat.”

    He’s been coached by Sky to be polite on camera, but he’s still just human. Nibali knew damm well he had a problem, and took advantage. However, he obviously had something left in the tank and may well have broken away at a later point in the race, so I’ll let him off this time. If he does it again, it’ll be the naughty-step and forced to wear the Columbian Women’s kit for the Giro next year.

  38. @Minnesota Expat

    @@BacklashJack

    And then there’s a perfectly healthy Cavendish quitting because there were too many hills and he lost his pack mules.

    Did Cavendish get in the team car?! I don’t see it anywhere and that would be unlike him. Say what you will, he might be down a couple hours, but he’s a competitor and would be looking forward to the Champs-Elysees.

    According to letour.fr, only withdrawal yesterday was by Michael Anderson of Tinkov-Saxo.

  39. Vincenzo’s obviously just having a chat with his team-mate

  40. Was sad to see TJ go out like that(as it would be for any rider),he always seems a bit fragile though.

    And Nibilis’ starting to annoy me on this tour what with the bidon throwing and now attacking Froome’s mechanical(notice Valverde,Nairo etc didn’t).

    Also like G’s talk of being like a cheap Ikea nail being hit with a hammer yesterday.

    Oh and Frank that asshole quote reminds me of the Dudes reply to Walter in the Big Lebowski “You’re not wrong Walter,you’re just an asshole”

  41. @@BacklashJack

    And then there’s a perfectly healthy Cavendish quitting because there were too many hills and he lost his pack mules.

    Pretty sure I remember hearing discussions of Cav being crook the day he & Kennaugh (among others) got shat out the back on a cat 3 climb straight out of the gate.

  42. No doubt Cav was sick the last week. If you watch the aerial shot of the last sprint he’s barely able to hold wheels and close gaps. Credit to him for not quitting though.

  43. @LeoTea

    I heard a stray report that Cav abandoned on that day but (thankfully) I was wrong.

  44. A little bit late to chime in, been traveling…

    @Frank Your point about Cipo reminds me why I could never respect him as a rider, despite all of his wins. I know there’s a lot of Super Mario manlove around here, but he just annoyed me. Any rider who knows going into a race that he (or she) is going to abandon should just stay home. Cipo rode in to France, paraded around in disco zebra skinsuits doing some kind of self-promotional freakshow, then quit when there were elevation changes slightly more than a freeway overpass. Want to win one day races? That’s what the Classics are for.

    Anyway, it’s a shame about TJV, but overall I really enjoyed watching the race this year.

  45. @MangoDave

    A little bit late to chime in, been traveling…

    @Frank Your point about Cipo reminds me why I could never respect him as a rider, despite all of his wins. I know there’s a lot of Super Mario manlove around here, but he just annoyed me. Any rider who knows going into a race that he (or she) is going to abandon should just stay home. Cipo rode in to France, paraded around in disco zebra skinsuits doing some kind of self-promotional freakshow, then quit when there were elevation changes slightly more than a freeway overpass. Want to win one day races? That’s what the Classics are for.

    Anyway, it’s a shame about TJV, but overall I really enjoyed watching the race this year.

    I’m with you on that. Always bugged me that he never had any intention of going beyond week one. Always made me wonder what the Saeco train thought as they plugged through the mountains.

  46. @markb

    @ped

    @Gianni

    apparently, not so well soken

    Shocked Nibali protested his innocence, claiming he did not know the race leader had ground to a halt, shrugging: “Froome was very angry at the finish, but that’s his problem.

    “I cannot even tell you the words Froome said to me. They are too harsh to repeat.”

    He’s been coached by Sky to be polite on camera, but he’s still just human. Nibali knew damm well he had a problem, and took advantage. However, he obviously had something left in the tank and may well have broken away at a later point in the race, so I’ll let him off this time. If he does it again, it’ll be the naughty-step and forced to wear the Columbian Women’s kit for the Giro next year.

    Now that’s a skin suit.

  47. @Teocalli

    I don’t think he NEVER wanted to complete the Tour – before the race began he used to talk up his Maillot Vert chances bigtime and swear that this time he’d make it to Paris, and I believe he was in the main genuine when he did so.

    I just think when push came to shove and they got to the big climbs he realised he couldn’t actually be bothered with it all…

  48. @Oli

    @Teocalli

    I don’t think he NEVER wanted to complete the Tour – before the race began he used to talk up his Maillot Vert chances bigtime and swear that this time he’d make it to Paris, and I believe he was in the main genuine when he did so.

    I just think when push came to shove and they got to the big climbs he realised he couldn’t actually be bothered with it all…

    I agree with your sentiment for sure, but then at the same time I wonder how he finished the Giro so many times, which in my estimation would be harder to finish from a sprinter’s point of view.

    As you say, he couldn’t be bothered. An Italian Playboy in France must feel a bit like Superman on Krypton; no super powers.

  49. WWED? (What Would Eddy Do?)

    As much as I was rooting for TvG — as any red blooded American would do — I think he doesn’t have the killer toughness it takes to win or place on the podium of a GT. Would Eddy have quit if he had the sniffles? Would TR have? Heck, as someone else remarked, he was shot and still gave the speech.

    A few days before, TvG was talking about how podium was the goal, how he’d be very happy with a podium result. Contrast with what Nibali and Contador said at the same time: anything but yellow is failure; I’m not racing to be on the podium, I’m racing to win.

    Hopefully what happened this year will toughen up TvG mentally and he’ll be able to rise to the next level.

  50. @frank

    Until fairly recently the Giro stages – even the mountain ones – were run off as a procession until the TV coverage began with a couple of hours to go, meaning the grupetto never struggled to make the time cut in the way it sometimes does in the Tour.

    Also the Giro of the 80s and 90s was definitely regarded as easier in general than the Tour, the odd stage apart. I idolise the guy, but can you imagine Andy Hampsten actually winning a Tour? Or Berzin, even super-charged? Even Moser needed a lot of help to win his one…

    Italians avoided the Tour like the plague for exactly this reason in those days – 2x Giro winner Saronni, anyone?

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