Reverence: The Ghosts of 2am

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.

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65 Replies to “Reverence: The Ghosts of 2am”

  1. Which just goes to prove that just because you’re an asshole doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

    Even an asshole has an open mind once a day.

    Nice article, Frank. Straightforward language. Kinda fucking zen.

  2. When the camera panned onto him several times as he was dropping back, one look and you could see he was pale as a ghost, as his teammates were taking on water and offering it to him as they were drinking and cooling themselves off with it all he could do was shake his head with that look and body language of “one sip of that and I’ll puke it over my bars”.

  3. In all fairness to The Prophet, Pra Loup was the day after the rest day after he’d been kidney-punched on Puy de Dome. He still finished that Tour 2nd, riding the last five stages with his jaw wired shut from the collision with Ritter before stage 17.

  4. The story of that year’s Tour is my favourite Merckx story. He wouldn’t fucking give in and chased Thevenet all the way to Paris. Suffering and suffering but refusing to let the Frenchman win the Tour without a huge scrap.

  5. @PeakInTwoYears

    Which just goes to prove that just because you’re an asshole doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

    Even an asshole has an open mind once a day.

    Nice article, Frank. Straightforward language. Kinda fucking zen.

    Even twice a day somedays

  6. I couldn’t watch TVG’s abject suffering. It would have been like watching some proud beast being torn asunder by small bitey things.

  7. Excellent writing, Frank.

    I have been deep in Canada for a week of vacation and hadn’t seen any tour stages. Tuned in late last night (though on NBC, damn you Phil and Paul!) and happened to catch the abandonment. Damn, that was serious stuff.

  8. I watched “Clean Spirit” the other night on Netflix. It follows what was Argos-Shimano during the 2013 TDF. Watching Tom Veelers have to step off the bike and get in the Broom Wagon was one of the saddest things I have seen. The commissaire has to take the riders numbers off their jersey as soon as they decide to quite, and seeing that being done was tragic. No amount of kind words and warm sentiment from team mates could take away the look in his eyes of disappoint in not finishing that years tour. Especially given how many stages Kittel had taken that year.

    Lets not forget that Quiet Cough Ski also stepped off yesterday, wasted at the side of the road being bawled at by his DS.

    This years Le Tour has been brutal for pace.

  9. So gutted.  Even my SO (who really couldn’t care less) was touched/heart-broken just watching it. When he clawed back, it was just brief enough to revive all of my hopes, which made it doubly crushing when they came back and he was solo yet again, pedaling squares.

    Nice piece.

  10. There can be few more gut-wrenching acts/experiences in sports than having your numbers unpinned. To have that followed by the long ride back to the hotel in the broom wagon or team car when one might want to crawl in a hole and die, has to be awful. Here’s hoping TJ can bounce back.

  11. @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.

  12. @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.

  13. 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.

  14. @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.

    I disagree. Two 5th place finishes certainly suggests a podium spot is merited. However, it remains to be seen if he stays a “nearly-man” or actually gets there in a GT. Obviously there is so much that is physical about cycling, but the mental aspect of it cannot be underestimated. Look at what happened to Kelly after he won Lombardy in 83. The floodgates opened.

  15. @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.

  16. @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.

  17. @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.

  18. 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.

  19. @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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. @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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. @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.

  26. @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.

  27. @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?

  28. @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.

  29. @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.

  30. turn

    an unlimited maximum

    will

    there is no end

    pedalando

    verso una strada gloriosa

    victory

    one truth to find

    unversio

  31. @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..

  32. ” 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.

  33. 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.

  34. @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.

  35. @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?

  36. @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!

  37. @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!

  38. @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.

  39. @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?

  40. 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.

  41. @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.”

  42. 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.

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

  44. @@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. 

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