If you hadn’t already heard, Australian cyclist Cadel Evans won the Tour de France last night. The Tour de France has been going for 108 years and this is the first time an Australian has won it. It’s a pretty big deal in sporting terms. For the last ten years I have watched my husband sit glued to the TV every night watching what I thought was a very silly bike race. In my opinion it was boys wearing lycra who shaved their legs competed for nothing other than the glory of it all. Whilst the scenery is stunning and every year it’s made me mentally book a driving trip to France, I simply didn’t get the fascination.
As I sat tweeting about hubby’s silly bike race this week, I asked, for the very first time, what all the fuss was about. Hubby’s explanation of the race, the tactics, the endurance and strategy behind each stage was fascinating.
I thought all the lycra boys were simply riding their bikes from A to B and the winner got a yellow jersey each day. Oh how wrong I was. Suddenly over the final week I was hooked. This wasn’t just a race from A to B, it was mental and physical as well as a real team effort. What I learnt was that these riders need each other to get up or down a hill, they all take turns in doing what’s called ‘the grunt work’ and the guy in the yellow jersey (the leader) can actually win a stage or the race itself by simply riding behind the guys doing the hard work, saving his energy and pushing through to win a stage at the end by simply being a lazy bugger or strategic genius. It’s highly political and sometimes riders who are enemies have to work with each other throughout the race to try to catch up with the guy ahead. A 2 minute lead isn’t a lot in a bike race where it’s impossible to catch that type of lead in a swimming race.
The Tour de France ran for 21 stages and these guys rode a total of 3,430.5 kilometres. There were 10 flat stages, 6 mountain stages and 4 stages where they finished AT THE TOP OF A HILL and they only had 2 rest days. No matter which way you look at it, what these guys put themselves through seems like physical torture to me.
It was with goosebumps at 2am this morning that about 700,000 viewers listened to the amazing Tina Arena (who is based in France and a huge star over there) sing our national anthem (can we please use her version of Advance Australia Fair every time we need it please). We watched with pride as Cadel Evans make history by becoming the first Australian ever to win the tour. Bravo Cadel, phenomenal team and personal effort and well deserved.
The lead news stories were all over the ‘heroic’ story of Cadel Evans and his triumph this morning and the Today Show was leading the charge with Karl Stefanovic in his yellow tie and Australian pride. Let’s face it, it was a pretty crappy weekend in terms of the news from the tragedy in Norway and the unsurprising passing of Amy Winehouse. So, we were all up for a bit of national pride and distraction from the depressing news that we’d all felt throughout the weekend.
Regular commentator for The Today Show Mia Freedman, was asked to come on The Today Show this morning and discuss her thoughts on Cadel’s win. I can’t help but think she knew exactly what she was starting when she tweeted before her segment “@MiaFreedman – I’m not going to be popular when I tell @karlstefanovic on @thetodayshow that I don’t care about Cadel Evans. 7:50.”
You can view her segment here
The reaction to her segment and the discussion have erupted into a war of the words between those who understand Australia’s passion for sport and sporting heroes, and those that don’t. Many people were outraged that Mia didn’t think that Cadel’s efforts in winning such an epic race were heroic – HERO being the operative word. Yep, an enormous argument has been started over the use of the word ‘hero’. We need to get some perspective don’t we? Mia has followed up with a column in her blog which at the time of publishing has an incredible 994 comments for and against calling sporting achievements and people as HEROES (You can find the column here). The abuse that was fired Mia’s way was cyber bullying at it’s worst. That said, I’m pretty sure Mia’s done this for long enough to know that you don’t come between Australian’s and their sport, especially the night after one of their heroes has won the most prestigious bike race in the world.
For what it’s worth, I was with Mia until a few days ago, I, like her, didn’t see what the big deal was until it was explained to me in full. Perhaps she and others should take the time to look outside what normally amuses or entertains us and learn a bit more about the world. I certainly did and now come from a place where I would most certainly call Cadel’s efforts heroic. It’s with respect and admiration for Cadel that I recognise he really is a hero to many sporting and cycling enthusiasts. Not everyone’s hero, but he is to some.
Well done Cadel Evans. I couldn’t have done it.