Most everyone has heard of Lance Armstrong. They know him as a cancer survivor and founder of the Livestrong Foundation. They also may know him as a pro cyclist who has won the Tour de France an unprecedented seven times. Armstrong’s tenacity and phenomenal success has raised global awareness and support for the fight against cancer. His high profile position as a cyclist has generated huge popularity for bike racing especially the Tour de France which ended its 97 season July 25, 2010 along the famed Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris.
I was unfamiliar with Armstrong until half a dozen years or so ago when I saw a poster at a local branch of the US Post Office. At the time Lance Armstrong was riding for the professional cycling team known as US Postal. I knew nothing about Armstrong, professional bike racing, or the Tour de France. As I am a curious woman, I wanted to know more about the man that inspired the post office to display a sign that exclaimed “Go Lance!”.
I tuned into a television broadcast of the race. I had tuned into of the mountain stages. I saw men pushing their big hearts into the red zone. They climbed to heights that I couldn’t walk up, at least not without getting dizzy. It took my breath away. I learned that the Tour is 21 days of consecutive, except for two rest days, of pedaling. There are speed stages and mountain stages. I still can't think of another event where athletes must perform at their limit for three weeks in succession. To be a winner at the Tour de France a cyclist must endure heat, cold, rain and sunshine; mobs of fans and paparazzi within inches of their face; extended days in the bike saddle nonstop – no stops for eating and only the occasional brief stop along the side of the road when nature calls, and, when it does, the relief is taken in full view of fans and their cameras. I was hooked by what I saw, and have been a fan of the Tour de France ever since.
One day I heard a sportscaster mention that an accident had occurred when one of the women’s pro cycling team had been out training. Several of the women cyclists were killed. It was the first I’d heard of a women’s Tour de France. As I was composing this post I was writing that I've not heard about women every since. Then on tonight's July 24 broadcast of the Tour on Versus the channel aired a segment on the women on HTC-Columbia! Kudos to Versus!
It isn't easy to find information on the women's Tour de France. Details are sketchy and dispersed across the Internet. Here's what I have been able to piece together. For the full text visit my blog Living in the Heartland.
(story based on resource material from Wikipedia, Helium.com, cyclingnews.com,and photo highroadsports.com).