At Butterfield & Robinson, we’ve been biking and walking since 1966—and we like to think of our nearly 50 years on the road as an impressive feat. But even we have to bow down to the ultimate bike tour, Le Tour de France, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary when it kicks off later this month. To celebrate the tour’s century on the saddle, The Slow Road asked a couple of B&R’s biggest cycling fans to recall a few of their favourite moments from Le Tour. (Spoiler alert: Lest we be accused of revisionist history, the first moment listed below involves Lance Armstrong. Sullied though his reputation may be today, his mark on the tour’s history remains undeniable.)
2001 – Stage 10 – Aix-les-Bains – L’Alpe d’Huez
Veronika Macas, Trip Advisor
L’Alpe d’Huez is one of the classic Tour de France climbs. It ‘s a mountain on which some of the world’s greatest cyclists have made their careers, and the yellow jersey has been won and lost on L’Alpe d’Huez many times. On this day in particular, the US Postal Team seemed to have lost their stamina and could not pull for their team leader Lance Armstrong. As Lance’s teammates started drifting backwards, he drafted off of the Telecom Team pulling for the German Champion Jan Ullrich. Lance appeared exhausted, fighting to try and stay with the leading group, however this soon proved not the case. With his last US postal rider José Luis Rubiera Vigil pulling away, and Jan Ullrich hot on their tails, Lance turned around to view the cyclists behind him. Armstong looked directly at Ullrich as if to psychologically threaten him with an impending brutal beating on the roads. Lance then took off like a man possessed, leaving Jan and all the other “leaders” in the dust. The stare down itself was forever solidified in Tour lore as “the look,” and is still known instantly by most cyclists.
2012 – Final Stage – Bradley Wiggins
John Lansdell, Trip Planner
The collective roar from Great Britain as the soon-to-be-knighted Sir Bradley Wiggins raised the Union Jack above his head as winner of the 2012 Tour. The first Brit to ever win the most famous race of all time, on the day that fellow Brit Mark Cavendish became the Tour’s most successful sprinter. The sun shone that day on the Champs-Élysées, a momentous day for British cycling!
2001 – Stage 21 – Champs-Élysées Sprint
Veronika: Erik Zabel, one of the most decorated sprinters in the cycling world, had a hard-pressed tour fighting in the sprinter point competition for the green jersey. Zabel had won five consecutive green jersey titles and was mere points away from winning a sixth. But his rival that year, Stuart O’Grady, gave him an especially hard time, snatching the green jersey from him on several occasions. It was the final stage of the tour, and the last chance for Zabel to grab the green jersey title from Stuart. It came down to the sprint. All of the teams lined up their best sprinters in hopes of victory on the classic Champs-Élysées, and while the bunch blasted down the Champs after the flamme rouge, O’Grady and Zabel fought for the best wheel positions to set up for the sprint. Ján Svorada took off and started the sprint with O’Grady and Zabel on his heels. While neither O’Grady nor Zabel could catch Svorda for the win, Zabel finished second, bumping his green jersey point tally to 252 ahead of O’Grady’s 244, and solidified his record-breaking sixth green jersey title. No sprinter since has been able to touch his title.
John: The Tour de France is long. Not just the staggering 2,000 miles traversed, but also the 21 days that they fill every summer. While following the Tour caravan through France guarantees that you get wrapped up in the emotion and passion of the race, for everyone else there is the unmistakable voice of Phil Ligget. For generations of fans, he has provided insight, humour and analysis, along of course with his now-famous “Liggettisms!”
Veronika: Of course, none of these moments would be as memorable as they are without the stupendous announcing efforts over the years by the great Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin—the voices of cycling. These two are masters at highlighting the most dramatic, exciting, and sometimes somber moments with their colourful words and expressions that Tour lovers just can’t live without!