By Rupert Guinness, Special to VeloNews
Good things take a long time coming
Six years after Matt White was first denied his chance to ride in the Tour de France, the Australian finally made it to the start line of the world’s biggest bike race – and he’s done so in one piece.
For once White didn’t crash. Neither was he left off the team. Nor was his team excluded from the three-week race.
In fact, White finished stage one – a 19km time trial from Fromentine to Noirmoutier in 101st place at 2:32 behind American winner, David Zabriskie (CSC).
He finished Sunday by placing 153rd in the Tour’s second stage, the 181km leg from Challons to Les Essarts, despite being fined 100 Swiss francs for not singing in.
But his place today and yesterday was of no importance.
What was really important was that White finally got to start the 3607km Tour after missing out for five years. Many observers consider that he did make it as a win in itself.
“I have come so close (to starting) so many times. I would have been more nervous five years ago in the weeks leading up; or when you are a little worried that you are not ready for Tour,” said White.
“But I know I am ready and have done a lot of work in last four or five months. If I had a dollar for everybody who said be careful in the last two days I could shout (buy) a few drinks.”
White was to have made his Tour debut for his French team last year; but he crashed while warming up on his bike just three hours before the prologue time trial start in Luxembourg, breaking his collar bone.
The freak accident was another sorry blow to White after his Tour hopes had been dashed in four of the five years from 1999 when his Italian Vini Caldirola team had its Tour invitation withdrawn after leader Sergei Honchar failed a blood test.
White’s Tour hopes were raised in late 2000 when he was approached by the six times defending champion Lance Armstrong to join the U.S. Postal Services (now Discovery Channel) side for 2001.
But even then White’s Tour dream remained a dream at the U.S. team until this year as he was selected as the side’s first reserve, and missed out on selection in subsequent years before joining Cofidis for 2004.
White’s role is as a domestique with duties aimed at protecting green jersey contender Stuart O’Grady of South Australia.
But White said he plans to use every stretch of road to leave some impression on the race.
“I didn’t come here for a participation medal, man,” he said. “I am not here for a MacDonald’s encouragement award to arrive in Paris.”
Men get a dressing down (or up) on Tour
Despite the thick veil of attention on Lance Armstrong’s bid for a seventhTour de France victory, one interesting trend has already emerged from this year’s race.
The Tour may have undergone many, many changes in the last 10 years – the ever-increasing presence of women being one. But if sightings today were a sign, then manpower is on the way back!
The first glimmer of “hope” was the brazen confidence of two nude and ageing men as they strutted their tackle on the beach at St Jean de Monts where the stages passed while walkers and shell pickers – clothed – were busy taking advantage of the early morning low tide.
Then came the sighting on the course of today’s second stage to Les Essarts of one middle-aged man dressed – but this time in women’s clothing. To be precise, in an orange mini-dress, D-cups and with a blond wig. The give away? His moustache.
Another hour’s drive down the crowd-lined course, a group of 20 or so men were cheering the Tour entourage on – but all in skirts, tight tank tops and wigs.
As a public service to our readers, VeloNews will not be offering photos.
He may be a hero but….
It was only two Tours de France ago when the now-retired Frenchman Laurent Jalabert raced le Grande Boucle for the last time, turning the race into a veritable lap of honor.
He could do no wrong. He was loved by all. He was the darling in the heart of anyone French. His panda eyes, simply endeared him to Francophiles around the globe, especially as he rode on to win the King of the Mountains jersey.
Oh, how easily people forget.
Well, you would think so judging by one incident at the 2005 Tour’s Vendee headquarters in Challans. Jalabert’s once-loved heroics obviously were apparently not enough for one security official manning the Tour media buffet.
Attempting to enter, Jalabert, who now writes for l’Equipe as a special correspondent during the Tour, realized he had left his accreditation at his desk in the pressroom.
Did his honesty in admitting it help the man who, in a nation that is now suffering a drought of success and talent in the sport, still is very much the face of French cycling?
Not one bit.
An embarrassed (and hungry) Jalabert was sent away by security and told “no pass, no meal.”