By Jonathan Vaughters, Crédit Agricole cycling team
I’m no longer a rider in the Tour de France, and so I suppose this is no longer a race diary. I’m sitting in a hotel, waiting to go back to my lonely apartment in Spain – maybe not at my happiest, but ready to reflect on what just happened and what is to be.
I decided before the Tour this year that whether I finished or not, it would be the last time I rode the race. So, now is the moment to share that with all of you. Indeed, it is the greatest cycling event in the world, and to have been at the top level, but still unable to finish, is disappointing. But it is what it is, and some things are never meant to be.
The Tour has always been a struggle for me – the field too big and nervous; the pace too fast; and the length too long. I can match the very same riders one-on-one in smaller events, but when you put all of the world’s best in one race for three weeks, it simply overwhelms my body. For a while I thought that with time, I would handle the higher intensity and length of this race. But now I’ve done it four times and know it was never to happen.
Wait a moment – I thought it was bad luck that kept me out. Well, yes, that is what has kept me from finishing. But what has kept my heart from being in the Tour is the reality that I only survive the Tour, and never get to race in it. I am a bike racer, and no matter how hard I’ve fought, I never got to race in the Tour, only hang on, just. As you might know, when you are right at your limit for days on end, accidents happen a lot more easily. So, maybe that helps explain some things (although not that wasp sting).
Anyhow, I won’t be going to the Tour again, and my decision is final. I hope that maybe I can help some other American rider make it to the Tour, maybe clear the path a bit. And as for the others that are doing it right now, I wish them all the best. I’m a Lance Armstrong fan too, you know!
So, back to the USA I go tomorrow, and there my little boy Charlie will be, waiting for daddy to help him find bugs and honk the car horn in the garage. I guess some day he’ll grow up, and realize his dad was four times a starter and four times a stopper in the greatest race of all. I don’t know what he’ll think of that. Maybe he’ll think it’s neat that his dad raced bikes at all, maybe he won’t care, or maybe he’ll think his dad was really unlucky.
But as long as he grows up healthy and happy, and loves his dad, well, I’ll know different. I’ll know that I’ve been very lucky. Lucky all my life.
To read earlier diary entries from Jonathan Vaughters and Tyler Hamilton go to the “Riders’Diaries” section and follow the appropriate links.