The Lanterne Rouge
Wins the Tour de Frolorado
[sound of train]
[sound of applause]
[Host] Welcome to comprehensive coverage of the most exciting bicycle race in the world. There has already been some astonishing developments. Cycling fans are still shocked and struggling to understand the withdrawal of some pre-Tour favorites.
[interviewer] Where do you think the rest of our crew was?
[riders] In their warm beds. Yea.
Hi, I’m Neil. I wasn’t at the ride because I woke up, I pulled down the shades, I saw the flagpole across the street, the flag was like this, that’s bad. I pulled down the shades and went back to bed.
[interviewer off camera] So Gary, why weren’t you at the ride?
[interviewer off camera] So Peter, why weren’t you at the ride this morning?
Because I have responsibilities. Unlike some other people I know. Well, I promised to take Fuzzy down on Bike Colorado…
[interviewer off camera] So Homer, why weren’t you at the ride this morning?
Too damn cold.
[interviewer] Anything else?
Because I don’t like riding with you?
Despite these missing stars, you are sure to see some extremely competitive, elbow-to-elbow, burnt-rubber racing in this year’s Tour.
[int] So, Neil, what are your cycling goals this season?
My cycling goals this year? To stay in one piece.
[int] Anything else?
I want to stay upright.
[int] You want to stay upright?
I want to stay upright. I want to be able to stand upright at the end. Because my back is kinda…I’m getting old.
[int] Oh, come on.
I’m getting old.
[int] We hear that you’re the best cyclecross racer on the the Lanterne Rouge. Is that correct?
Well, look who I’m up against.
[int] So, Chris, what are your cycling goals for this season?
Same thing as Joe’s. Not falling off my bike and breaking my collarbone.
Using both overt and covert reporting techniques, we’ve managed to learn about some of the top competitors’ race strategies.
[int]So how are you feeling about this race, Camel?
Are you ready to win?
[C] Definitely. Definitely. It’s a lock.
We’ll see how it goes. I’m a little sore from yesterday’s race. Well, should be a fun one to do.
[int]Do you have any secret strategy you can tell on the camera? We won’t reveal the tape until after the race.
[C] Well, you know, what I’m trying this time
[transcript provided on screen]
[int] So what’s the strategy for the race, Twig, you got any secret strategy?
[T] Well, I gave it a lot of consideration, and I’m gonna try to be up front toward the end.
[int] Wow, that’s cool. That’s a good idea. Up front, like on the last lap when they cross the line?
[T] Yea. That’s the idea.
[off camera] Stage 1 of this year’s Tour runs from Pagosa Springs to Creede in the great Western state of Colorado. The first 16 miles of the stage are a gradual incline. Then the road tilts upward more sharply, cresting at 24 miles on Wolf Creek Pass, 10,850 ft. The rest of the stage is a sharp downhill then a fast flat into Creede, which is 65 miles from Pagosa Springs. Get ready to see some serious cycling!
Keep an eye on Vince Strongleg. He’s definitely a threat in this race.
[int] Joe, you don’t seem to be going anywhere. What’s the problem?
I know, I know.
One team has already attacked. What team is that?
[dialog with high school girl in girl asking about the Laterne Rouge]
[I] The Lanterne Rouge is thoroughly dominating this stage.
Twiggy is attacking his own teammates! When Twiggy attacks, you know it’s gonna stick.
Here he is cresting the hill. Twiggy takes the stage win.
Cakeboy finishes strongly in second.
Thunder is finishing very aggressively.
Then we’ve got Taxman.
And back down the road Young Mike is attacking! And White Horse looks like he’s blown.
The results of stage 1 have put the Lantern Rouge firmly in the lead of the Tour. The Rouge have 8 of the top 10 finishers. Only Strongleg of Discovery and Cadel of Postal managed to fight their way into the midst of the Lanterne Rouge. A lot of teams are going to have to re-assess their strategies for tomorrow’s tough stage.
But right now, the town of Creede is giving the cyclists a warm welcome. Creede is a beautiful town with an illustrious history. In 1890, Nicholas Creede discovered a silver vein there. Creede became a silver-mining boom town. It had a bustling main street, twice daily arrivals and departures on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and it was one of the first towns in the world to have electric streetlights.
Tomorrow’s stage goes over four mountain passes and stretches for 106 long miles. The athletes are settling into their quarters early. They need to get to sleep before nightfall.
[transcripts for subsequent stages have some minor omissions and are not formatted by scene. Relevant scenes are typically obvious.]
Stage 2 of this year’s Tour is a showdown in the Colorado mountains. Phonak and T-Mobile are sure to try to stay with the Laterne Rouge to avoid the kind of devastating breakaway that happened in Stage 1 yesterday. How will the Laterne Rouge respond? Our veteran bicycle racing commentators advise: expect the unexpected.
Starting from 9000 ft of elevation in Creede, this stage heads upwards. The first sixteen miles are relatively easy, then there’s a tough 16 mile climb to bring the riders to the crest of Spring Creek Pass at nearly 11,000 ft. Then a sharp, short descent, and more climbing to Slumgullion Pass at 11,500 ft. That’s more than two miles above sea level. The descent from Slumgullion is technical: a 9% grade, sharp curves, bumpy roads, and treacherous cross winds. Those two peaks you see at 75 and 82 miles are thousand foot climbs. The finish in Gunnison is 106 miles from the start.
I think we’ll see some riders crack on this stage. The riders fully understand the challenge they face. I’m sure the younger riders will be looking to their veteran teammates to set strategy and control the pace.
They’re off. The young fans seem to favor Camel, Vodka, Little Hammer, Cakeboy, and Weasel.
Two-Girls is charging ahead. While he’s riding for Postal in this Tour, two-girls has already signed to ride for the Lanterne Rouge next season. He’s a strong rider, but carries a bit of extra domestic weight. In another two decades, he’ll have a lot to offer to the team.
The Lanterne Rouge is not covering this early attack. They may be trying to conserve their strength. The Rouge is missing M-Cubed, Mr. Mountain Man Morris, who allegedly missed his plane flight to join his team in Colorado. In a deposition conducted by conference call with M-Cubed as he relaxed in a café on the coast of Maryland, M-Cubed all but admitted guilt to high conspiracy.
At the first feed station, there’s no sign of concern about the early attack.
Although it’s late June, you can still see some snow on the mountains looming ahead of the riders.
At the base of the climb, Twiggy has started chasing. He’s pulling hard at the front of the peloton, while his Lanterne Rouge teammates are struggling to stay on his wheel.
Doorman has fallen off the lead Lanterne Rouge groupette. I’m sure he’s angry with his teammate for attacking so early and so ferociously on this tough stage.
Twiggy crests Slumgullion in the lead. Popping a wheely at 11,500 ft! He’s got a reputation as a bit of a showboater. Old-time cycling fans don’t respect that, but it gets him a lot of media attention.
There’s still another 67 miles to go on this stage. A rider to watch is Pony Joe, also know as Pops. He’s the tribal elder of the Lanterne Rouge. When not counseling younger riders on rubber, crank length, and bottom brackets, he can be found in his shop muttering and tinkering with old bike parts. It’s whispered that he’s close to producing the ultimate Frankenbike.
We sneaked into his shop to investigate. You are now seeing the first photographs ever seen of Pop’s revolutionary cycling machine. Apparently, it’s a special-purpose climbing bike optimized to handle steep, curvy, slick roads. Those are precisely the roads that determine riders’ fates on the crucial mountain stages.
On this stage, Pops is riding a conventional bike. He’s looking quite strong, cycling smoothly and comfortably.
There he goes. Looks like he’s lost confidence in the rest of his team and is going to attempt to bridge up to Twiggy solo. A gutsy move. No one is even trying to go with him. They may all be afraid of Twiggy, but it’s clear that Pops isn’t. I wonder if Pops got news over the radio that Twiggy has hit a rainstorm and is struggling on the climb at 70 miles.
Here’s Twiggy, looking a lot less fresh then when he crested Slumgullion. He’s going to have a tough time holding on for the stage win.
The weather has cleared. Pops is riding strongly up the final climb and rapidly closing. He’s got Twiggy. It’s a lock. Pops gets the stage win.
Further back, Cabinboy is moving up sharply through the shattered field. Cabinboy is a meticulous rider, carefully considering the weather conditions, air quality, and terrain. With that kind of analysis, he doesn’t bonk. He’ll definitely move into the Top-10 in the GC after this effort.
After Stage 2, Pops has moved to the top of the GC, with a 1:21 second lead over the drooping Twiggy. The Lanterne Rouge remains bunched at the front. This formerly unheralded team currently holds seven of the top-10 GC spots. The Lanterne Rouge is totally re-arranging the order of professional cycling.
After this brutal 106-mile mountain stage, the cyclists are exhausted. Unlike on many European multi-day stage races, the cyclists on this Tour have spacious, comfortable accommodations.
Today’s stage, stage 3, is a relatively easy stage. GC hopefuls who have not kept up with the blistering pace of the Lanterne Rouge over the past two days will have trouble making up a lot of time. But no one is going home until they get to the finish.
The first 24 miles of this stage have only a few minor hills. Over the next 12 mills, the road rises about 1000 feet to crest at the Blue Mesa Summit at 36 miles. From there it’s downhill to the finish, except for a 1000 ft climb to Cerro Summit from the 45 to the 50 mile marks. The whole stage takes place more than a mile above sea level.
Riders who might try to challenge the Lanterne Rouge on this stage are Lasso, riding for Basso Fartola, and Pigtaki Penni, riding for Fruit of the Loom. Keep an eye on White Horse, too. He’s looking like he might still have some miles left in him.
The Lanterne Rouge has again moved to the front. They’ve got M-Cubed with them. After missing the first two stages, he flew into Pagosa Springs, rented a car, and drove five hours to Gunnison to join his team. Expect to see him at the front on this stage. We’ve also got White Horse and Cadel right up there keeping an eye on the situation.
We’ve just received word that Weasil has been disqualified from the Tour for running a red light and then failing to return unspent Lanterne Rouge jersey money. Weasil was a solid, pack rider for the Lanterne Rouge. This could be an important developments if seven or eight Lanterne Rouge riders get injured and are unable to ride.
Pops looks strong despite his big effort for the stage win yesterday. He and M-Cubed are setting a blistering pace.
Pops has fallen back slightly. Camel has moved up to match M-Cubed. Given that M-Cubed spent the past two days on the beach in Maryland while the rest of the riders put in a hard 171 miles, he has probably got fresher legs than the rest of these riders right now.
We’ve been informed Doorman has changed teams. He’s moved to Taxus Accounting and Management. The Director Sportif said that Doorman moved to get “better career opportunities.” The word in the peleton is that, after yesterday’s early attack, Doorman no longer wanted to be Twiggy’s teammate.
Doorman still seems to be on friendly terms with his former teammate Fuzzy of the Lanterne Rouge. At this time we have no further information on the situation between Doorman and Twiggy. It looks like a serious break. This could have implications out on the road.
Camel is attacking M-Cubed! Camel is looking very strong as he leads the riders through the closing mile of this stage.
We’ll be right back with epic Tour action after this station break.
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That was an incredibly exciting finish. Camel’s stage win has catapulted him to second place in the GC, only 12 seconds behind Pops. Thunder, Vodka, and Fuzzy have moved into the top 10. So there’s been continual shuffling of positions within the Lanterne Rouge, but that team still holds 8 of the top-10 GC spots.
After three days of tough riding, it’s amazing to see some of the younger cyclists dancing to a local bluegrass band. Maybe they haven’t studied the profile of tomorrow’s stage. But I’d guess that they’ll be getting back to their hotel rooms soon. Most of the cyclists on this Tour are asleep in their beds by 9 pm.
Welcome to continuing coverage of this year’s Tour. Stage 4 will test to the limit the legs and lungs of these cyclists. Many people like to talk about cycling, watch cycling on television, and collect high-priced bicycle equipment. This stage is not about that kind of riding. It’s about the essence of cycling: pain and suffering. Whoever hurts the most, comes in first. Keep an eye on how the Lanterne Rouge responds to today’s challenge.
The first 36 miles of this stage are uphill – a climb of about 3300 ft to the summit of the Dallas Divide. After a 13 mile high-speed descent, the rides climb for another 16 miles to gain about 1700 ft in elevation. The last seven miles up to Telluride are at a brutally steep grade.
In these mountain stages, the riders experience huge changes in weather conditions. The temperature in the morning can drop below freezing. Latter in the day the temperature in the sun might reach 90 degrees. Rain and hail storms occur abruptly, and they vanish just as quickly. The riders who can stuff more clothing into their jersey pockets have a significant competitive advantage.
The Lanterne Rouge isn’t dominating this stage from the start. They have only Twiggy in a four-man break that formed right after the start. I’m not sure this break is going to last. Twiggy may be sacrificing himself for the team.
That’s it. Twiggy’s popped.
Up front Lasso and O’dagry are going hard. Hold on, this isn’t the front. Pigtaki has broken away and is off on his own. The Lanterne Rouge is nowhere in sight. Thus could be a dangerous break.
Pigtaki rides a Schwinn Premio, which is based on Schwinn’s pioneering 1895 Roadster model. This is a bike built to endure and excel. There’s no question that this Schwinn contributes greatly to Pigtaki’s performance on the road.
At the top of the Dallas Divide, Lanterne Rouge riders are desperately moving through the shattered peleton to try to organize a chase.
The Lanterne Rouge has grouped up, but they don’t seem to be working well together. They’ll never catch Pigtaki unless they get a solid paceline going.
We’ve just received that Weasel, although he’s been DQ’d, is still participating in the Tour.
The Lanterne Rouge has overtaken Pigtaki! The only question remaining is which Lanterne Rouge rider will win the stage.
Fireman is burning off his teammates. Fireman gets the win.
The riders seem tired and irritable after this grueling stage.
But the riders have arrived in beautiful, historic Telluride, and tomorrow is a rest day.
I said, “Hey honey, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?” She just ignored me!
Welcome to continuing coverage of this year’s Tour. Today’s stage 5 has at its center a 50 mile, high-speed descent. The riders will be screaming down this hill tightly tucked and inches off the wheel of a rider they trust. While the Lanterne Rouge has dominated the Tour thus far, we may see the team scattering on this stage.
This stage climbs about 1500 ft to the summit of Lizard Head Pass at mile 15. The next 50 miles descend about 3300 ft. Another 18 miles take the riders to Mancos over a few small hills.
The Lanterne Rouge is looking very confidant. They’re soft-pedaling at the back of the field. Cadel and White Horse are closely monitoring this unusual Lanterne Rouge tactic.
I’m sure the riders are thinking about that high-speed descent. I spoke with White Horse about his experience on stage 1. [White Horse recording]
Thunder and Fuzzy appear to be organizing some action.
The Lanterne Rouge has gone immediately to the front. Cadel and White Horse have been dropped. Pigtaki is hanging on about five yards behind the Rouge train. He may be the only rider with a chance to challenge the Lanterne Rouge for the stage win.
Pigtaki seems to have been dropped.
The Lanterne Rouge are riding a precision paceline.
In a paceline, a rider tries to stay right behind the rider in front of her. Occasionally one rider will give another a short, friendly tap on the behind to signal that the rider in front should pick up the pace. A variety of other gestures are also used to coordinate the paceline.
We’ve just been informed that Pigtaki has crashed out of the Tour. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. His condition is serious, but stable. He’s expected to recover fully from his injuries in a couple of weeks.
The Lanterne Rouge are attacking each other! Thunder looks very strong.
I don’t think anyone can beat him to the finish now.
Vodka has come out of nowhere to take the stage win! Thunder gets second.
The top 5 in the GC are now Fireman, Vodka, Thunder, Taxman, and Twiggy – separated by only 18 seconds.
Stage 6 is the last stage of this epic Tour. This stage runs from Mancos to Pagosa Springs. It has only a couple of 1200 ft climbs over its 88-mile length. But at this point in the tour, every mile and every single bump hurts.
Twiggy is punishing the peleton right from the start.
The Lanterne Rouge has massed at the front and is tearing into the first climb. Fireman must be looking to preserve his place atop the GC. The only threats to him seem to be his own teammates.
The Lanterne Rouge has regrouped at the front and is continuing to totally dominate the Tour. This is an incredible showing.
Despite this awesome display of manly athleticism, some of the fans seem a bit bored.
We have to admit that there’s no way the Lanterne Rouge can be beaten now.
A front-riding Lanterne Rouge rider has had a mechanical. Terrible luck. Twiggy has stopped to help his teammate! He’s helping another teammate. I’ve never seen anything like this.
Taxman is all alone at the front, and has now become the virtual leader of the Tour.
Twiggy, Thunder, and Fuzzy have now formed a chase group to try to bridge up to Taxman. But Taxman is looking very strong.
Twiggy has dropped Thunder and Fuzzy and is now chasing solo. He’s closing in on the final climb.
Twiggy just misses. Taxman takes the stage.
Some big time gaps have reordered the GC. Taxman wins the Tour. The Twig gets second. Camel, Thunder, and Vodka round out the rest of the top 5. The Lanterne Rouge has blanketed the top-10. There has never been a Tour like this, and there may never be one like it again.