It takes someone who has ridden the Tour de France to really know it. While looking for podcasts to fill downtime during a biking trip to France this summer I found “Stages" podcast with Lance Armstrong. I ended up listening to the daily recap of the Tour de France from Lance and his sidekick JB Hager, a morning disc jockey in Austin, TX and occasional guest George Hincapie. Lance explained in the first episode that they converted an old air stream trailer to a studio and obtained a few sponsors to offset costs. The name of the podcast represents the stages of the Tour, and our lives.
Without going into any details about his fall from cycling grace, Lance said he has not been following pro cycling for the past 4 years but he is now back in love with the bike and is attempting to build a media platform. In Stages he promises commentary of the key players, risks, and rewards of the race as a total outsider, but from the prospective of experience. He is knowledgeable, brash, out spoken, and entertaining. He provides a take you will not hear anywhere else.
Selected learnings include:
• Chris Froome, the overall winner, is hard to watch. He looks sloppy on the bike, like he is suffering, but he gets the job done
• On a rest day all riders do a ride, usually short but sometime they hammer it. They have to stay sharp since a body at rest stays at rest.
• Can't do the Tour without losing weight. Some start heavy, but Froome started as light as he could
• The 2017 tour was fast, 32 mph in the flats. The ride leaders kept the pace high to minimize attacks
• The Queens Stage is what they call the hardest stage of the event. In 2017 it was stage 9
• Bike racing is a mix of 1) running a marathon (engine), playing a game of chess (tactics) , driving a NASCAR (positioning) and running for president (politics)
• Downhill finishes require taking massive risks after exhausted and take the spice out of a climb
• Flat, long stages are boring even for the cyclists
• Tour etiquette are the unwritten rules enforced by the peloton
o No one passes the rider in the leader’s jersey if they crash or have a mechanical problem
o Never attack leaving a feed zone
o Never poke between a sprinter and their lead out
o Don't get involved in a sprint unless you are committed
o Never attack in a tunnel
• The back end of the peloton is less regulated and less subject to Tour etiquette
• Sticky bottle is when the rider is offered a bottle from a team car and holds onto it longer than necessary while the race director floors the car
• The prize money for the winner of the Tour, a 3 week event is $590,000. All the money is given to the team and staff and this amount has not changed in 20 years. Compare this to the prize for Wimbledon, a 2 week event of $2.5M to a single individual and the US Open, a 4 day event of $1.8M
• Lance’s second favorite race is the Tour of Flanders. He likes the short punchy hills
Besides the sponsors, Lance is funding the podcast by selling caps and tee-shirts on his new endurance platform www.wedusport.com. The phrase WEDU, or “we do” is a way for highly motivated individuals to wear apparel that broadcasts how different they are from ordinary mortals. “Who gets up at 4am to go on a bike ride when it is 10 below zero outside, who would do that?” But at 4am there are people on their bike who would answer “We do.” So WEDU.
Lance has a sister podcast called The Forward. It is not cycling related and he has an eclectic list of guests, such as his interview with former MLB outfielder Eric Byrnes which included interesting conversation surrounding the topic of competition. Some of the other interviews in this series I found a little draggy so you need to choose carefully.
The 2017 Tour is over, but Stages podcast is not. Lance did a 4 podcast series on the Ironman in Hawaii including interviews with legends Dave Scott and Mark Allen that was fascinating. The route for the 2018 Tour was announced Oct. 17 and he did a podcast the next day analyzing the route, i.e. sprinters might as well stay home. Due to the success of Stages, he is planning to cover the spring cycling classics, the 2018 Tour, and other endurance events, a total of 50 podcasts next year.
If you are a podcast fan and cyclist, I recommend you download and tune in.