Mont Ventoux — Most Difficult Challenge In Sports?

I’m not sure I can really get a handle on the level of fitness it takes to race 13 miles up a serious incline. After competitively riding over a hundred miles a day for just about all of the last three weeks.

Mouth agape, I watched this morning’s climb up Mont Ventoux in the last competitive stage of the Tour de France. (Tomorrow’s final stage is traditionally ceremonial.) It requires athleticism and fitness of the highest order.

Andy Schleck, in second place at the start of the day, had some hopes, however slim, of breaking away from leader Alberto Contador to grab the Tour lead. Contador, who seemed in total contral, shadowed Schleck all the way up the mountain, conceding nothing. Schleck was secondarily hoping to pull his brother Frank into third place, moving ahead of Lance Armstrong. The seven-time American winner wouldn’t allow it, showing amazing strength against these youngsters for a man in his late 30s.

Andy Schleck would try to break from the small pack of leaders. Contador would cooly stay on his tale. Armstrong, steely and unforgiving as ever, shadowed the two fellows trying to remove him from the podium tomorrow, Frand Schleck and Bradley Evans.

But back to the real star of the day, Mont Ventoux.

The toughest hill in Cherokee Park, I think, is Cochran Hill, the one that peaks by the dog run near Lexington Road. I’m a schlepper bike rider for sure, and it takes me several minutes to make that climb. It is hard to imagine riding such an incline forĀ  . . . think about it now . . . 13 miles.

That would take me several hours at least . . . if I could even do it without months of training to prepare. Which I’m sure I couldn’t.

Anyway, after watching the Tour for several days, I’m more convinced than ever that it is far and away the most arduous of sporting events. I’m not discounting those super ultra wilderness marathon survival events. But those are really for Type AAAAAA participants who need to push their abilities in extremis to prove something to themselves.

Hats off to these Tour participants. Amazing athletes, faced with challenging fatigue and fitness, their fellow competitors, and all those wackies lining the course, who wave flags within inches of their faces.

– Seedy K

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