Sports Eye

54 seconds

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.

I NEVER failed to watch the annual Tour de France (TdF) on TV, either via live or delayed telecast. Frankly, the TdF was one of the reasons why I was inspired to become a cyclist. Like the participants of TdF, I was ambitious to think that what the TdF cyclists can do, I said I, too, can do. Yes, I knew then that to become a cycling champ was just a matter of proper intensive training, proper nutrition with some financial stability and most of all with blessing from Above. “Champions are not born, they’re developed,” as the adage says which I firmly believe.

And I did it in 1973, my first of three. But my ultimate cycling goal to join the TdF was not fulfilled. I was disappointed with myself.  It’s a long story.

The 2017 TdF just ended last Sunday (July 23) that saw three-time and defending champion Chris Froome of England bagging his fourth title – his third in-a-row. His first was in 2013, but failed to defend it in 2014. He recovered and made it three straight since from 2015 to this year. He is the first Englishman to do it in the chronicle of TdF, considered as the toughest, longest, richest, oldest and most prestigious bicycle race in the world.

This year was his narrowest gap of the four titles he earned, winning only by just 54 seconds after 21-day of road saga over Colombian best climber Roberto Uran. It’s also his first win without winning a single stage unlike his previous triumphs. It was also the second closest margin of victory in TdF history when three-time champion Greg Lemond of America did it in 1989 winning by just 8 second ahead of Laurent Fignon of France. Lemond was the first non-European cyclist to win the TdF.

The 54-second conquest by Froome over Uran reminds me of my victory in the 1973 Tour of Luzon (ToL). I was only ahead of my teammate, my protégé, my town mate and my Cumpadre Cesar Catambay of barangay Malabago by 54 seconds. Admittedly, if I did not get the support of my teammates led by Catambay himself, and the time bonuses I collected for winning four stages, I might not have won the 1973 ToL.

Unlike his previous triumphs where Froome won some stages, this time he  did not win single stage but what worked for him was his riding consistently with the main pack almost every day.  That made the big difference for him.  While Froome lost time on the steep slopes to the summit at stage 12 losing the yellow jersey (symbolic of leadership) to Italian marquee rider Fabro Aru (eventually placed fifth overall), reclaimed the front in the 14th stage by 29 seconds over Uran and increased the lead by 54 seconds against Uran in the crucial race-against-the-clock in the 20th stage by finishing third to two Polish riders Maciej Bodnar and Michal Kwiatkowski, just six and five seconds, respectively. And he arrived with the main group at the grand finish at Champs Elysees in Paris. Cycling experts say he will likely keep the title in the next five years to equal the achievements of Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Belgian Eddy Merckx and Spanish Miguel Indurain.

Froome, at 32, is in that age when riders are expected to decline in performance, but not him. The only question is: How long can he dominate the TdF in the years to come? Only God can say.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: And the prophet Moses said,”He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. DEUTERONOMY 32: 4