Date: Monday, 01 July 2013
Posted by: Cycling Southland

With the 2013 Tour de France beginning in Corsica on Saturday night (NZ time), so too began a month of sleep deprivation for cycling fans.

The 100th Tour began in suitably dramatic fashion and fortunately the British and Irish Lions and Wallabies played ball with a horrendously stop-start rugby match on the other channel (at least for the first 70 minutes) which allowed for plenty of time watching the Tour peloton settle in for its 3,600 kilometre journey over the next three weeks.

I managed to get to about 1:30am before bed called and thanks to the marvels of modern technology (more commonly called MySky) I dragged myself up the hall, safe in the knowledge that a replay of the predicted opening stage sprint would be only a few button pushes away in the morning.

Anyone who organises events will tell you they lie awake at night, not worrying about the things they have planned for, it's those eventualities you can't plan for that keep you from sleep. Things like a team bus getting wedged under the finish line, for example.

So as the leaders descended on the final kilometres of stage one, organisers were deflating tyres on the Orica-GreenEdge team bus so it could back up and get out of the way before 198 bike riders came down the finish straight at 75 clicks.

Fortunately, disaster was avoided - well mostly. Nervousness in the peloton during the opening days of the Tour is an annual fixture and these jitters, combined with a decision to move the finish line back to the three kilometre mark to avoid the Aussie bus, which was then reversed when said bus was unwedged, combined to create the perfect recipe for incident. Sure enough, within the final kilometres, wheels touched and down came a large number of riders.

New Zealand's Greg Henderson and Jack Bauer negotiated the carnage, although Hendy, a key lead-out man for Lotto Belisol team mate Andre Greipel was not short of a word after the stage, telling ITV, "It was just ridiculous. We hear the finish line is at 3km so we just go, full. Then we hear at 3km that it's back at the original. We'd already used two men on the lead-out. It's not ideal."

That's the beautiful thing about the Tour. Just when you think you've seen it all over 100 years of racing, it reminds you that you can't miss a moment.

It also reminds us that our own iconic road race, the Tour of Southland will no doubt again provide drama and surprise. 120 of New Zealand's best bike riders over 900 kilometres never goes exactly to script and, just like the slightly more famous French version, it will throw up another week of spectacular action in November.

The first of our exciting announcements leading in to the 2013 Tour of Southland comes in these very pages later this week. That upcoming news and the start of le Tour over the weekend ratcheted up the excitement levels another notch.


Nick Jeffrey is Cycling Southland's Chief Executive

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