Author Topic: Time to make the unofficial Lanterne Rouge in the Tour de France official  (Read 221 times)

Andre Jute

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It's time to make the unofficial Lanterne Rouge in the Tour de France official, as it is official in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, another brutal competition, where it honors finishing a race in which fewer people have finished than have ascended Mount Everest, and even multiple champions in off-years say they would honored by the recognition of the effort. See http://www.bbc.com/sport/wales/40691555


Luke Rowe, right, rode the race with a broken rib to support his team leader, Chris Froome, left, to the yellow jersey.
Andre Jute
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léo woodland

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It used to be. There was a black jersey for the last rider and, for some years, the last rider was thrown out of the race each day. The two problems were that the jersey glorified a rider who had no right to be glorified and that throwing out the last rider led to strategic connivances.

How?

Well, if you are last rider and riding for team A and the rider ahead of you is in team B, then you know you'll be thrown out at the end of the day anyway. But if you drop out voluntarily - because what  have you got to lose? - it's team B that loses a rider and therefore a rival that is weakened.

happy days

léo

Andre Jute

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I most definitely don't want the last rider thrown out. He's still a better rider than all those millions who didn't make the team. I want him celebrated, as a race with a much better attitude, the sled dog race in Alaska, does. Pointedly, a lady who climbed Everest collected the Red Lantern at the Iditarod, and was widely celebrated for it. Somebody has to be last, so why not celebrate that too, and make the point that it is the toughest cycle race in the world when such a hard man can come only last?

I was horrified by your story, Léo, of the unimaginative mismanagement of a huge promotional opportunity by the organizers of the race, and the cycling authorities in general, of whom I've long had a less than flattering opinion.

On the other hand, I loved the strategic move of taking the taxi voluntarily to force an opposition rider out with you!
Andre Jute
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Danneaux

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Andre,

You -- and others -- might enjoy this account of the stories behind a number of lanterne rouge riders:
https://www.amazon.com/Lanterne-Rouge-Last-Tour-France/dp/1605987867#productDescription_secondary_view_div_1500862040544
It has its faults, but humanized those who found themselves in last place. While I view the last-place finisher as noble for what has been done and accomplished (and would be thrilled to claim the distinction of having ridden even a single stage in LeTour) in the pantheon of competition it is sometimes viewed as a humiliation best forgotten.

Best,

Dan.

léo woodland

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There was value in being last when the race was followed by village criteriums all over France. Tour riders got higher start fees than those who hadn't ridden and the big names earned more in a week than they did the rest of the year. And there was always something extra for the lanterne rouge, because especially in the years before television coverage, reporters could build stories of his grit and suffering. That made him a hero, even if he was doing no more than a domestique does today, which  is to slog away for his leaders without bothering about his own position.

There were years that the attraction of higher criterium fees led riders to compete to be last. One year, the next-to-last found it so hard to go quite slowly enough to be the actual last that he went to the other extreme and broke away by himself. Nobody took him seriously, of course. But they should have done. Too late, the stars realised that he was going to win. And not just win but win on the Puy de Dôme, where he held off no less than Eddy Merckx. His name was Pierre Matignon, the year was 1969, and he was too exhausted at the finish line even to lift his arm.

There are now far fewer criteriums and riders are better paid. In those days, domestiques often weren't paid at all, hence the attraction of criterium fees. And through end-to-end TV coverage we know the lanterne rouge is last not because of his heroic suffering but because he's been employed to carry bottles up to the stars and was never intended to do well in the first place.

happy days

léo

léo woodland

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As an analogy, to make a hero of the lanterne rouge would be like sympathising with a goalkeeper who has gone all through the World Cup without scoring a goal. Like a domestique, he's not employed to do that.

I don't know about the Iditarod race but I imagine that everyone who enters hopes to win and competes as an individual. Cycling isn't like that. Cycling is a team sport and it has its goal-scorers and it has its goalkeepers. The lanterne rouge never dreamed of winning and isn't surprised or even disappointed when he doesn't.

happy days

léo

Andre Jute

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Good heavens. I hadn't realized coming last in the TdF was a whole industry, with its own legends!
Andre Jute
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John Saxby

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Léo, bienvenue, mon vieux! And thanks for the illuminating detail of the Lanterne Rouge, the light on the caboose.