Excitement fills the air in late June as the "Tour Day France" rapidly approaches. The discussions begin to circle about each rider's fitness: who will be strong enough over the first three weeks in July to take the coveted crown? I especially enjoy the discussions about who can excel in the mountains and against a clock. (As if the fomula is that simple.) With the exception of some PROs, most arrive at the Tour in peak condition. My buddy ZD and I always get a kick out of the pre-tour medical checks. Each PRO is carefully examined to insure proper health and and the "fitness" to tackle the weeks ahead. This pre-tour ritual is akin to a boxer's weigh-in before a bout. Publicly, the rider is evaluated under the media's watchful eye. I have to wonder how this plays to a rider's advantage. In year's past, this was really the first opportunity to see if Jan has been able to arrive at the Tour ready for three weeks of battle or if it will take Weeks 1 and 2 to get into form.
The best part about this pre-Tour ritual is the form these athletes show. As they lie on the doctor's table with their heart rates in the 30s, they look part Frankenstein, part Ivan Draggo, and part machine. I am almost waiting for someone in a lab coat to proclaim "It is alive!"
PRO cyclists have such an odd build: concave chests, chicken arms, and enormous legs. Covering these features is a thin layer of skin and almost zero fat. Then there's the tan lines that are literally branded on their skin. PROs are an interesting breed, in any other capacity, these individuals look sick and emaciated. Just think back to Rasmussen in the 2005 Tour.
The Pre-Race Medical Check was originally posted on February 13, 2007
Photo courtesy cyclingnews.com