"If I don't believe in solipsism, who will?" - Al Batt

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Lanterne Rouge

The Lanterne Rouge, the red light at the back of the train, the last place finisher in the Tour de France. This is an honor that is harder to achieve than one would think. They have to be good enough to get hired; be a good fellow to have around, and be completely egoless. They have to consistently place near the end of the train, without ever missing the daily time cutoff, which in the mountains is a moving, arbitrary target. Hovering at the end of the line, a blown tire can eliminate them in one stroke. And don't think the domestiques, the food and water carriers, don't think about the honor. They are aware and many vie for it. You can see them rolling in after the winners, the placers, and the hard charging peleton. They are the relaxed - laughing and talking to their competitors, their blood-sworn enemies, as they roll gracefully over the line. I can identify with them, because I sense they were the backrow slackers when they were in school... and probably smart-asses too. They are me, except they can ride, and ride damned well. But Wim Vansevenant is in a class by himself - a watercarrier to the Gods.

This year Wim goes for an unprecedented third straight Lanterne, after a second from bottom finish in 2005. May God grant him leaden shoes. Honestly, who would you rather share a beer with, Lance Armstrong or Wim Vansevenant?

I used to follow the daily standings, looking for the names of my favorite laggards. Now there are blogs dedicated solely to these anti-heroes, these backrow slackers. This one is particularly fine: http://tdflr.blogspot.com/


Nancy Toby of Lanterne Rouge Blog said...

I'd love to have a beer with Wim, but I don't think he speaks very much English! At least I rarely see English-language interviews with him.

Thanks for the very kind words!!!

Gunnar Berg said...

Hey, we talking about "drinking beer" - belching, farting, laughing, backslapping, talking loud - we don't have to actually understand each other, because nobody listens anyway.