In professional cycling, as in marathons, the men’s race goes off first, there is a time gap, then the women are given the start flag.
In a cycling race in Belgium, the gap of 10 minutes was just about closed by the lead female racer. Race officials were concerned that she’d get entangled with the support vehicles traveling behind the men. What did they do? Wave aside the support vehicles and let her race on?
No. They stopped the women’s race until the gap had opened up again. The lead female rider was able to start off first among all the riders who’d caught up with her during the halt, but her rhythm had been thrown off and she quickly lost her lead, finishing overall 74th.
Can you imagine race officials stopping the male racers because they were catching up with the women?
I hardly know what to say, except that in microcosm, it reflects to me male discomfort with women closing gaps of any kind. In marathon running, the fastest women are now very close to equalling the fastest men. The male record is 2:03.38. The fastest female time is 2:15:25. Professional sporting didn’t used to allow women to run marathons at all. The stress of the long race was thought to be too much for our womanly bodies. We now know that with proper training, equipment, financial support and access to the most challenging races, women do just fine.
The Tour de France, the premier professional cycling race, is still male-only. I can’t wait for that barrier to fall.
I’m reminded of RBG’s famous comment that we aren’t looking for special privileges. We just want men to get their feet off our necks. Or to have male race officials to remove the actual impediment — the support vehicles — and not stand in the way of the racers.
Seattle’s WNBA women’s professional basketball team, the Storm, won the championship in 2010, the year that I moved here. They lost their mojo pretty quickly, and have had several dismal seasons in a row. Finally, this year, they are back. They swept the championship series against the Washington Mystics, and are the 2018 WNBA champions.
I have enormous respect for Serena Williams as an athlete. I admire her talent, her discipline, her long run at the top of women’s professional tennis, her fight to return after the birth of her daughter and at the age of 36 — an age when most professional athletes of either gender are moving into retirement. I wanted her to win the women’s U.S. Open final on Saturday.
I hate it when she loses her composure on the court and erupts.
She did yesterday, when she fell behind playing against a much younger but talented player, Naomi Osaka. And it was ugly.
Serena desperately wants that one more majors win, the one that would tie her with Margaret Court. I get that. This U.S. Open was a terrific chance, with many of the top players sidelined early. Osaka is young; all the odds were against her defeating Serena two outings in a row. I do think Serena was provoked and overly penalized by an officious chair umpire. My hope is that this chair umpire would never again call a women’s match. But Osaka was the clear winner.
Serena was gracious later in congratulating the younger player and champion, making it clear that her fight was not against her opponent. But the spectacle of Serena erupting on the court remains.
I rarely if ever watch four hours of TV in a day, much less consecutively. But the WNBA championships are on, and there were two semi-final games on Sunday, one right after the other. One was here in Seattle, the Storm against the Phoenix Mercury. I watched from home. I used to be season ticket holder and went to Key Arena for live games, but got frustrated after 2010 when the Storm had one lousy season after another. They are back with a vengeance this season, and could well win the championship. They won game one of their semi-final against Phoenix yesterday.
The WNBA is holding its own, even though women’s teams in general earn a fraction of comparable men’s teams. Professional women basketball players often play overseas during the off season, where the best of them earn more than 1M. The top salary in the WNBA is $110,000.
Women basketball players have all the challenges of any young working woman — like pregnancy. DeWanna Bonner and her partner, Candace Dupree, had twin girls a year ago — DeWanna was the birth mother. Both women played this season; DeWanna is with the Mercury and contending for the championship. Candace, who plays for the Indiana Fever, stayed home for the playoffs with the little girls. The Fever did not make the playoffs cut.
DeWanna often gets compared to some of the best male players in the NBA, and it reminds me of what they used to say about ballroom dancers Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. He was the better known and surely the higher paid. She did everything he did, backwards and in high heels.
Still happening, I’d say.
I watched two first round games of the WNBA championships on Tuesday night. The Minnesota Lynx, which have been a dynasty for the last many years, were eliminated in the first round. They are an aging team, their great players nearing the end of their careers. The younger players have yet to peak.
The cycle of dynastic sports teams is illustrative of a larger point: nothing lasts forever, nobody stays on top indefinitely.
Would that our politicians understood that, and went back to valuing compromise and negotiating long term solutions.
The Seattle Storm has a good shot at winning the championship, which hasn’t happened since 2010. Go Storm!
Normally I don’t watch much TV on a daily basis: Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow are favorites, and then sometimes I get hooked on a new series. But when the Tour de France is on, for three weeks I watch the entire race stage every day — three or four hours. Sunday is the final stage into Paris, with one more competitive sprint around the Champs Elysees but the overall race decided as of end of day on Saturday. By gentlemen’s agreement and longstanding practice, whatever are the race standings on Saturday is the order in which the major contenders ride into Paris.
There is an overall winner of the Tour, the one who wins the yellow jersey and the most money, and a sprint winner — the latter decided on Sunday, the former at end of day on Saturday. I know it’s confusing if you don’t follow the sport. There is also a mountain climbing winner, and a best young rider winner. They all get different colored jerseys.
The Tour this year was very exciting — and despite some major crashes and broken bones there were none of the ghastly injuries that sometimes happen and sideline riders for a long time. Lawson Craddock, the American guy who broke his scapula on the first day of racing finished the Tour — quite astonishing, with such a painful injury. The long climbs up the Alps were grueling as ever, and the lightning fast downhills breathtaking. I always enjoy the view of rural France from the helicopters above the race riders.
I was in Paris in 2010 when the riders came in for the final stage, and it was a real highlight of my life. Always grateful to friend Jane who invited me to Paris, and who came with me at 9:30am to claim our spot. We were glued there as people arrived all day so no one would crowd in front of us. The riders came through at 4:30pm. That’s real friendship, when she doesn’t even follow the sport. 🙂
The Tour is a once a year event, unlike football, for example, which devoted followers can see every weekend from fall into winter and the Super Bowl. Professional cycling is not a high profile sport; I doubt that many of you can even name one of the riders currently at the top of the rankings. How I got to love the Tour so much is a mystery even to me, but there it is.
Until next year….
French rider Philippe Gilbert had to withdraw from the Tour de France after a crash that left him with a broken patella. But before he withdrew, he finished the stage, some 60km from the point where he went over a low stone wall on a fast downhill just after a brutal bend in the road. This was roughly the same spot where Italian rider Fabio Casartelli was killed in 1995 crashing into a similar stone wall head first. The Tour de France race route is very challenging, and these riders don’t mess around by putting on the brakes very often.
Regular readers of the blog know that a little more than two weeks ago, I fell hard on a steep part of Queen Anne hill, crashing my knees on the hard sidewalk. After an X-ray of my right knee, I am nursing a bad bruise, not a break. But the knee was very sore and swollen for several days, bad enough to interrupt my sleep. I can’t imagine riding a bike 60km on a bruised knee, much less a broken one.
If you’re wondering about the medical judgment of letting Gilbert ride with a broken patella, race doctors generally defer to the rider if he can get back on the bike and go. A more thorough assessment comes after the race stage is done. No team wants a rider — a valuable asset into which they’ve invested a lot of money — to cause himself permanent injury by riding when he shouldn’t. But that judgment isn’t made until after the race stage, unless the rider has a head injury and is clearly unable to make a lucid decision at the point of the accident. Lawson Craddock, a young American rider who fractured his scapula during the first stage, is still riding — although he ‘s dead last. He’s finishing within the time limit outside of which riders are disqualified, and that’s saying a lot with such a painful injury.
Professional athletes deal with injuries all the time, but I can’t imagine a sport in which the competitors are tougher than at the Tour. If you’ve ever had a bone break, or even a bad bruise, imagine getting on a bike and riding up a mountain like the Alps. The Tour de France is the crowning event of the professional cycling year, and competitors in the race unlucky enough to suffer accidents do it all the time.
We’re more than halfway through the 2018 Tour de France — stage 13 runs on Friday — and I’m loving it. This year’s Tour is very exciting — no clear dominating rider and four or five still in the hunt for the yellow jersey at the end. The riders finished climbing the Alps on Thursday in stage 12. They go up the mountain faster than I ride on flat terrain.
This is my primo summer sports event. I love everything about the Tour, including the spectacular pics of French villages, cities and mountains. This really is a beautiful country, and the Tour shows off the best of it.
Explaining the strategy of the race to a non-fan would take awhile — professional cycling is far more complicated than getting into the saddle and peddling as fast as you can. Once you get what they are doing, though, it’s the most intricate and demanding of sports. One of the highlights of my life was being in Paris for the final stage several years ago when my friend Jane lived there and invited me to visit. Other people go to Paris to see cathedrals and art museums and to float along the Seine. I went to see the Tour. 🙂
Seattle’s economy is scorching hot — I thought surely we’d make the list.
We didn’t. Only two U.S. cities measured up: San Jose, at the heart of Silicon Valley, and San Francisco. Dublin is #1. The rest are mostly in China, with a nod to India and the Philippines.
We need to be realistic, as Americans, about our place in the world. By many measures, it’s not as exalted as the ordinary American thinks.
French rider Lilian Calmejane is in the Tour again this year. He’s a very handsome young man, and a professional athlete skilled enough to make the Direct Energie’ team for this year’s Tour.
We have a lot of gender neutral names in our country, but Lilian isn’t one of them. I wonder what his friends call him for short? Being named Lilian here would be a heavy burden indeed for a boy, sort of like the Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue”. I’m glad Lilian lives in France.