Backstage Tour

Jul 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
2004 Tour de France Backstage

2004 Tour de France Backstage

2004 Tour de France Backstage

2004 Tour de France Backstage

2004 Tour de France Backstage

2004 Tour de France Backstage

2004 Tour de France Backstage

2004 Tour de France Backstage

Once and for all, why do pro cyclists shave their legs?
Despite what your silky-smooth cycling pals might tell you, there's no evidence that shaving enhances aerodynamics—at least any more than zipping your jersey does. The pros say it makes road-rash care easier and massage more comfortable: Knotted leg hairs turn nightly rubdowns into misery sessions.
More than anything, going bare is a tradition, as with bodybuilders (and most women).
—Eric Hansen

Off the bikes, is the Tour just one long party?
Despite the occasional rumor about a cyclist sleeping with a podium girl, when they're not racing, riders are focused on recovery. After settling in at a local hotel, they turn in their uniforms for laundering, take a short nap, then enjoy a 90-minute massage. Dinner, prepared by the hotel chef, is typically light—maybe a small steak and a bowl of pasta. And that's about it for nightlife: The USPS riders are in bed by ten o'clock.

How do riders pee during those six-hour stages?
When nature calls (and it does—these guys are drinking an average of one liter of water every hour), the peloton agrees to stop, and riders, sometimes 50 of them at a time, waddle off into the woods. On fast days, they creatively—and carefully!—rearrange their spandex and let it fly. "You hope you don't hit your shoes," says Kevin Livingston, who rode as one of Lance's mountain lieutenants in 1999 and 2000, "or another rider."

Tour de France 2004
CLICK HERE for Outside's Guide to the 2004 Tour de France, and follow the race July 3-25 with our SPECIAL ONLINE COVERAGE.

What does Lance eat on the fly?
Pretty much the same things you would. Halfway through a stage, Armstrong grabs a musette, also known as a feed bag, from a roadside USPS team staffer. Inside: water, lemon-lime Powerade, a small bottle of Maximizer (a European energy drink), three Clif Shots, two PowerBars, and, on long stages, two bite-size portions of slow-burn carbs—a miniature honey-and- banana sandwich, for example, or a tiny custard-filled tart.
—Andrew Taber

Hey, was that Robin Williams at the finish line?
Yup. The comedian, who owns dozens of bikes and rides nearly every day, is a Tour fan and a longtime FOL (friend of Lance). Williams can also be spotted zipping around in the first follow car. Back in the U.S., he shares insightful Armstrong beta in his comedy routines: "The French are always going, ‘He's on some sort of chemicals.' It's chemotherapy!" and "He has only one testicle—he's more aerodynamic." Mrs. Doubtfire, please!

Is there a lot of trash talk going on in the peloton?
"If someone cuts you off, you have a couple words with 'em," says former USPS team member Kevin Livingston. Beyond that, why waste precious breath? Instead, the peloton relies on a system of rolling justice: When a rider breaks one of the unwritten rules of good conduct—sprinting recklessly, say, or attacking when the leader has a flat or is taking a meal break—the other cyclists make sure he gets pushed to the back of the pack.

How does one yellow jersey fit so many different guys?
It doesn't. Each year, Tour sponsor Nike makes several hundred of the coveted maillots jaunes, which actually come in 12 styles (from a short-sleeved zip-front jersey to a long-sleeved rain jacket) and four sizes (S–XL). When a stage winner crosses the finish line, Tour organizers quickly select the appropriate yellow garment, embellish it with his team logo, and voilà—it's his to wear (and take home after the race).
—E. H.

Where do I sign up to be a "podium girl"?
Tour sponsors such as Crédit Lyonnais recruit the kiss-'n'-smile ladies, who are typically professional models. Occasionally, a girl with clout who doesn't walk the runways—a CEO's daughter, for example—makes the cut. "But Tour organizers make sure to approve them, so there's at least one person on the podium who looks good," says Bob Roll, author of The Tour de France Companion (Workman Publishing, $11), a handy guide to the 2004 Tour.
—E. H.

Filed To: Road Biking
From Outside Magazine, Jul 2004

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