The route of next year's Tour de France was released today, and it is going to visit all 5 mountain groupings in France -- the Vosges, the Jura, the Alps, the Massif Central and the Pyrénées, so there won't be very many flat stages. It begins on July 1st and will finish in Paris on July 23rd.
I am particularly pleased by the beginning of the Tour which starts in Düsseldorf and goes to Liège. Then it will go through a number of areas with which Anyport members are familiar -- Verviers and its lovely surrounding Wallonian villages, Schengen and the Luxembourg wine route and a bit of the French Moselle valley. It will also visit Troyes, Le Puy-en-Velay, and Marseille, so you will be able to check out various photo reports here before following the Tour on television.
At long last, the International Cycling Association has changed the rules for next year for the big races -- the Tour de France, but also the Giro (Italy) and the Vuelta (Spain). Each team will only have 8 members instead of 9. This has (happily) outraged the owners of several of the professional teams who have created algorithms over the years to make sure that their 8 team riders are locked in support of their leading rider. The new system makes the groups less stable and should create much more suspense and competition. The new Tour de France peleton of 176 riders instead of 198 should also increase security and reduce the number of falls in the crowd. There were so many accidents in the 2016 Tour de France that quite a few of the riders didn't even want to participate next year.
The secondary races such as the Tour de Flandres, the Paris-Roubaix or the Milan-San Remo are being changed from teams of 8 to teams of 7.
Even though the team owners are furious, which is good, there is still a negative impact on the races in 2017: since the teams will be smaller, it will be more difficult for the individual cyclists to qualify, which will be hearbreaking to a lot of the young riders who were about to be quaified for the first time.
Today's atage was of particular importance to me, not at all for sporting reasons but because of my family history. The route went through at least 3 generations of my family, and nearly every town that was traversed has a story about it.
The starting point -- Mondorf-les-Bains -- I discovered only in the 1970's when I found that it was the town in Luxembourg where my family would go to buy cheap booze and fill the petrol tank. But at the end of my grandmother's life, it became much more important to me when her mind was going back more and more to her youth. She told me a story once when I visited her at her retirement about one time that her father took her dancing in Mondorf, just her and not her sisters, and it was clearly one of the high points of her younger days because her eyes sparkled as she told the story. This would have been probably around 1914, just before the war. It is strange to think that I am now the only living person who heard about this event first hand. All of the others are long gone. I took care of my grandmother in the retirement home for 8 years before signing on for a new tour of duty about 20 years later. It's not how I imagined my life.
The Tour went on to Schengen and the Moselle wine road, about which I have made a report. Rodemack was glimpsed as well -- I made a report about that, too, which absolutely nobody ever saw, but hey, that's the way it goes. Soon they were in Thionville, which is where my mother met my biological father. She was working as an interpreter for the U.S. Army just after the liberation. The soldiers there were repairing the rail lines, and both my mother and father were from railroad families.
The riders continued on to the outskirts of Metz -- Saint Privat (where cousin Georges met his wife Marie-Ange), Chatel-St. Germain, Amanvillers... The train from my grandparents' village used to stop in all of these places on the way to Metz, and I took it dozens of times. The train disappeared around 1980 so now you have to take a bus. Rozérieulles, leading up to the Gravelotte battlefield. Riding in my grandfather's Renault Dauphine, I was always so impressed by the crosses of the graves of the war of 1870 all over the fields. The Tour did not go to Gravelotte, however, as it continued down the Moselle. Ars-sur-Moselle and its amazing Roman aqueduct, and then down to Pont-à-Mousson where my mother went to high school and all of the kids would run outside to see the bombs dropping on the industrial zone. Yet those PAM manhole covers can still be seen just about everywhere in the world.
The race hasn't arrived yet, but now they are headed down to the Vosges, my grandmother's homeland. Many stories about that, too, starting with my grandmother and her sisters being prevented from speaking Vosgian when they went to school (but she taught me quite a few words in Vosgian, most of which I have forgotten but not all). Of course school did not last very long in those days, especially since the Boussac textile factories needed lots of girls to work like slaves as quickly as possible. My great grandparents lived in a house owned by Boussac, so there was no resisting the company. (Boussac was eventually absorbed into the LVMH group, which closed down all of the factories in the 1970's because that wasn't what interested them.) But my mother had a lot of happy memories of summer holidays as a child when she would catch frogs in the pond with her cousins Marcel and Gisèle. Marcel died a few years ago, but I still have a promise to fulfill to Gisèle concerning a ring that my mother promised to give her. I still have to wrench the ring away from the city of Paris. The nursing home still has it in the safe 15 months after her death and refuses to return it to me so far, even though I have a legal document from the family affairs court saying that it should be returned to me. Case still in progress, and I received news today that the next step will be on August 3, when a certain Mme. Suillerot returns from vacation.
The family is always with you, one way or another, but that's kind of nice.
Okay, this is the sports page, so I will mention the actual race anyway. One thing that is very nice this year is that there is a new team -- Wanty-Groupe Gobert -- which is defying the boring humdrum racing methods that have dominated for the last 20 years or so. All of their team is composed of newcomers who have never participated before and they don't know what you're not "supposed" to do, such as just staying in the peleton and listening to your radio earpiece as the team managers work their strategy. These guys want to win. They won't of course, but at least they're competing in the spirit of what a race should be. Damn those earpieces and damn those teams!
We had to change or schedule because of the tour. They blocked exit 26 from 11 to 17 and there was heavy traffic in the area. I hate the tour and I hate when they block the road I want to take. How dare they.