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Tour de France update, stage 10

July 15, 2009

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At least one of the cyclists in the Tour de France has ties to Lawrence.

Bingen Fernandez, a 14th-year Spanish pro who rides for the French Cofidis cycling team, is a regular offseason visitor to Lawrence. Last fall, for instance, he spent several weeks here visiting his girlfriend, Nikane Mallea.

He participated in some of the regular group rides of the Lawrence Bicycle Club and developed a bit of a following among local cyclists.

Fernandez has agreed to file regular blogs from this year’s Tour.

Stage 10: A mainly flat 120.9-mile trek between Limoges and Issoudun that saw cyclists riding without earpieces after an unpopular decision from Tour organizers to ban electronic equipment.

Fernandez stage-10 finish: 66th.

Fernandez overall: 95th out of 171 riders, 44 minutes, 46 seconds back.

Rider number: 125

After the Rest Day there was nonstop talk about whether or not we would be wearing radios. Although despite the non-stop meetings and talks there would be no change from the initial decision that was made prior to the start of the TDF. So we started without radios, and you could see that many of the riders were lost without them, having no idea what was happening and unsure how to react without their directors passing on information and instructions to them. Many of the younger riders in the peloton had never raced without a radio. Only minutes into the race there was an attack with four riders off the front. Interesting enough, even the teams that were opposed to the radio ban had no problem trying to chase down the breakaway. We all knew that in the end it would end in a sprint finish — with or without team radios. It might actually be a pleasant experience not having the directors in your ear the entire time telling you to get a better position.

After nine stages, it was the first time that we could actually ride and chat amongst ourselves, it was the first time that we had the chance to ride up to Noccentini and pass on congratulations. Before the stress level was so high that there were dozens of riders we had not yet seen. I continued chatting with the other riders until I came alongside Lance Armstrong, and after 14 years professional it was the first time that he and I had talked for so long. Up until today we had only shared a few words or race related remarks. Seems odd after having raced so many races together for so many years. It is like Garate once told me, “It is like when you are at a Disco and see the most beautiful woman but won’t approach her because you don’t think you have a chance, while the woman is standing there alone wondering why no one is talking to her.” Many times Lance has seemed accessible, but at the same time he also seems less stressed and enjoying the moment more than in previous years.

As we had expected the stage finished in a sprint. It will probably be recorded as the least stressful TDF stage race of all. How could it be that something so simple as not having the race radio would decrease so much stress? In the end, it seems much better in the long run if the riders were healthier and less stressed. Our job is demanding enough.

— Bingen Fernandez

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