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Tour de France update, stage 11

July 16, 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 11: Vatan—Saint-Fargeau, plain, 192 km (119.3).

Fernandez stage-11 finish: 88th.

Fernandez overall: 92nd out of 170 riders, 44 minutes, 31 seconds back.

Rider number: 125

Today, everyone wanted to be in a breakaway, and everyone was fighting for the best possible position that would enable them to get into one. When you have this happening in a small country road that is barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other, you can only guess what happens. Crashes. Of course! The first one I escaped (just barely), but the second one was unavoidable. One of the sponsor’s hot air arches that stretch across the road had lost its air and come down on top of the peloton and almost everyone went down. I was in the front of the pack when it happened and I noticed that it was losing inflation, but I never expected it to come toppling down on top of us. The Tour organization stopped the race so that all of those involved in the crash could rejoin the group, and we had a second start after which many attacks ensued. Just a few kilometers later there was another huge crash. The riders went down across the whole length of the road, and I had been fortunate to have stopped in time and avoided ending up in the pile. And no sooner than I had begun to count my blessings than I felt a tubular tire skid across my leg and for five meters the Columbia rider was using me as a barrier. He had left me a gorgeous Continental Made in Germany tire tattoo as a symbol of his work.

We were able to catch the peloton after we picked ourselves up from the asphalt and luckily two riders had made a breakaway. Phew! All we had to do now was wait for the sprint. I must admit that we sprinted at such incredible speed, that it is even difficult for me to believe. Hard to imagine that one can reach speeds of 70kms/hr (or 44mph) by pedaling. It is even hard to imagine sometimes all 200 riders traveling at the same speed packed just 20 cm from each other. Today is just another day, and I am sure that tomorrow will make its own day in history of craziness, stress and incredible speed. In the moment it may not be the most beautiful thing to ride in, but I am sure it is beautiful for all of you to watch. Have fun and enjoy our vigor and strength.

— Bingen Fernandez

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