And the prestigious ‘Lanterne Rouge’ can at last be officially awarded to Patrick Tsai, who finished in Antelope Wells yesterday in 28 days and seven hours and 29 minutes. Excellent news, and well done Patrick. You’ve earned the beers and cheeseburgers you’ve been dreaming of.
By the way, for those unaware of what the lanterne rouge represents, it is the traditional award – unofficial, there is no real red-lantern – bestowed on the last-placed finisher of the Tour de France. In the world of professional cycling it has become quite a sought after accolade for those who have no other means of distinguishing themselves from other pros hoping to earn lucrative contracts on the post-Tour circuit of criterium races that traditionally made a vital contribution to a rider’s income. If the lanterne rouge is also an engaging character, race organisers will pay well to have another Tour de France ‘name’ at their event. Patrick – the world could be your oyster.
This popularity has had its problems, however, especially in Italy. The Giro d’Italia’s equivalent award – the Maglia Nera, or black jersey – was only officially awarded for a few years before it was withdrawn due to too much underhand competition. Mind you, it was the kind of skulduggery you could excuse in such a gruelling event – extra-long café stops, pretend punctures and the like. Sounds quite appealing, really.
More important than the financial benefit, though, is the tradition of the lanterne rouge rewarding all those riders who will never win an event like the Tour de France but who, by their very presence and persistence in seeing it through to the finish, enhance the glory and merit of the winners, indeed of the race itself. In the same fashion, it’s fair to say, I think, that it’s to people like Patrick that the Tour Divide owes its appeal and derives its significance as much as to those involved at the sharp end of the race.
Similarly, the merit of all those who even started the event should not be forgotten. It’s one thing to dream such dreams; it’s another to put them into action, even if the outcome isn’t necessarily what you would wish. Of course, the most tragic of such outcomes is that which befell Dave Blumenthal. Let’s hope the admirable persistence of those who wrestled with their emotions as much as the physical challenges of the route to carry his flame as far as the border is a fitting tribute.
PS: Thanks again to those who’ve said they’ve enjoyed this commentary. It’s been a pleasure, though not quite as much a pleasure as the race itself, which has now cast a new spell over me. The inspiration of all those who participated this year makes me think of trying again one day – maybe I can even break the magical 27 day barrier…
Two Wheels on My Wagon