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David L. Stanley

Seasons of the Bike
Part 1: PTWS, Post-Tour Withdrawal Syndrome

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes.

It is late July. The cicadas have begun their songs. The odd maple leaf has already turned red. My hostas have begun to die back and the raspberry patch is bare.

It is early August and the Tour de France is over. For twenty-one days in July, my world was very small. From 8 am until noon, I was rarely out of touch with my phone or laptop or TV or iPad. I’d watch NBCSports coverage. I’d catch a livestream. I followed text updates on LiveUpdateGuy.com and Twitter. With Andre Greipel’s closing dash, and Chris Froome’s proud walk onto the top step of the podium - Le Tour, she is gone for another eleven months.

Tour de France final podium

The Tour de France final podium. It's over???!?

I have PTWS: Post-Tour Withdrawal Syndrome. At this very moment, there are great races under way. Here in the States, we have the Tour of Utah, with the USA Pro-Challenge soon to start. Overseas, the Tour of Poland races on and the Tour of Denmark follows. Great races, with compelling stories, but until I let go of the Tour, I don’t quite hear the other races. The Tour is the Super Bowl, the UEFA Champions League Final, Wimbledon—the biggest annual sports event in the world. Not surprising, with a value of one and one-half billion dollars, the Tour de France creates a story all its own.

The Tour sets the seasons of the bike. August may be mid-year by the Gregorian calendar, but in the world of cycling, the Tour marks the end of one season, and the beginning of the next. Ostensibly, the road cycling season starts in mid-January with Australia’s Tour Down Under and ends in early October with the Giro di Lombardia. The reality is that August starts the new season. By August of 2015, many teams have announced the new signings for the teams of 2016. We discuss how Tejay and Richie Porte will cohabit at BMC. We argue whether Cav should sign with Qhubeka. We scratch our heads at Tom Danielson’s lame attempts to explain away yet another doping positive. Do the cobbled climbs of Richmond’s World Championship September road race course play into the hands of Peter Sagan, or is this a huge opportunity for Cancellara to make a comeback statement?

We spring out of our post-Tour melancholia and ready ourselves for the new cycling year. The new season’s first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, runs from late August through mid-September. The Vuelta leads us right into the World Road Championships, during the last two weeks of September.

It is the Tour de France that defines the season for 198 riders and all cycling fans. Many riders have said that the Tour de France leaves you in one of two states: flying or shattered. Those who exit the Tour in full flight have three options. One, take advantage of your form, race your guts out in the races of August and September and maximize results. The down side? You know full well that by the time of the Worlds, you will be done, cooked, kaput. You’ll be pining for the fjords. Two, should you be on the march for a good Worlds result, you back it down for a bit, and bring yourself to a fine peak for the Worlds. Three, you race judiciously, choose a few select races, and attempt to hold your form until September.

For the shattered, there is little choice. You shutter yourself. Allow the stress hormones to be metabolized, mainly in the liver, by the 11-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase system. Allow the body to rebuild the muscle and bone mass lost during the Tour. Recharge the mind. Clear the head of the suffering. The days will pass, and you’ll want to, need to, get back on the bike in preparation for the Classics of the Fall.

Next on The Seasons of the Bike, we’ll look at the Fall classics.

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