2019 Tour de France Wrap-up

First of all, best TdF ever. Seriously. I have not enjoyed a Tour this much in a long time. I hate to say it but not having Chris Froome there made this a hell of a Tour.

Julian Alaphilippe ended up being the big surprise of the Tour. Talk about being on fire, that guy was like a nuclear blast. I was rooting for him to win but unfortunately he didn’t have enough juice left at the end even with the shortened 19th and 20th stages. Thankfully he received the Most Aggressive Rider award and this year it really meant something. Chapeaux to JA.

Next up Egan Bernal. Talk about a guy much older than his 22 years. What a ride. No flash, just consistent great riding and he made the right moves when it counted the most, on stage 19. As with most Tour winners no problems and a bit of good luck did the trick. Great story there too as the first Columbian to win the Tour while at the same time also winning the white jersey.

I have to say a bit about how classy everyone was this year. Geraint Thomas, Bernal, Alaphilippe, the whole lot of them. JA was so gracious when he lost the yellow and seeing him shaking hands with Bernal the next day at the start of stage 20 was just fantastic. Class act all around.

And about those two shortened stages, 19 and 20…wow. Reminded me of the goofy weather that always happens during the Giro d’Italia. Snow/hail/mudslides made a mess of stage 19 and the results. That was the first good bit of luck for Bernal. Maybe with a full stage JA keeps the yellow. Not likely but still possible. But with 19 being cut short, and then 20 officially cut short because of mudslides along the route Bernal had it in the bag.

And lastly, how about Andre Greipel. The Gorilla, in most likely his last Tour, came in 6th on the Champs. I was really hoping he’d have a good showing and that was pretty good. Would have loved to have seen him win just one more but I was just happy to finally hear his name mentioned in the coverage!

I have felt so emotional today. The end of this race always makes me emotional but so much more this year because of how the race unfolded. Great stories and wonderful personalities this year. Even with Sky/Ineos winning yet again this year it felt a lot different. Watching the Tour is a huge time commitment. It’s three weeks of daily hours of television and it’s quite easy to get sucked into the whole thing on a very emotional level. I felt tears coming on several times today during the coverage. NBC did one segment where they showed the most memorable scenes of the 3 weeks. That montage along with the music they chose almost made me lose it. Such a beautiful country. I have to make it there someday, especially to see the Tour live.

On seeing Big Boy #4014

Everyone was gathered around the rail crossing waiting. People of all ages were parked in chairs or just standing around. The weather was still, the heat of the day being held back by the thin blanket of clouds. Everyone was anxiously waiting to see what would happen. The train was stopped further up the tracks, it’s journey temporarily halted. 

Then we heard them, the local news helicopters, the beat of the blades against the thick summer air unmistakable. This was a bit of history after all and they had to capture the moment for those who wouldn’t be able to see it in person. Hovering like dragonflies they also waited.

We could see it before we heard it, the smoke billowing from the smokestack, the headlight very bright even during the middle of the day, far down the tracks. A roar went up from the crowd as everyone saw it coming, the thing we had all gathered to see.

Then it was upon us, steam whistle blowing, belching smoke and steam as it thundered past us. The roar of the whistle was deafening and the million pounds of metal being driven forward by fire, pistons, and steam made the ground shake. We could feel it deep down in our bones, such a visceral experience, and one I hadn’t expected.

But as quickly as it had come it was gone. Everyone started leaving the spot where we had all experienced this little bit of history together, happy from the sight, sounds, and feel of it all. There was definitely an excitement in the air even bigger than what had been there before the train arrived. We had all been witness to the passing of this great machine and we all knew we were privileged to have been able to see it.

Big Boy #4014 was on it’s way to a weekend stop in West Chicago. It was built in 1941, one of 25 of the largest steam locomotives ever built. It was retired from service in 1961. Union Pacific purchased it from a railroad preservation group and set to work restoring it two years ago. Today’s journey was a part of the culmination of that work and I feel very lucky to have been able to see it.