Dusseldorf welcomes the Tour de France for 2017, the first-time Germany has hosted the Grand Départ since 1987, which then began in West Berlin right under the shadow of the infamous Wall. On the other side of the Wall was a two-year old Tony Martin, only 50-miles from Berlin in his home town of Cottbus, but in truth an unmeasurable distance away due to conditions of life under the repressive Soviet-style rule of the DDR. Did the glamour, excitement and open internationalism of the Tour contribute to the emotional force that breached the Wall only a year later? It certainly must have helped in some way – and if you read the French reporting on it, it would seem as though they were mainly responsible….
If you don’t know cycling, and this blog will have something for everyone so please don’t be put off, Tony Martin, aka Panzerwagen for his massive power and inherent toughness, comes to Dusseldorf with the eyes of his nation upon him. The Tour opens with a “prologue”, an appetizer for what’s to come, that takes the form of a short time trial, or individual race against the clock. The true form of the riders is on display, there’s no drafting, simply pure effort. Martin, as a four-time World and current Olympic Time Trial Champion, racing at home wearing the World Champion colors and at the peak of his career, is the favorite. The pressure on him is fantastic.
Adding to the pressure is the fact that Martin left the Belgian Quick Step team after having gone to Canyon Bicycles owner Roman Arnold last year, asking to be on his TT machine in order to win tomorrow (full disclosure – I’m a sometime brand ambassador for Canyon – although I’m on my Pinarello these days). Martin received the full focus of the German company. Wind tunnel, velodrome, extensive and innovative physio – all of this for the most important race of his life in Dusseldorf.
Here is a vid on his training – https://youtu.be/yQqH_Qubs_Q
Martin will be racing on a Kraftwerk – inspired machine – the pioneer German techno band is from Dusseldorf and members are cycling fanatics riding over 120-mile a day at times (here is their big TdF hit https://youtu.be/RChQdh36cS4 ) – with something along the lines of a 58 tooth front chainring, matched with a wide-range 11-28 or even 32 sprocket in the rear (the gears remain to be verified). The reason for the large range in the rear is to allow the racers to always keep on the big chainring in the front, while having something like a 58 x 17 usable with a good chain angle that can handle the immense power of a Tony Martin. Of course the 58 x 11 will be his go-to. The tubular tires will stay in the equipment van in favor of latex-tubed clinchers – which have proven to be the fastest tires in the world for TT races.
It will be a beautiful race, highlighting the old city, the bridges across the Rhein, and the German brilliance at outdoor festivities (bier und wurst bitte?) The Tour will serve as well to highlight the growing cycling community in Dusseldorf, which has pledged to increase cycling from 14% to 25% of daily transportation choice. In 1987 politics were very much on view with the West Berlin start, but in 2017? Much is being made of the improved and newly enthusiastic collaborations between France and Germany. This theme will be very much on display for the next days in Germany, as Europeans continue to work on figuring out the new world order.
John Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.