Cycling from Lloyd’s of London to the Rendez Vous Reinsurance Conference: Day 6 – Vive le Tour, and why do cyclists shave their legs?

    There were at least some similarities between the Tour de France and today’s ride from Montbrison to Grenoble. We cycled passed large fields of sunflowers, some turning their heads towards the sun; others bowing their heads to acknowledge the end of their season. We climbed long hills in full sun for hours and…briefly…I found myself in a small breakaway with our motorcycle outrider riding so close to me that it was like having a motorcycle and cameraman immediately on my left.

    As we passed through Givers, I noticed Tour posters on buildings; and the names of this year’s riders were still clearly painted on the road.

    This generated two debates in the peloton.

    First: is it “Le Tour” or “La Tour”, and does it really matter? We now know it’s “Le Tour”, and it matters. Tour is one of those French words that has different meanings, depending on whether it’s preceded by “le” or “la”. We were following part of the route taken by this year’s Tour of France, not the route taken by the Tower.

    And second: why do cyclists shave their legs?  Several reasons were suggested: (i) it’s more aerodynamic (it might cut 5 seconds off an hour’s ride, and in a 5 hour race, that can be the difference between winning and losing); (ii) it makes post race massage easier (we have a sports phsyio travelling with us, and he didn’t seem especially fussed either way); and (iii) if you come off, it makes it easier to clean and dress the wound (again, the physio was unimpressed). In fact, today’s experience suggests that, at least for amateurs, there are two other more compelling reasons. (i) A significant number of our riders now have at least one of their knees taped up. The knee gets inflamed or pulled slightly out of line if you’re cycling much longer distances than you’re used to. Taping can do some of the work that stronger muscles would have done. Taking the tape off a hairy leg is painful. Taking it of a shaved leg is much less troubling; and (ii) If you ask most club cyclists why they shave their legs, the answer may well be: “I ride a lot with riders who shave their legs. If I don’t shave too, I’ll feel scruffy, dirty or uncomfortably different. So, I shave because everyone else does”. Think of it as insurance against the pain of removing 12 or 14 inches of very sticky tape; or insurance against the ribbing you’d get from your club mates if you didn’t do it.

    At this stage, there’s one other thing I’d like insurance against too, and that’s flat tyres. I had three today. Two because I ran over a steel spring that should have been holding a wheel trim to a car wheel, instead, of sitting in the road. And a third because there was a trail of glass running across the road just before the entrance to our hotel. (I fixed the first two punctures on the road and carried on. I’m so tired now that fixing the third will have to wait until  tomorrow.)

    In the meantime, what about Steve (and his shoes)? I’m pleased to be able to say that Steve was discharged from L’hopital this afternoon, and that he’s on his way to Paris so that he can be repatriated (with his shoes) tomorrow.

    Today’s distance: 96.21 miles
    Total distance so far: 581.91 miles
    Today’s climbing: 1,835 meters
    Total climbing so far: 8,435 meters
    Today’s punctures: 3
    Total number of punctures so far: 4

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