The race for the yellow bar tape
Has the yellow jersey lost its magic?
Back in the day, the overall leader of Le Tour earned the coveted maillot jaune, which other contenders then attempted to “rip off his back” over the course of the race. The same is true for all TdF jerseys: sprint, king of the mountain, etc. The fact that the leader wore a single piece of yellow – a jersey open and flapping in the wind coming off the Alps – symbolized how fragile the lead could be. Just one snatch and that piece of cloth could be gone forever, along with the rider’s dreams.
Unfortunately, after Lance left the sport following his win in 2005, the yellow jersey became the yellow helmet, yellow gloves, yellow shoes, yellow shorts, yellow sunglasses, yellow bar tape and – sometimes – even yellow accents on the bike. We have gone from this, in which Armstrong wears a yellow jersey with his otherwise understated blue and black Discovery team kit, to this, a custom yellow bicycle by Specialized that – had tragedy befallen him – might only have been ridden by Cancellara for a single day.
Racing to “rip one’s competitor’s shorts off one’s competitor’s ass” or to “pluck the yellow sunglasses from his face” is not as dramatic. How do the competitors choose what they’re racing for? Maybe they like the yellow helmet better than the yellow jersey. Now, when the overall lead is swapped, the new head of GC has to hang around awkwardly while the former leader strips down to his undershirt and socks in order to hand off the entire fashion ensemble. The former yellow jersey holder then sulks back to his team, head hung, and asks quitely to be allowed back into the team kit that he so brashly and so completely shoved aside.
With such an array of leader garb, the essential tie between Cancellara and Armstrong could be solved by sharing the stuff. While Cancellara keeps the jersey, perhaps Armstrong could wear the yellow gloves and glasses as a sign of his “lesser” leader status.
The greatest transgression, however, is sprint points leader Mark Cavendish (shown here in his new outfit), who I think was really going for this (the picture below) when he suited up today in head-to-toe kelly green. Even if the Power Ranger look wasn’t quite what Cav was going for, it was all I could think of when I saw him:
Good for Cav that he has the green outfit and gets to fulfill some childhood, superhero fantasy, but I think he looks downright goofy. It is as if the cameras and fans aren’t good enough to notice just a jersey. I mean, they might confuse him with … oh, wait, there are no teams racing that wear green jerseys.
I think – since the coveted jersey is apparently no longer good enough for professional cyclists – each piece of leader-colored clothing should only be awarded once earned. Each day that a rider defends his yellow, green, white or polka-dot jersey, he can then, and only then, add another piece of matching gear.
“Today, he is racing for the yellow bar tape. We know he’s not going to let that get away from him!”
Maybe that would motivate the cyclists a bit more, rather than getting all the goodies at once (since the maillot jaune doesn’t seem to do the trick on its own). Not only do they want to keep what they already have, but they want to add to their future collection.