The ASO have finally posted bib numbers (dossard in French) for Act One of the Etapes du Tour next month (the one in the Alps). These numbers have some importance, maybe, and are handed out based on certain criteria, including age, sex (I’m assuming), and most importantly, previous results in long, hard events like the Etape. Here is mine from last year, with no races under my belt and my middle age pushing me nearly to the back of the crowd of nearly 10,000 riders.
You might remember that, although this number meant I was starting about hour after the first pen (yes, an hour!), the timing began as we crossed the threshold of the start line, so little damage was done on overall times. I was in pretty good shape then and had lots of fun passing people on most of the ride, till I died a slow and hot death on the Alpe, along with the rest of the world that day.
Well, this year I think my strategy will be slightly different. Because my overall placing was surprisingly good last year (2037) my bib number this year is 2756, and I doubt I’ll be cruising up the ranks like in 2011 (although I’ll try!). My biggest concern will be holding off my partners in pain, John (in the 7000s) and Erik (in the 5000s), who will be starting long after me. Guys, if you pass me, do me a favor and sneak by quietly. I’d rather find out after the race, preferably with something in my hand to drown my sorrows!
But back to the possible pros (or cons even) of having a relatively low bib number. My initial thought is that, obviously (but very generally) you will be surrounded by faster and stronger riders. Now on a flat or rolling course I can definitely see the advantage here, by getting to hide in a fast paceline, but in an event like the Etape, where you are basically just ascending and descending the whole day, I’m not sure how much more I can squeeze out of my surroundings.
On the negative side, it might very well be the case that I get dropped by those in my pen. This, the reverse of last year, could result in, among other things, a search for a short cut, a resort to sabotage (but admittedly, this could be difficult with thousands of cyclists to throw tacks at), or simply a loss of motivation. Luckily, the only way I know how to ride up mountains is to go at my own pace, so I think I’ll be unaffected. Still, it’s a consideration.
My feeling is that being farther up will be that much better because there’ll be fewer riders ahead of me, that is, more open road and, hopefully, a faster ride. Thank you for reading this stream of consciousness post. I feel much better now for getting it out of my system.
Update: The bib numbers are out for Act Two now (Pyrenees) and I have a much higher number – 4485. Not sure why this might be, unless it means the ‘competition’ in Act Two is stiffer. That is interesting, if true.