The Tour is a spectacle for the public and the riders are on display constantly. Except for the team bus and the hotel room, they are marked men by the media who don’t give them even a second to recover, take a breath, drink of water or warm clothes.
I was standing at the Leopard van after stage 14, the final killer day in the Pyrenees, in this case, the misery of Plateau du Beille.
Look at the shot of Frank Schleck trying to take a moment for himself as the video cameras roll, the microphone are turned one and media people swarm the open door way. His exact words were “would you please give me five minutes to put on my pants.” A fair request, we think, considering the brutal climbs he’d just done at the front of the race.
It’s the same story for teammates Stuart O’Grady and Fabian Cancellara. They’re changing in public with everyone watching like they’re circus animals. It’s voyeuristic and a little strange if you haven’t covered pro bike racing for years.
American sports like football and basketball kept a tighter lid on access in these private moments but riders do their work out in the open and they’re almost never off stage, there are few private moments and little personal time.
Here is Fabian Cancellara, a superstar in the sport, having to undress in public. Here are the Schlecks, possible winners of the biggest, most prestigious race in the world, reduced to begging for five minutes just to change clothes before they’re poked and prodded by the media.
That’s a great situation for the media, having that kind of access, but if I were riding, I’d appreciate more than five minutes to strip off my soaked kit.