A day of rest in the Tour de France. A time to look after the wounded, or perhaps even better, to praise them.
The 2011 edition of La Grande Boucle has had no shortage of crashes and abandons. It’s our feeling that perhaps the time has come to create a jersey to honor not just the overall winner, best climber and most consistent sprinter, but the rider with the worst injuries still in the race.
Call it the purple jersey, a variation on the purple heart given to American soldiers wounded in combat. If we were awarding the purple jersey after 15 stages, we’d have a tough choice because it’s a brutal competition.
There’s tough guy and pain philosopher Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil who was pitched into a barbwire fence at high speed by a hit and run French television car.
Not only were we impressed by his powers of recovery and high pain threshold, his utter disinterest in assigning blame was almost pure zen master. That is a rare combination of toughness and equanimity that vaults him into the lead in the purple jersey competition.
Then there’s the phantom of the Tour opera, Rabobank’s Laurens Ten Dam, who faced-planted badly on the road to Plâteau de Beille. He looks like some kind of Lon Chaney horror character, so disfigured we can hardly look at him anymore. He’s one ugly blue and orange mess but we bow down in respect.
Eight stitches on his face and still the Dutchman simply hardens the France up and keeps riding. He ain’t too good looking but we admire his persistence and refusal to surrender.
Also in the mix for le maillot violet is Leopard Trek’s indomitable Jens Voigt. He crashed hard not once but twice during stage 14 but the next day he signed in and still had a smile on his face despite the lacerations. Why does everybody idolize Voigt — because not only is he funny and approachable but he takes care of business. Anyone who witnessed his horrific crash in the Tour a few years ago, knows he has almost no fear.
Right now, Twisted Spoke has Hoogerland taking purple all the way to Paris. But the Alps are on the horizon and those descents are perilous. Don’t be surprised if another worthy tough guy goes down hard and takes the lead in this painful but honorable jersey.