Each of you readers knows why you shave your legs, but don?t tell anybody why, just do it.
All serious male cyclists shave their legs. Some say it is to decrease wind resistance. Some contend that it makes treatment of road rash and chain abrasions easier. Some have claimed that the tight band of spandex on cycling shorts pulls those sensitive hairs. And some probably think it is just plain sexy.Each of you readers knows why you shave your legs, but don?t tell anybody why, just do it. And each of you knows how far up the leg you go, but again please don?t tell.This reporter started cycling only three years ago, in order to participate in Thomson Bike Tours? annual trips to the Tour de France.I had heard about the shaved leg thing, just common knowledge, in the same way we have all heard that swimmers shave their whole body before important races.
In order to ride with the Thomson group to the Tour de France in the Pyrenees, I had to learn to ride the skinny bike.I had to learn to ride in a pace line. I had to learn to eat snacks and drink water and talk with my mates while pedaling and not fall over.I had to learn how to unclick the shoe cleats upon stopping, and I fell over like a dead tree only twice on the first ride. Now I do all those things without a thought. I had to learn to ride more than fifty miles in a single day, something I could not have imagined four years ago.However, the one thing I did not have to learn to do was shave my legs.It turns out I haven?t had hair on my legs for years. No reason, it just turned out that way. I have a good mat on the chest, a full beard, and a full head of hair. From the torso up I could be mistaken for James Bond.Some of these crops have turned a bit gray of course, but that is because I am nearly as old as Sean Connery himself. I just wish I could do his accent.
The teams that came to the first Tour of California on February 19th were of the same caliber and in many cases were the same teams as those in the Tour de France. Many names on the roster would have looked familiar to a French cycle fan accustomed to reading ?L?Equipe?, the premiere French sports newspaper, throughout the month of July. Hincapie, Landis, O?Grady, Leipheimer, and more.Gerolsteiner, Discovery Channel, CSC, Davitamon Lotto, and more.The 8 days 596.2 mile Tour of California was just like the Tour de France, the classic European stage race, almost.Not as many days of course, not quite as long, not in kilometers, and with fewer helicopters and floats.No floats, to be exact.But the crowds were good, they were loud, and many of them knew about cycling. That was clear because many of the male spectators had shaved legs. And as far as I could tell, all of the racers had shaved legs. In order to get this information as accurately as possible I applied for Press credentials, through the sponsor of the Tour, to cover the start of the event for Roadcycling.com.This resulted in a large plastic card with my name on it, to wear around my neck, which got me into the backstage area of the starts, in San Francisco on Feb 19th and in Sausalito on Feb 20th.
Backstage is where the bikes were weighed, the riders were identified and signed in, and the judges got the individual riders off on the individual time trial of 1.9 miles in San Francisco. There were 128 riders at the Prologue, an intense race down the Embarcadero and a brutal climb up one of the steepest hills in San Francisco, to CoitTower. With the Press pass, I got pretty close to most of the racers, and saw no hairy legs. Some may have slipped under my radar, as I was also busy taking pictures and looking at girls, but I doubt it.
The hullabaloo at the Prologue in San Francisco made it clear that this was a serious race indeed, with clear expectation that a Tour of California will now be an annual event, with big names, big crowds, big coverage, and big bucks. There were two announcer guys, on a stage just to the side of the start, and they were definitely pros. Unfortunately to my ear, they were probably pros who normally announced for WWF, as in pro wrestling.It may be that the same style of announcing is done at the Tour de France, but it just sounds more elegant in French. There were plenty of other guys with Press passes around their necks, many of them with big cameras with long lenses, some with TV cameras and sound crews, and best of all there were guys on motorcycles with another guy right behind holding TV cameras, who rode right along with the racers. The course was lined from Start to Finish with appreciative and loud fans, just as it would be at any of the venues in France.
Northern Californian Levi Leipheimer cranked out the best time in the Prologue, which put him in the leader?s jersey for the next day?s run to his home town of Santa Rosa. This is always good to draw out the spectators. The start for that next day was in Sausalito, probably California?s most picturesque town, on the kind of blue sky day that only California can provide in February. Again the crowd was large, appreciative, and bike savvy. Lots of bike shorts and not many hairy legs. The really serious cyclists were of course not in Sausalito itself, but scattered all along the roads that sweep up the sides of Mt Tamalpais, out to the Pacific Ocean beaches, and back over the hills to Santa Rosa.This is California picturesque at its best, this is where they make all those car commercials.
To jump ahead, of course everyone knows that Floyd Landis won the Tour of California, which is great because he is from San Diego, and the Tour ended in Southern California. This should bolster the interest in the Tour of California in the future, because everybody likes to see the local boy make good. This event should become one of the majors on the international cycling tour scene, attracting all the top teams, and fitting in nicely with other races leading up the Tour de France.And this reporter will keep his eyes on those legs, both in California and in France, to see if there really is anything to it.