Friday, July 19, 2013

Jules Loves Cycling: My Random Frenchie Riblon

It's July and as you well know, that means one thing in our house; Conner and I,  watch the Tour de France for four hours everyday, I don't call people, I don't sleep much, we are consumed by the race. A few years ago, as you know, I started a twitter account so Conner and I could meet other cycling fans.

It was through this account I met my friend Anita, ( you're totally becoming the new Andrea and Di wracking up the blog mentions) she introduced me to all of her cycling friends and told me about something called TourChats . It was a live chat happening during the Tour de France, so I joined up and started making friends myself. ( shoutout to Vera, Naomi, Lei and Ronda)

During this chat everyone kept talking about their ''random frenchie'' or ''random rider'' a rider that wasn't well known that they cheered for. Well, never one to be left out, I set search for a random rider of my own. I was trying to learn the pro-continental riders at the time and get away from only focusing on the big name riders.

It was during that tour, an AG2R rider named Christophe Riblon took off in a breakaway, I watched him ride his heart out that day and decided, he was my random frenchie. It was completely random!

As you well know, I am nothing but completely over zealous and so I threw myself into learning about my random frenchie. He is a puncheur, which I've now changed to puncher after he hit a fan back on the road yesterday.  A puncheur specialized in short, steep climbs often sprinting there way up in a way, they are usually the one's in the break away.

Having a random rider means you often will hear nothing of them all season. AG2R being a french team means they really don't come to US races. So the chances of meeting him like the rest of my favorites was highly unlikely. So I cheer and hope that he will make a break for camera time. Usually this only happens in July during the tour, he had previously won a stage in 2010. ( which factored in my choosing, I remembered that win from the year before when I picked him)

Last year as the teams were announced for the ATOC, I was hoping Mark Cavendish would come back to California with his team. Sadly, he wasn't on the list but then...I spotted a team name...AG2R!!! I quickly searched around and found a roster, whose name was on that list?........Christophe Riblon.

The morning of the Time Trial in Bakersfield, I ditched my friend Jen at the start and set out with my other friend Heidi and Conner to try to meet some riders. Of course, I had met all of my favorites except two by that point. I went looking for the AG2R bus, I walked around in the blistering heat and then it happened.

As I walked around, I spotted the AG2R RV with an easy up outside. Under the easy up, a rider was on a TT bike warming up. They had a table sitting there and I asked about Christophe, then I was him on the bike! The lady at the table said, '' You're his fan, just go up to him!'' now, I may be crazy but I have limits, I wasn't going to walk up to a rider warming up. She started shoving me over there excitedly and telling him I was his fan!

As I walked up, he started smiling this amazing smile and laughing. He was so happy to have a fan there, shocked and amazed he had a fan! It was the sweetest moment!

Heidi was laughing because the lady kept saying, '' Just go touch him, you can hug him, it's okay'' now like I said, I may be crazy but I am not that crazy. I timidly walked over and asked for a picture together. Now mind you, it was over 100 degrees that day, I had been sunburned the day before and so I look like a complete dork covered from head to toe. But it is a precious moment, I will remember forever.

Notice, I am NOT touching him in the picture. Heidi assures me to this day, the AG2R people loved me and were so excited by my support. It was such a thrilling moment.

He rode a great ride that day, made a couple of breaks in the tour last year and then I heard nothing about him. All season this year, his name has alluded me. I check their website to see what races he is in and none have been televised.

So you can imagine my excitement when he made a break in the tour this year. Then day by day this tour, he has been in the break, time and time again. I knew early on, he was looking for another stage win for his team. He has been out there, riding hard every day. As a fan, this has been so exciting and my tweeps have been cheering with me. Last week, he came so close one day riding very far by himself only to be caught. Then he placed second on a stage, I told my friend mmmaiko, if he won, I would lose my mind. ( ha ha, I know what you're thinking)

So yesterday, my favorite stage of the tour the Alpe d'huez loomed before the peloton. I love this stage along with other cycling fans. A steep climb lined with fans from countries around the world. It is always an exciting moment when the riders hit the ''Dutch Corner'' bathed in a sea of orange. Imagine my excitement when my random frenchie Riblon took off in a break? I was thrilled.

Imagine when my other favorite rider Tejay, a amazing young American from BMC also was in the break. Imagine when Christophe took off with Tejay and my friend Heidi's distant cousin Moser in the break? I lost my mind completely. I was so excited, screaming, cheering and then bawling. It was a wonderful moment, a moment no matter the outcome, I knew would be with me forever.

Tejay dropped his chain on a descent, then Christophe went off the road on a slippery corner. They both started fighting back to Moser. It was truly exciting and I was on the edge, finally they caught back up. Then they took off on their own. I was completely unglued, my tweeps who don't follow cycling were laughing at me. The cycling fans were laughing at and with me.

I was torn, I am an American, so Tejay has to be cheered for first and foremost. I was cheering Tejay and cheering Christophe. I would've been overjoyed with either winning. Tejay was fighting and trying to hang on, Christophe got his legs and fought, fought to win the stage that has been alluding him.

When he crossed the line, he was crying, I was crying and it was truly a joyful moment! He won, he won on the Alpe d'huez none the less! His hard work had paid off!

For me, as a fan, who not only loves this rider but loves this stage. It will go down as one of my favorite stages in history. Right now, it is my favorite stage in history. A day that I will always remember where I was, who I was with and how I felt!

Cheering my random frenchie again this morning, excited to see him in the break fighting for the polka dot jersey. Maybe he will get the points he needs? I am not sure, no matter what, I will be a fan! He has been my hero this tour. I will always love this year of the tour because it has been the year of Christophe!