This Year for the Tour I’m in the Vande Velde/Garmin Cheering Section

Lynne Kiesling

Every year the KP Spouse and I pick a favorite rider and team in the Tour de France, and to keep things interesting we don’t pick the same rider and team (this is a household where we deliberately cheer for different English Premiere League and NHL teams too …). While we share in the general enthusiasm about Lance Armstrong’s return and his magnificent work with Livestrong, and we both cheer for all of the American riders and teams (as I mentioned in my earlier TDF post), this year he’s pulling for Saxobank’s Andy Schleck (whom I agree is a wonderful and exciting rider).

Me? I’m pulling for Chicago-suburb-native Garmin-Slipstream leader Christian Vande Velde. After a decade working the team hierarchy as a doméstique (supporting rider) on a variety of teams with many great cyclists, he’s the team leader for Garmin-Slipstream, having finished 4th in the 2008 Tour de France (among other successes). I met Christian at a Vision Quest Coaching event in 2006 (also met Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, and triathlete Jessi Stensland at the same event, which was great; Vision Quest is Robbie Ventura’s coaching business), and since then have followed his career eagerly. The stars all seemed aligned for this year’s Tour, until in the Giro d’Italia on May 11, 2009, he broke several vertebrae and a rib and fractured his pelvis in a crash. Would he ride again at all, let alone riding in the 2009 Tour? Denver’s 5280 magazine has an outstanding article that chronicles the tale.

The first five stages have proven that the answer is a resounding yes; he’s currently ranked 12th, and led his team to a 2nd-place finish in yesterday’s team time trial, which was some of the most thrilling sport I’ve ever watched. Christian’s also keeping a rider’s journal at the New York Times during the Tour, and you can read his first entry on returning from his Giro injuries and his retrospective on yesterday’s team time trial. He’s a frank, eloquent, and compelling writer, and although I am not a sentimental or overly emotional person, I have to admit that the combination of physical endurance, mental discipline, and strength of character and integrity reflected here almost brings me to tears.

It also motivates me to challenge myself more consistently, professionally and athletically. For me, sport is a big part of what I write about as an economist and social scientist — human action, choices, and striving to live life fully in the personal way that you define that fullness.

OK, off to have lunch so I can deliver on some of that this afternoon!