July 10, 2014
Tour De France Champion Rides The Chunnel
Kenyan-born British cyclist Chris Froome is the defending Tour de France champion, and he is also the only person in the world to have ridden a bicycle from the U.K. to France. Last month, in the run-up to the Tour de France, which began in Yorkshire and had three days on British roads, Froome took part in a very special ride — in the Channel Tunnel, also known as the Chunnel!
A video of his 31.35-mile ride was even posted on YouTube.
While the Tour de France is often promoted as being among the hardest sporting competitions in the world that takes place on public roads, which most people can ride, this ride was something different. The truth is that a lot of the routes ridden by the riders in the Tour aren’t exactly open to the public — some are highways and others are so congested with traffic the rest of the time it isn’t for the faint of heart — but Froome has done something no one has done before and few will likely do again.
This reporter doesn’t know exactly what went into setting up this ride or even whose idea it was; and whilst it was a brilliant promotion for Froome, the Tour and British Cycling, it is the sort of thing that actually is beyond the reach of most of us.
As an avid cyclist, I’ve had a chance to ride my bicycle — or at least a bicycle — in some cool places. I never raced with the pros and yet I’ve ridden on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, albeit on a rented bike and with lots of Paris traffic! But I’ll never get to ride in the Chunnel — make that I’ll never get to ride my bicycle in the Chunnel. Anyone can pretty much ride on the train that heads under the English Channel of course.
It isn’t that I’m envious of this particular exploit. Truth be told I think I’d find the route rather claustrophobic. I have nothing against tunnels but spending about an hour and half to two hours in rather stale air probably wouldn’t make for the most enjoyable experience. Scenic the Chunnel is not!
While Froome joked that the Chunnel would make an interesting stage for the Tour de France. he was of course joking. For one thing, it would be impossible for spectators to line the route, and it would be equally impossible for the team cars, referees and race officials to follow the riders as well.
However, there are a number of running races that take place in tunnels. There is the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, which is a point-to-point downhill race on a gravel rail-trail. This includes a two-mile section through the Hyak Tunnel — hence the name “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” For that one, flashlights are actually encouraged!
There is also the Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam Run, which is held each March and also takes place along an old railroad track.
And for those who truly want to something different, there is the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon — which is the only marathon in the world to have an official underwater international mile as runners start in Detroit, run across the Ambassador Bridge and through Windsor before returning to Detroit via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.
While it might not be the same as riding from England to France, there is probably something to be said for running from Canada to America under the Detroit River!
Image Credit: Razvan / Thinkstock