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Out of all the Tour finishers, the one who has it the hardest is the man who finishes last. He is the selfless domestique who goes and fetches waterbottles, chases down breaks, suffers like a dog up those mountain passes. He is the Lanterne Rouge.
Do you think Armstrong, Evans, or Sastre have a tough time finishing the tour? Of course not. They could finish the tour with one leg tied behind their back. The Lanterne Rouge is the most like you and me. He is giving every ounce of energy to just finishing each stage within the timecut and that is his ultimate goal. The astounding thing is, even though the Lanterne Rouge is the closest to being a mere mortal like the rest of us, neither you nor me could hold his wheel for more than a few seconds. He is that good…but someone has to finish last.
For the next 3 weeks Cycling Tips will be following the true champion of the greatest outdoor show on earth – the Tour de France (although the Calgary Stampede also lays claim to this at this same moment). I feel that we can learn more from the Lanterne Rough than any other athlete in the race. He knows how to suffer and how to dedicate himself to his team. He is not a quitter!
A bit of history. The Lantern Rouge phrase comes from the French “Red Lantern” and refers to the red lantern hung on the caboose of a train. The jersey has not been awarded since 1989 to try to make the race more competitive as riders at the tail end of the race were actually trying to get the jersey.
An Australian, Richard “Fatty” Lamb won the lantern rouge in the 1931 Tour de France. The same year Sir Hubert Opperman finished 12th. They spent six weeks traveling to france on a boat before the race with their only training on rollers.
Don Allan, another Aussie, finished second to last in 1974. Apparently the guy who finished last (Lorenzo Alaimo) waited on the side of the road one day to lose some extra time to make sure he secured the lantern rouge and the additional publicity and crit appearance money that comes with the title. Thanks to Matt Keenan for some of these interesting tidbits.
Stage 1 Monaco ITT
Yauheni Hutarovich became the first Lanterne Rouge of the 2009 Tour de France. He finished 180th in his first ever TdF appearance with a time of 23:23 (3:50 back from Cancellara). He is the current Belarus national road champion and has some pretty good past results (1st, Stages 1 & 5, Tour Méditerranéen, 22nd in Paris-Roubaix and 13th in Gent-Wevelgem this year). He’s a sprinter so you know he hates the prologue with a passion. I didn’t see any footage of him on TV when I was watching this morning, but I saw how slow Cavendish was going and it would have taken quite a bit of sandbagging to go slower than Cav was (who was 4th last. Don’t think he even put it in his big ring!). Surely saving his legs for the sprinting stages ahead. Well done Yauheni! We better see some fireworks from you in tomorrow’s sprint!