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At the Tour de France the last vehicle in motor caravan that follows the riders in each day’s stage is a van called the voiture balai. The English translation is literally “broom wagon.”
What’s a broom wagon? A broom wagon is a passenger van that “sweeps up” the riders from that day’s stage who have quit the Tour.
The word used in the Tour for quitting is “abandoned”. A rider who get in the broom wagon has be said to have “abandon the Tour.”
Abandoning the Tour is not a casual act.
It’s only done if a rider absolutely cannot continue because of illness or injury.
The Tour is never abandoned because you don’t feel good, have the sniffles, or are having a bad day. Jumping the broom wagon for those reasons is consider treason to a team. It never happens.
Since the Tour is 21 days of racing, and there’s a lot of hill climbing, a Tour rider can always count on one or two bad days in the Tour. In the back of their minds they’re always thinking, “How bad will my off days be?” That’s understandable as each rider in the team has a very specific job to do for the team and if they can’t perform when they’re supposed to the team’s chances of meeting their sponsor’s expectations are diminished that can have serious consequences. Lot’s of pressure there.
A bad day can start any number of ways. As soon as the rider starts to pedal their legs feel like lead or as if they’ve been rusted shut. They notice that rather than pedaling in smooth circles they’re pedaling squares. It may feel like their brakes are on. Breathing harder that the effort demands is another classic sign.
The thought that runs through a riders mind when any of those situations occurs is, “This isn’t good and how am I going to handle this?”
Like the riders we all have bad days and most are unanticipated.
Here’s how the riders cope with their off days:
One thing for sure in life is that we’re all going to have bad days. Expect them. And, expecting them doesn’t mean we drew them into existence. It means that we understand life and make reasonable contingencies for the inevitable. Work the key actions we discussed here and you bad days will have minimal impact.