!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/StiedaAlexYel86 @PhSpt.jp|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/StiedaAlexYel86 @PhSpt.jp!Watching David Millar strategically work the breakaway on this Tour's first road stage, then drop back to the pack to win the sprint for second place on the last mountain points sprint brings back many memories of our first Tour.
1986: It sure doesn't seem like it was 21 years ago that our 7-Eleven team entered its first Tour de France and I put myself into position to wear the yellow jersey and then the polka-dot jersey for an additional five days.
Back in the day, we hadn't prepared for the Tour de France properly by any stretch of the imagination. A training camp in Santa Barbara after a sporadic spring of racing in Europe, and balancing 7-Eleven's requirements for exposure in the U.S., was going to have to do for us. We flew straight to Paris and straight to the sign-on for the start. Jetlag didn't really mean anything since most of the team had been commuting between the U.S. and Europe regularly during our second season as a pro team. We really didn't know anything about the race course until we got there--we had no internet, no reconnaisance camps in the Alps or the Pyrennees and, most importantly, no one on the team who had any experience racing in the mountains of France. We literally were riding by the seats of our pants, taking advantage of opportunities as they arose.
Getting away on the first road stage was something that I had thought would be a pretty cool idea--so I wore a skinsuit to the start line for the 80-km stage. Our team was shocked and a little embarrassed as we were trying to fit into the Euro program and not stand out. I shrugged my shoulders and started the stage with determination to carry through with my plan. About 40km in, with the pack riding slow, I pretended to roll off the front to take a nature break. Soon, I was out of sight in the rolling terrain outside of Paris and I put the hammer down. I had a five-minute gap and rolled through three time bonus sprints as well as mountain points. While my stalwart teammates blocked, a break caught me and I helped keep the pace going in this group, keeping us away from the main field so that Vanderaerden couldn't take the time bonus at the finish. The effort earned me the yellow for a day by eight seconds and subsequently the polka for five further days.
Watching David Millar execute his strategy on Sunday was another perfect example of how cycling is such an incredibly beautiful sport--the combination of pure strategy, maximizing individual strengths and team support, all while rolling down the road is something that no other sport can offer. Hats off to David for making the most of his stop-over on home soil.
Alex Stieda's cycling career spanned 15 years from 1977 to 1992, during which he raced track and road bicycles. He won bronze medals at the '82 Commonwealth Games (Brisbane) and '83 Universiade Games (Edmonton), represented Canada at the '84 Los Angeles Olympics and in 1986, was the first North American to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Stieda lives in Edmonton with his wife and two children. Alex is currently involved with Project Rwanda, a charity committed to furthering the economic development of Rwanda through initiatives based on the bicycle as a tool and symbol of hope. Project Rwanda's goal is use the bike to help boost the Rwandan economy as well as re-brand Rwanda as a beautiful and safe place to do business and visit freely.