Friday, July 22, 2005
NY Times on Iker Flores
"Lost in these races-within-the-race is another battle - not for glory but to avoid ignominy. It concerns Iker Flores, a 28-year-old Spaniard with the Euskaltel team, a professional since 1999, a rider in his third Tour and a man who is 4 hours 8 minutes 35 seconds behind Armstrong.
For reasons not entirely beyond his control, Flores is last in the race - the lanterne rouge, named for the red light that once hung at the back of trains. Flores is not just last but dead last, more than eight minutes behind the rider in 154th place, Wim Vansevenant, a Belgian with Davitamon.
Sometimes riders enjoy the distinction of being lanterne rouge - it can bring them enough publicity to be invited, for a fee, to post-Tour exhibition races. At other times, though, the rider in last place feels shamed, as Flores does.
He feels especially mortified, since he is carrying on a family tradition with dire consequences.
His brother Igor was lanterne rouge in the 2002 Tour and proud of it.
He worked so hard to remain last that the Euskaltel team fired him at the end of the season and he now runs a furniture store in the Spanish Basque hinterland.
"I must do something to escape from last place," Iker Flores told Spanish journalists this week.
Alas, he keeps doing the wrong things.
On Thursday, he was penalized by race officials for staying too long in the slipstream of his team car as he tried to catch up with the pack. His penalty was a fine of 50 Swiss francs and 20 more seconds tacked onto his overall elapsed time.
Today, he finished next to last, 154th, while Vansevenant was 149th, putting two minutes more between them."
Poor Iker. There is no "ignominy" in your position. Be proud to finish the Tour de France, the world's greatest cycling event. Just take a look at the names of all the riders who did not make it as far as you did. Thirty-four world-class cyclists, so far, have gone by the wayside.