How a cyclist celebrates a win as he crosses the finish line can be premeditated or a split-second decision. And on occasions in mass sprints when a photo finish determines the victor, there’s no time for showmanship.
Wenatchee’s Tyler Farrar has twice in the past three weeks — including his first career stage Monday in the Tour de France — showcased his finish-line homage for his deceased best friend, Wouter Weylandt.
Just after crossing the line, Farrar made the shape of a “W” with his thumbs and first fingers. Farrar first made the gesture in his first win after Weylandt’s death in the Tour of Italy on May 2, when he claimed a stage of the Ster ZLM Tour in Holland on June 15.
Sprinters are known for their aggression and dramatic finish-line displays. But Farrar has also more than once been categorized as being “too nice” to be a great sprinter.
As such, Farrar’s subtle winning “W” is ideal, albeit in the aftermath of tragedy.
Farrar’s previous display after winning a race was to thrust his arms wide, nearly perpendicular to his body. It looked similar to the position gymnasts call an “iron cross” while perforning on the rings.
To Farrar’s surprise, one of his “crosses” was used in a super-sized format as on the side of his team’s bus.
With his victory Monday, Farrar acknowledged its significance as an American winning on the Fourth of July. But he also recognized the professionalism of being led to the line by teammate Thor Hushovd of Norway, the race leader and reigning world champion.
“If you’re going to have someone like Thor leading you out, you better do a good sprint,” said Farrar, who finished 158th in stage 4 today, trailing by 4:17.
Nonetheless, just after claiming his fifth individual win of the season, Farrar had time for his new signature. But he then had to quickly adjust his swerving bike.
Non-sprinters often have more time to consider finish-line dramatics.
Juan Antonio Flecha, the Argentine-born Spanish cyclist whose last name translates to “arrow,” gained international notoriety in 2003 at the Tour de France. As he rode across the finish line to a stage solo he pantomimed releasing an arrow from a bow.
Carlos Sastre of Spain also chose a unique display at the 2003 Tour de France. While winning the 13th stage, Sastre placed a pacifier in his mouth as a greeting to his infant daughter.
With similar sentiment, other cyclists have made “rocking” motions with their arms as if holding a small child.
Riders also raise an arm off the handlebars, like two-time defending Tour de France titlist Alberto Contador of Spain did at the line today, despite not winning.
Finish-line dispays, by whatever personal choice, are relatively new.
“There was no TV and the riders were mostly focused on winning,” said Mogens Jacobsen, a journalist for Politiken in Copenhagen, Denmark, reporting this year on the Tour de France for the 34th time. “The only big display was on their bikes.”
For several decades, winning cyclists never even took their hands off their handlbars. But by the time Eddy Merckx, often cited as cycling’s greatest rider, was in his prime in the 1970s, winning riders had transitioned from taking one hand off their handlebars to two hands.
The 98th edition of the Tour de France continues Wednesday with a 164.5-kilometer stage from Carhaix to Cap Frehel.