A hymn to excellence
They’re at the top of their game! That’s what share those who have conquered the Yellow Jersey and that’s the idea spectators have of the jersey as they observe and cheer it. For many, this “golden fleece” is linked to the names of the greatest champions in cycling. Eddy Merckx is right up there with 96 days spent wearing his favourite jersey (111 if one includes half stages), alongside the three other five-time winners of the Tour, representing different eras and styles. Jacques Anquetil a pioneer of modern cycling in the fifties and sixties, Bernard Hinault one of the last known “cannibal” and total attacker twenty years later, or Miguel Indurain at the beginning of the nineties, have all thanks to their absolute mastery of cycling made the Yellow Jersey the absolute distinction. The way they dominated their rivals, with their technique that flirted with perfection, contributed in making it the symbol of excellence, admired and respected well beyond the domain of cycling and even sports.
The Grail that champions pursue, an object of fantasy and sometimes of more or less reliable schemes, also has the faculty of varying the delights. Before ending its journey by a lap of honour around the track of the Parc des Princes, of La Cipale or of the Champs-Élysées on the shoulders of a lord of the road, the Yellow Jersey blossoms in the peloton in contact of all types of riders. Far from being an untouchable relic, it is offered in different circumstances to brave team mates rewarded for their initiatives by a few days of glory. Indeed, gregario Andrea Carrea preceded Fausto Coppi in 1952 ; Romain Feillu enjoyed a day in yellow in 2008 during a time-trial ; a bit like Tony Gallopin in 2014 before leaving it to Vincenzo Nibali on the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles. Through those part-time heroes that see their lives overwhelmed, the Yellow Jersey manages to juggle with the notion of time: short lived glory becomes eternal happiness.