The Hardest Part About Cycling

Deepti Pradhan
6 min readJan 10, 2022

is the pavement — the pileup when you hit the ground. The hardest part about COVID is the misinformation, disinformation, and denials.

An unthinking fan causes a significant pileup in the first stage of the 2021 Tour de France

The 2,156- mile Tour de France is the most prestigious bicycle race in the world today. Fans love it because the cyclists are within reach as they course through the serpentine route. In 2020, the first year of this COVID pandemic, the race was delayed by two months as the organizers tried to put in place new rules for testing and contact tracing. In 2021, the second year of the pandemic, the first stage of the race had a tumultous close. Thanks to a woman who seemed more keen on appearing on television with her placcard than on watching the race, the laws of physics played out before our eyes. As seen in images and videos shared innumerable times since that moment, she was close enough to the riders to have her placcard brush a rider and cause a massive pileup, with several riders having to eventually pull out of the race because of their injuries.

This is not the first time that there’s been a pileup at the Tour de France; in fact less prominent bicycle races also have riders falling off their bikes if not because of a bystander, but because of some stray pebbles or other objects that suddenly show up on the course. Even with all the protective gear — best helmets and all — you can’t fight inertia, and Newton’s laws of motion are in charge.

On the left is an English translation of the original Latin text by Isaac Newton, in Principia Mathematica

The SARS-CoV-2 virus in all its variant forms has wreaked global havoc, on a scale much larger than the placcard-holding woman wreaked on the first stage of the Tour de France.

There still appears to be no consensus about its origins, but back in 2020 when it started the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the world was woefully unprepared and there was no dearth of blame to go around whilst healthcare workers and researchers tried their best to do their jobs while also educating the public. We learnt in real-time that certain measures reduced transmission of the virus, and that severity of the disease varied. We also learnt that a simultaneous implementation of multiple measures is what reduced transmissions even further — proper use of masks, maintaining a physical…

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Deepti Pradhan

Employed at Yale University, Deepti is primarily a scientist & patient advocate. She runs Tilde Cafe, a forum to make science accessible (www.tildecafe.org)