The Torqued Wrench is a look inside the mind of VeloNews.com tech writer Caley Fretz. Every other week he’ll tackle the rumors, trends, innovations, and underpinnings of the tech world — or something else entirely. You can submit questions to TorquedWrench@competitorgroup.com. Be sure to check out Caley’s previous columns
PAU, France (VN) — The last 90 seconds of any burrito eating experience is guaranteed to be somewhat unpleasant, followed by a sensation of ample satisfaction, almost accomplishment, as the final bean-filled bite is stowed away. In this way, eating a burrito is directly analogous to the Tour: delicious, but increasingly painful, from start to finish.
And therein you find my excuse for writing about burritos on a cycling website.
The sort of fullness that comes from eating burritos cannot be found elsewhere. In the rainbow spectrum of “full,” it is a deep, deep red. Most food only ever gets me to a muted pink.
This special Burrito Fullness begins as one chomps down to The Point of No Return, about two inches up from the foil-wrapped base. This invisible line, I believe, is where one’s inner dialogue changes from “mmm, delicious burrito” to “ugh, I’ve come this far; I might as well finish the thing.” For the stomach, it is not a happy place. But it is nonetheless a sensation that is missed by American expats the world over; it is a bit of home in tubular tortilla form. For the mind, and the soul, Burrito Fullness is some of the best medicine.
Each year, Garmin hosts a burrito lunch on the second rest day. The tradition stems back to the days when burrito joint Chipotle was a major sponsor, and has stuck around as other companies have taken the prime jersey spots. Chipotle is still involved with the team, of course, primarily through the co-sponsorship of Slipstream’s Chipotle-First Solar feeder team.
The team invites press and VIPs, providing an opportunity for everyone to mingle over some good wine and, of course, good burritos. It seems a blatant publicity stunt, a way to attract journalists and their pens. And it is. But it’s also much more.
That invisible line found on every burrito, the one that, if crossed over, changes one’s attitude from optimistic hunger to defeatist bloating, is present in the Tour. But within the race it is a dynamic thing, not static, always moving and variable. It cannot be pinned to a certain stage, or even a particular week. It is different for each rider, each team staff member, each journalist, and each gendarme. That line is morale, ultimately. And just as the stomach may unfurl a white flag in the face of Chipotle’s bean and rice onslaught, the mind can throw in the towel prematurely.
For the teams, a stage win certainly helps prevent that. David Millar’s breakaway victory last week shoved Garmin’s collective invisible line well back. And Christian Vande Velde’s close second pushed it back a bit farther, too.
But morale isn’t based only these ecstatic, proud moments. For the riders as well as everyone else here at the Tour, it is just as much related to the small things — the right company, a good hotel room, the right food.
For me, that’s a burrito. Though I love the cuisine here, it never quite feels like home. Sitting down at a hotel in Pau, France, with my foil-wrapped lunch, complete with actual green sauce, I could have easily been back in Boulder — where I haven’t been since April. It pushed my invisible line well back beyond Paris. I felt the unique Burrito Fullness and oh, how it felt good.
I watched one American rider finish up his own burrito, then sneak out the back door with an extra foil-wrapped tube in each hand. I realized, then, I may not have been the only one who felt that way. Perhaps now his final leg to Paris will be just that little bit easier.