Humboldtians in Private

The Three of Us on the Tour de France

By Fritz Breithaupt

The Humboldtians Fritz Breithaupt, Carlos Zednik and Colin Allen (from left to right) on the Tour de France
The Humboldtians Fritz Breithaupt, Carlos Zednik and Colin Allen (from left to right) on the Tour de France (Photo: Maindru Photo)

In this picture we’re all still able to laugh and wave. Later, on the infamous Col du Tourmalet, we found it rather harder to force a smile.

The photo shows us on the Tour de France last summer. Not the proper, professional race, of course. As part of the official Tour, the organisers hold two races for anyone who relishes the opportunity to test their mettle on one of the professional stages. These races attract amateurs from around the world. We had chosen the tough, 200-kilometre mountain stage in the Pyrenees. We arrived in Pau before sunrise, together with 8,000 other cycling enthusiasts.

The forecast for Tourmalet was for drizzle; what came down was freezing rain. And I had lost my jacket on the way! Which isn’t meant to be an excuse for the fact that I saw the other two from behind as they crossed the finishing line. By the time we reached the valley we were completely exhausted and frozen through. All the riders just hunkered down wrapped in these gold-coloured foil blankets looking like hundreds of little steaming pyramids – a sight we’ll never forget. In all, we spent five days travelling in the Pyrenees; first we explored the mountains, then came the race. We were like a monastic brotherhood: during the day we trained, in the evenings we discussed our research. We’d all met at Indiana University where Colin and I conduct research and Carlos did his doctorate. To get to the Tour, Colin and I met up in Germany and spent two days driving through France. We had a laptop in the car which we used to write a joint article that will soon be published. Carlos and Colin spent the Tour thinking up a few conferences they plan to organise together. So the Tour was not just a marvellous sporting experience, but also academically very productive for us. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see other Humboldtians there next year.

published in Humboldt Kosmos 100/2013
Philosopher Professor Dr. Colin Allen and German language and literature scholar Professor Dr. Fritz Breithaupt are Humboldt Alumni who conduct research at Indiana University Bloomington, USA. Dr. Carlos Zednik is a cognitive scientist currently working at the University of Osnabrück on a Humboldt Research Fellowship.