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At the Tour de France, Some Just Try to Survive to Ride Another Day

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

PAU, France — So on a lark, a chance encounter, I have ended up in the chase car for Natnael Berhane, an Eritrean cyclist, as he twists and turns and pedals like a banshee along a 16.9-mile time trial through the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Berhane is a member of the Cofidis team, and right now he is weaving and bobbing through the countryside as several thousand men, women and children cheer him on.

My driver, Jean-Luc Jonrond of Cofidis, is multitasking, to say the least. He has one hand on the wheel as we twist down a road that is a cross between country lanes and paved goat trails while somehow, in his lap, he balances a cellphone and sheets of paper showing the elevation and the coming 160-degree turns, all as he barks to Berhane with a microphone: