My favourite sporting award isn't for a victory.
Forget the Stanley Cup, a Superbowl Ring, or a World Series championship. The award I like the most is the Lanterne Rouge, the Red Lantern. And it doesn't even exist.
The Tour de France is taking place right now, the 98th edition of the cycling event that started in 1903 and has run every year since, with a few enforced breaks when the Germans invaded.
The winner of the overall race will don the fabled yellow jersey in Paris, and will get a hefty prize of 450,000 euros this year, about $610,000 Canadian.
Not to mention sponsorship deals.
Then there are the other, lesser known categories. The polka dot jersey, surely one of the ugliest yet most coveted items in sports, is for the King of the Mountains, the rider who consistently makes it to the top of peaks fastest. Green is the points jersey, won for winning stages and sprints. White is for the best young rider.
So where does the Lanterne Rouge fit in this classification?
Look down. Way down.
The Lanterne Rouge is an unofficial award given to the rider who finishes the Tour de France last.
I should restate that: for the rider who finishes the Tour de France last.
It's the finishing that's important. Typically 20 per cent of riders do not even make it to Paris, and those too far back can be eliminated at the end of a stage. So the Lanterne Rouge is a backhanded acknowledgement of grit. You have to be pretty good just to come in last.
It's here that I'll take a few minutes to claim that the Tour is the toughest sporting event in the world.
Hold up. I'm sure you can make your claims for hockey and MMA and Australian rules football. Yes, there are injuries and pain, and yes those are great and motivated athletes.
But the Tour is 20-plus days of riding, 180 km one day, 210 the next. Riding up mountains, literally, then speeding down switchbacks at speeds of 80, 90 km/h.
These are riders who can average 50 or 60 km/h over flat land for hours at a time.
Then there are the injuries, and the typical responses to injuries.
Last week, three riders were knocked sprawling when a France TV car veered into them. One of the race favourites, Johnny Hoogerland, was tossed into a barbed wire fence. He needed 33 stitches in his leg for a deep gash. That done, he got back on his bike and won the King of the Mountains category for the day.
Another rider, Chris Horner, crashed and pulled out Saturday - eventually.
"He's got a broken nose, concussion, and severe bruising on his right leg which, in any case, would prevent him from pedaling," said his team director, Alain Gallopin. "He finished the stage because on the Tour, you just don't abandon like that."
That kind of madness is what the Lanterne Rouge is about.
Some of the early lastplacers were many hours behind the winners, riding through the avenues of Paris long after the ticker tape had been swept away, after the champion was sleeping off the champagne celebration.
They could have gone home.
They could have taken aching feet from the pedals and called a cab, ripped the numbers from their jersey, and called it a day.
The Lanterne Rouge is an award that is part joke, part serious. It's for those who refuse to give up, no matter that there's nothing left to gain.
Matthew Claxton is a reporter with News' sister paper, the Langley Advance.