I AM A TOUR-AHOLIC. I am addicted to the Tour de France. I was infected last year, the first year I’d actually watched the Tour on TV.
I’ve heard about it before, maybe even seen glimpses of a stage or two, but last year, lacking anything else to do, I found myself glued to the television day after day watching the chase for the Maillot jaune – the Yellow Jersey.
While I understood the basics of the game – cyclists pedal their way around France through the mountains and fields, cows and chateaux, day after grueling day, each hoping to be the first over the line at the “arrivee” in Paris, I had no clue about the subtleties of the race. I still have trouble comprehending some of the finer aspects of cycling strategy, but I’m catching on little by little. And following Lance Armstrong doesn’t hurt either. I suppose I became more aware of the Tour with Lance’s return to the professional cycling stage in 2008 to champion the cause of cancer awareness. (I’ll save my Lance drooling for another post.)
I’m getting some strange looks from acquaintances when I tell them I’m watching “the Tour” every day – even awaking early to catch it ‘live’. What is it about this bicycle race that excites me?
I’m enticed by the endurance these men display. I have trouble walking the slight incline up my street in the heat of the day, let alone biking up a mountain in 90+ degree weather, or dodging 200 other riders in the rain. The hairpin turns at 50+ mph pump the ole adrenaline – even when I’m sitting in my living room in Georgia. They’ve got lots of guts, I’ll give them high points for that.
Similar to downhill skiing, there’s always the possibility of “the crash”. In a field of nearly 200 bikers, when one guy in the pack goes down, it’s likely he’ll take out others. In the blink of an eye the journey can come to a screeching halt. It happens all the time. I like the excitement.
The time trials are interesting as well – each man against the clock and each other. They take off one by one in timed intervals and ride as fast as they can to the finishing point. They race the clock, trying to better the first person’s time. There’s a thrill to watching each man pedal his fastest trying to gain fractions of seconds on their predecessor.
Also, each person holds the potential to have the best ride of their life under whatever the (whether in the Alps or across the flatland, on a rainy day or in the dead heat of a July afternoon) circumstances and have their 15 minutes of fame. I like that too.
I want to go on record in admitting that the helicopter views of the surrounding French countryside every day don’t hurt viewing le Tour. The announcers have a sufficient supply of historical, cultural and entertaining information to make the commentary interesting, but not stuffy. (Kudos to Phil & Paul -and their writers!)
And of course, back to the Lance factor! He’s this major celeb of the cycling field who’s so well known outside of biking and is still a major celebrity anyway. It’s like when John Glenn went back into space in 1998. I’d lost interest in the space program after the moon landing, but because it was John Glenn, I followed the launch with a bit more interest. It’s likely my fever for the TDF may vanquish by next year, as Lance is claiming this is his last Tour de France, but there are other races and I may maintain my Tour fever without it necessarily being Yellow.
So, tomorrow I’ll get up and watch these lean, lithe, tanned men continue their journey, safely from my living room. But my heart will be with them right up to the Champs-Elysees.