Monday, July 25, 2011

Le Tour de France 2011

I am a flag-waving fan boy for the Tour de France. I confess it. I actually record each stage and watch each one from nearly start to finish. I know that most people would probably find this more boring than golf, or NASCAR, or baseball, or watching paint dry. I don't care, really. This race rivets me.

The Tour starts on July the 2nd, and by the time it is finished on July 24th, the riders have covered about 2,131 miles. They cross mountain ranges and vast stretches of countryside on their journey to Paris. After all of those miles of racing, this years winner managed to beat out his closest rival by only 1 minute and 30 seconds. Can you imagine racing a guy for that many days, over the mountains, through the valley, over the rivers and through the woods, only to have him beat you at the end by less than two minutes? After over 2,000 grueling miles, Andy Schleck lost the Tour de France to Cadel Evans by less time than it took me to write this paragraph.

So why do I love it so? For one thing, I love to ride my bike. I have a road bike that was Tour worthy in 2009. I have logged a 1,000 miles or so on it since I won it, oddly enough, watching the Tour de France with friends. I have climbed little mountains on it, rode the flats, and watched my friends ride away from me when I didn't have the strength to keep up. I have run out of gas as little rises in the road have kicked my tail, and I have felt the pride of climbing a steep incline without having to get off the bike and push...even if that option would have been faster.

So I love to watch it because I understand the sport. I love to watch it because these guys astound me. I love to watch it for the races within the race: the battle for the green jersey for the sprinters, the battle for the white jersey for the best young rider, the battle for the polka dot jersey for the King of the Mountains, and of course, love the drama of watching the guys battle for the coveted yellow jersey, the jersey that signifies the overall leader.

All of these are good reasons for me to enjoy the Tour de France. But they aren't the real reason why I love the Tour. I remember my first real bicycle. It was a Pittsburgh Steeler dirtbike that I got for Christmas one year. That bike meant freedom to me as a little lad of maybe 6. Back in those days, parents were a little less paranoid than they are now, so I could basically hop on that bike and go where ever I liked. That bike meant adventure. It meant trips to the gas station to buy a Dr. Pepper, some baseball cards, and a pack of gum. I also remember the day I got up and headed to the garage to find my bike gone. Some jerk stole it right out from under our car port. If I ever get my hands on that guy...

So that's why I love the Tour. Deep down, I just like the adventure of it. The idea that a guy can hop on his bike with his buddies and ride all over Europe getting chewing gum and Dr. Peppers, and while they are on their way, a million people stop by to cheer for them as they fly by them on the way to the Champs Elysees.

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