Y’all know I love the Tour. In fact, I am shocked that other families don’t spend the summer gathered around the tv for multiple hours (in the mornings for the live broadcast and at night for the reprise…though DVR has now enabled us to watch just three hours each night) for three weeks to watch. Two summers ago we had a French student here and the Tour was passing through her hometown of Pau (coincidentally the stage start yesterday) and she couldn’t look up….meanwhile we were out of our skin that someone was in our living room from the same town where the Tour was RIGHT THAT MINUTE. I know we’ve been watching it since Kate was a baby, because I have video of her wearing one of those old cyclist cloth caps and puking on Steve’s face. They do all run together for me, like the trips to the beach, and barbeques and perfect tomato and basil salads…everything that is summer. So here we go…five good things:
- Paul and Phil. Englishmen who speak French. They are articulate, knowledgeable, and delightful. I could listen to them all day. I suspect they make up words. They are always enthusiastic and supportive. Once in a while they are disappointed. They sound like summer to me.
- The scenery. Sunflowers, mountains, castles, rivers, lakes, winding roads, stone bridges, forests, fields, chateaus, villages. And hay bale art.
- The fans. The grandmothers with aprons and brooms, and children and their own bikes, and farmers with their tractors, who come out to stand by the side of the road and clap, as if the clapping will help the riders go faster (I am certain it does). And the builders of the hay bale art, makers of signs and wavers (behind the barrier please) of flags at the finish. There are always miles of motor homes (Paul and Phil refer to them as caravans) lined up alongside the mountain roads, where people have been camped out for a week. There is another group of fans I refer to as “look at me, I am a douchebag”. These are the guys in antlers and tights (yesterday there were two who were naked and it wasn’t pretty) who run next to the riders on the steepest, narrowest part of the climb, yelling and shouting. I can do without them, though I am getting better at not screaming at the TV when they show up.
- The drama. Lance avoiding the crash, and going through a field to rejoin the race. Jan Ullrich, his arch rival for years, waiting for Lance when he had a problem. A young Thomas Voekler with the yellow for ten days. Tyler Hamilton, racing after his dog, Tugboat, died. And this week, Andy and Alberto. Andy had the yellow, was hanging on….his chain slipped at a critical point. Alberto didn’t wait and took the yellow. Andy was mad, Alberto was apologetic (later). Yesterday they raced like crazy men and Andy won the stage. Alberto kept the yellow. They hugged. I love that. Andy will get another chance next year.
- Life lessons. You can’t go it alone, you need a team. Well, once in a while you CAN go it alone, but usually you need a team. Bad things happen to good people. You CAN fall and still win. You can be a winner and still not have the big prize. You can have the big prize and not be a winner. Drugs are bad. Timing is everything. There are many mountains to overcome. Rest is important. And, that team thing, there is honor in being a team mate (the domestique). Last night I told Steve that being a domestique was like being a parent…you bring your child to the front of the group, you protect them and keep them out of harm’s way, you bring them food and water…and when you are done with your job (or when you are plumb worn out, whichever comes first), you launch them out to the world and let them get up the mountain on their own. And then you go back to the General Classification (the GC) and look after yourself again.
- Bonus: the riders. Fit young men, great legs and bums. In tight pants. What’s not to love?