I think my heart rate has gone up. I might need to see a doctor, but I'll only go if there's a TV showing the Tour de France in the exam room. I don't want to miss a day of it. I've been hooked on the Tour since the days when Eddy Merckx was cannibalizing his opponents on the high mountains of France, all across Europe. I was riding a Schwinn LeTour around town and hanging out at the local bike shop where I read all the cycling magazines and every VeloNews cover to cover. No TV coverage back then and hardly a squeak about it in the paper, but I was enthralled. It has that kind of ability to grip the imagination. Intrigue! Suffering! Controversy! Heroism! I'm all over it every year.
The Tour starts tomorrow (July 3) and goes for three weeks. Skinny guys the size of your average whippet climb like angels on bikes that weigh 14 lb (by regulation). They have hearts the size of cantaloupes with resting pulse rates like blue whales (30-40 beats per minute). They spend all year racing each other on long courses in France, Spain, Italy and dozens of other countries, but the big race that really matters to most of them is the Tour.
It takes time to understand the nuances and get what matters about the Tour. Try this: Get on any bike and try to ride up your neighborhood hill - fast - and then watch a mountain stage where the climb goes for 20 miles up, reaching altitudes above tree line, and then has three more climbs just like it after that - and they are actually racing all day. It's just plain nuts, defies imagination and sanity like no other sporting event, and it has been contested for a hundred years. I hope it goes on for a thousand more.
France is getting ready to host its big circus while the whole cycling world watches, just like we do when the Super Bowl is played every year, only this is a super bowl every day for three weeks. It's that big. Le sigh....
Versus TV channel is carrying live coverage. You can also check it out on VeloNews.com, CyclingTV.com and by Googling Tour de France 2010. Each team has a website, of course, so you can look them up that way too. Lance Armstrong is riding for Team RadioShack; he's the most recognizable rider and one certain to be at the center of the traveling storm that is the Tour de France. I was a fan long before he ever took to a bicycle seat, and I will always be one. It's the event itself that grips me. The players in the drama change from year to year, but always, every year, there is a satisfying feeling of sadness and exhaustion when the whole thing finally ends in Paris. Crazy...
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way