dimanche, juillet 23, 2006

06.07.23: Le Tour -- Out-Landis-h!

Usually, I watch the Tour on television in Tom's very worthy basement, with a few beers. He has TiVo and an OLN cable package, and for the last few years, with Lance on the hunt for setting some victory records, there was plenty of cable coverage available in the US. This year, alas, je suis ici en France, donc, I have a different view of the Tour ...

From my conversations, here is what I gather ...

All French people believe that ALL cyclists use dopage for performance enhancement. All French believe that it is not humanly possible for a non-dopaged human to complete the Tour with the average speed that is actually maintained over the three week period. Thus, since the speed is achieved, all cyclists are dopers. Hence, the Tour is not really a test of cycling skill, but a test of mad doctor cleverness. And, lastly, Lance Armstrong need not be considered among the greatest cyclists of all time; his unknown wizard behind the curtain happens to be the luckiest and most skillful mad scientist of the current era.

Thus, the race that carries their name is mostly denigrated by the french. I assume, this carries until the next French cyclist wins the race; in which case I suppose the victory will indeed be a demonstration of skill, tenacity, strategy, and preparation. But, with the current crop of french riders, we wait for some time.

Alas, un Américain a gagné Le Tour, encore, cet an. Merci, Floyd Landis.

For my part, I had the opportunity to watch the Tour speed by twice, so why not?

The first time, Stage 14, a transition stage between the Pyrenees and the Alps, with a few medium size climbs enroute from Montélimar to Gap. We targeted Col de Perty as the most interesting climb of the day and set up camp about 1 km below the summit. How to watch the tour .. take cold drinks, arrive early, take a book (or in our case, french verb conjugaison charts since we were in between sessions from our course intensive), camera and binocs. Find a spot on the climb where you can see the route down the valley for a few kilometers, preferably under a shade tree, and camp next to a German family or two. Wait, wait, wait, and then wait a little more. Share a few german words with El Diablo. Just when you think you have that subjunctive verb form memorized, along comes the caravan. Beacoup de choses tossed out the car windows ... hats, key chains, noise makers, big hands for cheering on your favorite, etc. Wait, wait, wait, encore. How about some plus-que-parfait verb forms? OK, en fin, les cyclistes. Have your camera ready. Even on a climb, these guys are moving pretty good. George Hincapie was trailing in the rear of the peloton today. The maillot jaune for George was a brief moment of two weeks ago, now a memory, filed for the glory day tales. The peloton passes; the team cars in pursuit, le flamme rouge passes to signal the end of the course.

Next viewing ... à Paris for the finale. We took the Metro 8 to Place de la Concorde, and were effectively blocked from walking across the street or any closer to l'Arc de Triomphe, as we arrived only 2 1/2 hours before the race. Up and down the Rue Rivoli, tens of thousands are lined up to watch the Tour parade the Champs-Elysées, even if an américain is destined to take top podium spot again this year. How to pass the time? A nice family from Nice was willing to chat together as we leaned on the barriers, in view of the Place where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their heads. Or, you can choose to be accosted by an 88 year old French gentlemen, who speaks no english, is happy to bash americans, and it is not such a bad way to practice some french with a guy who won't leave as long as you promise him a cigarette (Gaulois, s-v-p). The caravan passes, this time without gift items for the crowd. The peloton approaches. Quick with the camera, but this time knowing that the race will complete 8 circuits of Paris before the finish. Floyd looked quite content, tucked in behind the Phonak train, bringing the man home for the victory. For me, stroll down to the Marais for a falafel and a beer.

It wasn't Tom's basement, but it wasn't too bad either.