One year my bicycling husband came home armed with a complete set of DVD’s of the just-past Tour de France and announced with great excitement that we were going to watch them…all. The whole Tour. The girls and I looked at one another and I swear I could see the words, “No way. Booooring!” forming above our heads like captions in a cartoon. However, he persisted and we watched. And watched. And watched.
I’m not sure the girls ever got it, but somewhere along the way, as the strategies were explained, the views passed by, the sprinters sprinted and the mountain bikers toiled, I was hooked. Phil, Paul, Bobkie and the rest were great: part announcer, part tour guide (of the countryside, not le Tour), part raconteur. Even when saying something negative, they did it in a nice way. So when Tour time came around the a few years ago, I was thrilled because we now had cable. Yes, we’d given up our iconic status as one of the few families without cable because the package we got provided cable, internet and phone for less than we’d been paying for phone and internet alone. And it included Versus. Bring on le Tour!
Now I could record the day’s session and skip through commercials, though I really didn’t want to miss the commentary. This is the sort of sporting event you just can’t watch at the sports bar where they don’t have the sound on. First of all, you might be there for three hours and secondly, if you don’t have the commentary, quite a bit of that three hours is just a bunch of guys in spandex, riding bikes. Yeah, sometimes there are horrific spills, at the tops of the mountains there are some sprints and the end of each stage is generally thrilling, but still, the rest, without sound is, dare I say it…a bit boring. But with commentary and a remote in your hand, life is good. And I can even pause the action to get some lunch, then come back and watch it all. You just have to be careful each morning to avoid seeing the day’s result online or in the news or hear them on the radio before you’ve watch the stage. Spoilers like that are bad.
Being a fast-twitch person and a sprinter myself, I’m a big Mark Cavendish fan, so much so that my husband made an almost fatal faux pas when we were in Provence last fall, asking in a bike shop for a Mark Cavendish jersey. For those of you who don’t know, Cavendish is English and we were in France, proud home of the Tour and not home to Cavendish. My sister-in-law blenched, then hurried us out.
I’ve found myself on my feet at the end of many a stage, yelling as the sprinters kicked it into high gear and then Cavendish popped out from behind his leader and shot across the line. Last year, on the last day when the Tour comes down the Champs-Élysées and the race is over, save for the last sprint and, in this case, for the green jersey, I was in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming with internet the speed of molasses. It cut out on me and came back on just after the sprint was over and Cavendish had won the last stage. Horrific! I did get to watch it later, but it’s not the same.
I’ve also found myself leaning forward as the mountain bikers near the top of the last climb, straining with all their might. I’ve winced at terrible spills, bikers going over like dominos and been amazed as some got back up and kept riding. Last year there were some particularly incredible recoveries and men riding through pain. I’ve engaged in discussions of whether or not Lance doped, commiserated on those who’ve been caught doping, realized that now that Contador has been stripped of his 2010 title for doping that the gloss of that win won’t gleam as brightly for Andy Schleck all this time later, thrilled with the French as Thomas Voeckler held the yellow jersey stage after stage and marveled as the mighty Thor (an “old” rider) and his heir apparent (but perhaps not for a time yet), Edvald Boasson Hagen brought little Norway into world biking prominence. I know bikers’ names and team names and recognize some of the team jerseys. Yeah, I’m hooked.
So if you want to know where I’ll be between Saturday, June 30th and Sunday, July 22nd , you can bet it will be close to a TV or watching online somewhere, taking time from something I maybe should be doing instead. And loving it. Vive le Tour! And thank, hon!