I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I love the Tour de France. Being the dork that I am, I have watched every stage of the Tour for virtually the past decade. How have I accomplished this feat? I get the TV to watch the Tour in July. The rest of the year, I give him the TV the rest of the year to watch all the football, basketball and hockey he wants. It’s a fair trade. Watching it on TV, I always dreamed of seeing it live. Guess what? It finally happened. On Wednesday and Thursday, I was on mountains in France in a Detroit Red Wings jersey, getting sunburned, and taking in the spectacle.
Watching the tour on TV, you can’t fully appreciate the beauty of the mountains the colors, the helicopters, and the excitement. You can’t meet the other fans. They are delightful and quite friendly. I don’t know of many places where you can meet so many people from other countries in such a congenial environment. The excitement was contagious and everyone made the most of it.
On the way up Col de la Madeleine, we stopped and bought this wonderful hunk of local cheese out of someone’s barn for our picnic. Because you have to get on the mountain early before they close the roads, people picnic, eat, drink and are merry. Everyone was having a good time.
True fans of bicycle racing appreciate seeing these guys and go to great lengths to do it. My guests (Boris, Natasha and Mr. Peabody) hiked with me 18 miles up and down a mountain to see the stage on the Col de la Madeleine. Others, biked up to the peak and back down. Some people camp out on the mountain days ahead of the stage to get a good spot. The rich and lucky get to ride in the cars (although I can’t imagine the view of the cyclists is that good) or get shuttled to a viewing area with a TV at the top.
Even the trip from one stage to another was exciting for us cycling fans. We saw NBC Sports cars racing down the highway to Albertville. Although we had no idea who was inside (NBC Sports probably pays their speeding tickets), since we couldn’t catch them. We’re swearing that it was Bob Roll (who doesn’t love Bobke) in one with Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett in the other.
It was just amazing to think that caravans travel from distant countries to experience the Tour. Observers spray paint the name of a relatively unknown cyclist from their region on the pavement. Some guy from a village in the Netherlands who drove a thousand miles and spray painted his countryman’s name on the mountain. He’ll be lucky to finish in 45th place.
We have done the All-Start NASCAR race. While there is huge excitement and the fans are devoted, you have a drunken, often belligerent atmosphere. The most intoxicated people we met were some
nationality censored who offered us beverages, told us some great stories and played us some great music. Rock on.
We saw last year’s winner Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggens in the yellow jersey surrounded by team Sky. We saw all of our favorite American riders: Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer, big George Hincapie, the hilarious Dave Zabriskie, Tyler Farrar, Christian Vande Velde, and the awesome Tejay Van Garderen (who should be BMC’s GC rider). I even got to see some of my favorites: Frank Schleck and Fabian Cancellara. Even going uphill, they whipped by us at amazing speeds. I was still able to see enough to tell you ladies that Spartacus (aka Fabian Cancellara) is just as handsome in person.