28 June, 2006

Aching for the Tour (A Guest Blog)

I want to be in France.

Even though I still suffer from my back injury there last year, I don't understand the language, the food was tres disappointing, we waited for hours in the searing heat and blistering sun, the routes we saw were boring, I want to be there.

I want to be there for the whole 3 weeks, renting a van and going from stage to stage, working off a 7-pound 350-page Michelin map book, living on bottled water and peeing in nearby fields. I want to speak broken French to the officious gendarmes, telling them I went to the stage, when I meant I am going to the stage and having them simply smile knowingly.

I want to watch the crazy caravan before the peloton, with cars shaped like telephones and coffee pots and the Deux Cheveux (the cutest car on earth, even over the Mini...) touting the official sausage of the Tour (did you know there even was one?), the gyrating dancers on flatbed trucks hawking god knows what cell phone service, and the candy and necklaces and keychains and sausages and musettes and bottled water and non-alcoholic beer (what a disappointment, the only time I ever saw Chris execute a one-handed catch!) thrown to the spectators, kids and elderly both scrabbling on the ground after the same swag, and the packs of Haribo Gummi Riders - each package holding all different colored riders but only ONE yellow rider.

I want to see the French newspapers playing up their highest ranked French riders, freaking out when a Frencman wins the Bastille Day stage. I want to watch (but not understand) "Velo Club" after each stage, a group of about 20 journalists and some French riders with trendy haircuts who obviously want to be anywhere but there, craving a massage and a blood transfusion, crowded on a small set of bleachers, jawing and whining and opining about how the French performed during the stage, hosted by a guy with such unbelievably spiked hair I can't take my eyes off of it; the only thing missing is the cigarettes, which most of them probably smoke off-camera and hold between their legs when they take the microphone that's passed around.

I want to see the five Tour helicopters land to take a rest. I want to see and hear them overhead. I want to see the OLN helicopter and wave to it like a crazy person. I want to wear the polka-dot cap from Champion grocery store, sponsor of the polka-dot king of the mountains jersey, and not have to share it with Alec.

I want to see the Devil and his trident and his 20-foot high bike, screaming and running alongside the riders at one point on every stage, and the official Tour vans seeking him out over their loudspeakers, calling, "Di-aaaaaaa-blo, Di-aaaaaa-blo" until he emerges from the crowd for hugs and photos.

Maybe, just maybe over 3 weeks I can actually train myself to recognize the each rider as they literally buzz past, now that I've learned to keep facing the direction from which they are approaching and never, never, ever turn to follow the progress of one rider, because then you've missed all the rest.

And at the end of the 3 weeks I can arrive at the airport sunburned and bursting with Tour junk, and I can say to the ticket agent, "I am going to the Tour."

Go, Jan!


Velo Orange said...

Go George!

Dad said...

Good post. There's no doubt that each year the Tour brings beauty and austerity that are almost shocking in their combination. The incredible chopper shots of places the riders pass, e.g. some of the chateaux, or the Pont du Gard, or the beautiful vineyarded villages near Bordeaux, are eye-popping. Last year, I think I remember actually salivating in Neanderthal fashion at OLN's video essay on the Camargue region.

Then the riders go into the mountains, and I get all kindsa creeped out. Up until say 5-6 years ago, I was a pretty good USCF racer, Cat 3 but decent. My Achilles heel was all too obvious when we came to those hill things. I still get sweaty palms and a pre-vomit tickle in the back of my throat when I watch the big guys suffer up those mountains.

Next time you think you've got it rough -- when you're forced to bear the indignity of a really and truly shitty day -- put in a tape of Stage 15 of last year's TdF, and watch Magnus Backstedt basically bleeding out his eyeballs suffering up the Pyrenees, only to miss the time cut by 2-1/2 minutes at the finish. I think I actually had the dry heaves.

louis kugel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AN said...

There is an Arabic saying: "Iswadda iyyaami."

My days blackened.

Boy is today one of those days. Jan is indeed "gone" as is Ivan and Paco Mancebo. The irony is, the Tour organizers will likely be royally perturbed once again as chances for an American or an American team's winning are excellent indeed.