Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bastille Day: Le Tour de Couch

Jeez, I was away from a TV for a week - never owned one myself, by choice, so have to go crash in front of friends' TVs now and then to get my black and blue thumb on the pulse of America and the state of the pop world.

Now I'm back to being un pomme de canape [that would be French for "couch potato"]. I've been watching so much of "Luh Too'r d'Fronce" (or as schmingy Bobke the Bobster Roll says in his toothy grin, "Tour DAY FRance") in the last two days, I've got a serious case of lactic acid buildup. I mean so much surfing du cycling veel-AHges, I've got couch sores. Sort of like bed sores or couch sores, except it's a 160 pound couch instead of a 220 gram titanium saddle. (Or as toothy Bobke says it, "Tour DAY France.") Gotta get up once in a while to stretch and hit the Sonic for a lovely Route 44 bev - it's the Limeade with easy ice for me and in cycling Mike's case, 44 precious ounces of seriously caffeinated DP. You catch the drift... after watching for three hours at a stretch - even zipping through the commercials - what with all that leaning forward on the couch, peering at the perigrinations of the peloton and palpitations of the ecstatic spectators an ocean away, the lactic acid build up is intense, and one has to get out and spin around the block to Le Taco Suprema Grande to restore one's depleted energy and tank up on frosty bottles of beer or properly chilled (and cheap) French blanc de blancs.

The grand stage races in cycling, a la Le Tour, are like no other sporting events in the world as they eat up a whole country as their backdrop. It's like a rolling Cirque du Cyclistes, a caravan of high-tech gypsy jerseys, an Olympian event passing by hill and dale, village and vinyard at 47 kilometers per hour, complete with sporting and unsporting politics, peasant protests, cows lots of scenery and culture and background and history and flavor to give the thing a spectacle and richness and aura that is now drawing in neophytes to the cycling world.

Like my very pregnant sister, who is, at the tender age of 42, having twins within the week, induced or not. She's currently carrying over 12 pounds of offspring - but not far, doctor's orders. So the last month or so has been lots of so-called bedrest. That's a lot of sideways/prone/captive audience TV time, and she says she watched all of Wimbledon and is now watching every day of the tour.

And OK, so she's my sister, and I did find the man I'd introduce to her as her future husband on one of my bike tours (in New Mexico in 1998), but hey, it must be the drama and the spectacle of the tour which have finally drawn in someone like that.

Many more Americans are finally getting it. Racing bikes is as sweaty and difficult and dangerous as racing cars, and the edge is even closer, especially when careening alongside those cliffs and around those switchbacks in the Alps.

It IS epic! It is glorious! And the Tour de France is not all. There are other great races earlier and later in the year. I hope the fever will catch on. It is not just the team tactics and the cool jerseys. It's the geography. What other sport so soaks up the scenery, so pits man against such magnificent geography?

Tune in, and watch 'em "turn up the gas!"

Somebody catch that guy! Or at least breathe down his yellow-collared neck....

Meanwhile, back to the action, spills and chills in slo-mo and at 120 rpm...

They're digging deep down into their suitcases of courage.

Allez! Allez! They're dancing on the pedals!


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