Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Tour de July


AUSTIN, TX: Usually this time of year I'm out doing some long haul road trips to go lead and support my bike tours, as far east as the Berkshires in Mass, as far west as Alaska. Lately, taking a sabbatical from leading tours, I've been having sudden and sort of forlorn flashbacks to scenes from the road on tours - great roads, lovely curves, dramatic climbs, the ups and downs, flashes of speed and scenery, great times with people from all over involved in the drama of a laid-back yet challenging tour.

But in the midst of my sabbatical doldrums, I'm vegging instead, living a bike life vicariously rather than precariously. It's sort of mindless, really, watching the billboard racer types of my sport on television. But hey, it's air conditioned.

I first followed Le Tour de France when Eddy Mercxk was heading toward the end of his career, in the mid-70s. Back then, there were just rumors of the Tour - no television coverage, no name recognition, no bandwagon, no Greg LeMond, no Andy Hampsten, no Lance. Yep, that's me: the OTHER L-cyclist from Texas.

Lance has won more Tours de France than anyone else in the world, and even on the couch here, parked watching the slow mo, I think back on my having led more vacation bicycle tours than probably anyone else in the world - over 120 since 1986.

So I'm thinking about what leaving that intense cycling world of the road behind. You have to feel some things to feel ready to let go. You have to feel some burnout, some inability to top what you've done. You have to feel that there may not be much more to learn worthy of the work. And you have to feel the spectres of new competition and old decline - nope, time waits for no one.

But then, in July, no matter how you feel as a cyclist, there is the spectator sport of Le Tour de France. It's not just sport. It's a drama of wills and weather. It's exotic scenery. There's a plot and playfulness and honor to Le Tour.

And as my contrarian spirit might have it, I'm a Texan and a bicycle pro who's rooting for Jan Ullrich and T-Mobile.

One degree of separation: I have a girlfriend and friend who dated Lance and subsequently made him the godfather of her daughter, then got shunned as Lance moved on and left a bunch of his early Austin friends behind. It's too bad Lance has tarnished his reputation around here, not with drugs but with letting others catch the dust of his self-centered focus. He's not a very good ex-friend.

So I have to side with the one guy who's added more drama and plot and suspense to Lance's career than any other, also an ex-partying family man but one who's stuck with his family: the "Kaiser," Jan Ullrich, the only other participant to have won Le Tour... and I do like those pink jerseys!

Go pink! Go Jan!


At 7/07/2005 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, July is always a significant month for me also.
The Tour being a major reason for me; I have long been a cycling fan, going back to the "early" Tour days of the eighties with the "Badger"- Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond- the first and not so well known American cyclist ( with a great comeback story of his own) battling it out in the mountains- as teammates!
But, more importantly July is the month my amazing, beautiful and smart daughter was born.
On the day the Lance won his first tour stage win. He brought the Credit Lyonnaise sponsored stuffed lion home to her as a Welcome to the World gift.
His love for her was fierce and unconditional and he took the vows (in a church!) to become her Godfather.
And at that time, he showed great compassion and support to me as I went through a divorce, death of both my parents, ( sporting a bald head and ashen face at my Mother's funeral) and a severe financial downfall-all in a four month time period.
I was the third person he called with his cancer diagnosis.
Now that my Daughter is older, it is so very difficult to give good answers to hard questions. Abandonment is difficult to explain.
We really miss the Lance we knew. It is hard to hold him as a hero in our eyes.
So, there is a story that the media has yet to get hold of.
La Vie Claire


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