Tour de France: Anticipating the Tour
The experts say the Tour is mythical. I couldn’t agree more. The Giro often has
a more exciting route, the Tour of Spain a more thrilling race, yet for sporting
events that capture my imagination, nothing comes close to this.
I remember it well. London had never been so subdued; it was more reminiscent
of a small village than a capital city. The date ? July 14th, 2005. A week after
the London bombings, I was traveling on the Underground. The empty seats
outweighed the passengers on the Piccadilly Line train I was in. Things had
changed. London had changed. Terrorism was right on our doorstep once again.
Following the failed attacks in London and Glasgow this past week, I have been
asked if I would cancel my plans to see Le Tour on my home soil. The answer came
without skipping a beat.
The experts say the Tour is mythical. I couldn’t agree more. The Giro often
has a more exciting route, the Tour of Spain a more thrilling race, yet for
sporting events that capture my imagination, nothing comes close to this. Over
commercial and over hyped, it may well be, so here lies a challenge to identify
a sporting event of such magnitude that doesn’t feel the effects of
globalization. The Olympics ? The football World Cup ? Neither respond
positively to my question. Then there’s the Indy 500, NBA playoffs…….the mere
rate for commercials during the Superbowl interval also rules that contest out.
More than ever, I feel, we need a new hero. A couple of three wouldn’t go
amiss; in fact that would be even better. A market exists right now for people
we all want to believe in, especially so we can begin to diminish this drug
culture that has besieged the sport; one that has created largely fictitious
within the minds of many that all cyclists are doped . Another race like 2003
would suit me just me fine; something to make even the most dormant of organs
within my lanky body take note of what a fine sport this is.
I read a post on a Message Board recently. The author declared his fears that
2007 will represent one of the tedious Tours for decades, citing the
unadventurous nature of those touted for glory as the crux of his views. My
arguments against his opinion were simple. I advised him to watch the 2002 race
again, whilst at the same time informing him that watching those four-hour long
DVD box sets of that Tour would be on a par to me saying things three times.
Three times. Thr………….Armstrong had never been so untouchable, even that first
Time Trial ’defeat’ wouldn’t have given hope to the most ardent of Lance -
cynics. Never had France slept so much during July.
My love for this sport stemmed out the Prutour, Britain’s national tour,
passing within minutes of my house in 1998. Before then, soccer claimed my
uninterrupted attention. The race, along with my grandparents’ love for cycling,
got me hooked on this, a fringe sport in the UK. Perhaps this is why I couldn’t
relate to any ‘local’ hero at all.
Back then we had that Boardman, who was falling off if he wasn’t winning a
prologue in some French race. Max Sciandri was seeing out his career at La
Francaise de Jeux and Jez Hunt was out of place as a sprinter in a team obsessed
with la Vuelta and any hill over 1,000 metres high.
Today, I am truly excited by the amount of Brits starting this weekend’s
Prologue. I place myself in the shoes of that small child, bemused by the
location and even more baffled by what is escalating around him. Imagine if
Wiggins wins on Saturday, then Cavendish sprints home to victory in Canterbury
the following afternoon. Hopes and visions for the children of the future could
be captured in minutes of men on bikes.
I want to grow up in a country where putting on a Maillot Jaune is as
exhilarating as wearing the latest LA Lakers vest or Yankee’s cap.. I see
England as a microcosm for cycling - we are crying out for someone to bring the
sport back to the masses, as well as making them believe in the sport. I look at
the work of the Astana team, particularly Messers Vinokourov and Kaschechkin,
and what they have done for cycling in their native Kazakhstan. I may have
suspicions over the formers’ link to Dr. Ferrari; even so the four cyclists I
have mentioned in the last six sentences were my second argument why I am
enthralled already by this contest. The potential fight between teammates and
possible British success on home soil were my reasons for the defense.
With each passing day, I am struggling to contain my fervour for le Tour de
France. The impending visit to London then through my hometown only adds to this
- since temporary road signs warning of the race’s visit to the Medway towns (40
kilometres into Sunday’s stage) were installed on the routes’ trails three weeks
ago, I have been like a child waiting for Christmas. Roll on Saturday. Let's
hope it's as memorable as previous London visits - and also without any overcast
feel to it.
* If you've got even more time, please visit my Daily Peloton Tour de France
blog. All being well it should be updated everyday, and it should supplement any
of my articles that the Ed puts online here for you to read.