Címon Newbies! Flip on the Tube!
By David Shields
What a stage! If today is any indication, weíre in for an
incredible bicycle race. The relentless attacks on the final climb knocked
Discovery off their feet. A combination of tactical mistakes exposed weaknesses
in Armstrongís team, something we donít often see. Armstrong found himself
totally isolated for the last half of the final climb. To his credit, he limited
his losses, dropping important time only to T-Mobileís Andreas Kloden.
But still, Armstrong suffered significant damage. Referring
to his teammates he said afterwards, ďWe have some talking to do tonight.Ē They
canít be happy about hearing those sorts of words, but Lance wasnít happy
No wonder. Today it was as if his cloak of invincibility
had been stolen.
Newcomers are often stunned to discover how critical the mental aspect of
cycling is. The sport might even be more mental than physical.
Winning requires supreme confidence. These guys ask inconceivable things of
their bodies, willing their minds to ignore excruciating pain. Itís impossible
to invest that extra increment of suffering if youíre convinced you canít
ultimately gain anything for it.
For fans, tiny gestures and expressions can provide a window into the battles
raging between an athleteís ears. Even through gritted teeth, you can sense
small victories as well. If you watch closely, you just might learn something
Tonight there are a lot more cyclists seeing reason for
hope than there were just twenty-four hours ago. T-Mobile and CSC look
particularly strong, but there are a number of cyclists from lesser teams who
stand to benefit from this mÍlťe as well. As a fan, it is a very exciting
development. Each year we build up to the tour hearing tough talk from various
yellow jersey hopefuls, but seldom does anybody not named Lance Armstrong back
those words up.
Because I spend so much time these days speaking to groups
who donít understand cycling well, my focus is on introducing new fans to the
sport. Iím amazed how often people tell me that they watched the stage into
Paris and couldnít figure out what all the fuss was about.
That would be akin to watching only the San Antonio Spurs victory parade and
then wondering why Texanís are so crazy about tall guys. Iím begging you, tune
in now! Watch the last half hour of one of these mountain stages, and then tell
me what you think. Donít be surprised if you find yourself tuning in a bit
earlier on the next day, and a bit earlier on the day after that.
Dave Shields is the author of Amazonís #1 Selling Sports
Novel, The Race. In June the book became the first sports themed novel ever to
win the Ben Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Fiction. See more at