By Dave Shields
Have you ever seen Monster’s Inc.? It’s the story of
a world fueled by children’s screams. The most revered citizens are hobgoblins
who can frighten the fuzz off a peach without hardly trying. They might be nice
guys otherwise, but they get paid to terrify the helpless, and they are damn
good at it.
Well, welcome to a world that’s fueled by pain.
Cycling fanatics thrive on the stuff, and this year’s version of the Tour de
France couldn’t possibly have delivered a bigger dose. The pace has been
staggering from day one, and it’s never relented.
Each bump in the road remotely capable of facilitating a meaningful attack has
been used by one man or another.
Basso, Ullrich, Rasmussen, Zabriskie, Vinukorov, Voight,
Valverde, Kloden, and others have put the hurt on Armstrong in whichever way
In return he hurt them back. After all, what are friends for?
After racing like we’ve been witnessing, how do these men
drag themselves from bed the next morning in order to do it again?
I’ve never seen more heroic performances in one sporting event than in this
year’s race. Each one of these guys have earned my immense respect. Only a
minute fraction of humanity has ever been capable of enduring what we’ve just
watched these athletes go through (and they aren’t done yet).
Some have argued that this year’s version of the race
around France lacked the drama they’d hoped for. On a macro scale that’s true.
If your interest begins and ends with who wins yellow then the various methods
Armstrong used to subdue his rivals sapped all the drama from the race in the
If you wanted him to win, there was little need to chew your fingernails to the
quick. If you wanted to see him lose, his show of dominance was a big
disappointment. In fact, his few shaky looking moments turned out to be
brilliant tactical hesitations.
Hopefully you took a deeper look, savoring the individual
moments. We saw bold tactics fail spectacularly, and risky maneuvers pay off big
time. Those who love the strategic side of cycling were dealt a mind-boggling
There are still a couple of stages to go and while we’re
unlikely to see Armstrong’s position in yellow threatened, we’re going to see
all sorts of drama. There’s a green jersey to be decided, team competition,
final GC spots, stage wins, and of course the fight will heat up for the
If these stages are anything like the eighteen that have come before there are
going to be some fireworks at the finish line. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Which reminds me of one other point:
In Monster’s Inc., the characters eventually discovered that laughter is
a better power source than screams. So, what power source can replace watching
these competitors fight through so much pain?
May I prescribe a great big dose of cycling literature washed down with frequent
rides. Just what the doctor ordered. Rubber side down!
Dave Shields is the
author of Amazon’s #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. To learn more or purchase the novel go
Editors note: David has
been busy working on his follow up novel to the successful "The Race." Scheduled
for publication in Spring of 2006. Get a taste of the continuing action as the
young Utah native Ben Barnes continues his adventures in le Tour.
Read chapter one of
Dave’s upcoming sequel to The Race:
"Its a cruel sport, the only way to win is to stay ahead of the