Today I was talking with several people regarding this year’s Tour de France.
I was met with varying responses ranging anywhere from “oh my gosh what a great Tour ” to ” wow, I didn’t even realize it had already started ” .
This lead me to ponder whether or not the American cycling public had lost it’s love for what is widely considered to be the greatest cycling even in the world. Throughout the remainder of the day I tried to wrap my head around the situation, this was a big change since the days of one Mr. Armstrong. In those days people would come into the store just to see if we had the t.v. tuned to the Tour and without hesitation would ask, “how’s Lance doing today” ?
It then came to me , was our fascination with this great race based solely on one man? Could it be that we cared little about the actual race but about the man who had stood up to all the scrutiny and adversity that the cycling world had to offer and came out victorious ? We Americans always love an underdog . Even after winning multiple Tours did we need to look at Lance as the underdog so we could maintain our level of interest ?
A couple years after winning his record setting Tours and retiring I saw a Tour without Lance start to lose it’s allure to many Americans . Lance’s former team, Team Discovery was still alive but without their world beating leader they simply weren’t the same without Lance.
But alas , we were given two more heroes to place our hopes upon only to see them fall from grace and leave us wondering ; is this the end for American teams in the Tour? What will be our reasons to watch without a dominant American rider and team to route for ?
Not so fast ! An old friend of ours came roaring back. The once world dominant Team Discovery came roaring back into view . There were many new faces but many of the old warriors were still there and pulling for a win. Along come Alberto and Levi , these gents made it possible for many a fair weather Tour fan to get involved again . Many people forgot that Alberto Contador isn’t even an American cyclist, they embraced him like one of their own no less . We were rewarded by a Tour victory and a 3rd place finish ! Hooray right?
Just when things were getting back to normal for American cycling fans the unthinkable happened, Team Discovery was gone . With sponsorship issues abundant the team directors decided to call it quits. What would happen to Levi, Alberto and George ? Who will we pull for now ?
Our questions were quickly answered in the form of Team Astana. Astana had deep roots in the Tour but had been tarnished the prior year when members of their team were kicked out of the Tour and banned for their infractions. So with a new group of riders making up Team Astana they would be allowed to race in the 2008 Tour right? Once again we were met with sour news, based on their findings from 2007 the Tour Organizers decided not to allow the new Astana to race. Many pleas were made including websites and petitions set up just to show the public’s backing of our heroes. It was not to be however, this year’s tour would be sans Astana.
Once again , I heard friends and customers asking what the point was in watching this years Tour ?
This was my answer. I said why not watch the greatest organized sports event on Earth for what it really is , beautiful. It is beautiful in it’s awe inspiring scenery , it’s history and most of all the human side . 200 men from all around the globe come together in what is generally thought to be the most grueling test of stamina and willpower known in the sporting world . You will witness incredible feats of human endurance and strength . You will see what an immense undertaking the tour is from an aspect of getting thousands of people going in the right direction to create a spectacle that us non-superhuman types can enjoy watching and talking about. You will witness incredible acts of unselfishness and good sportsmanship , few athletes go more unrecognized than a Tour winning domestique. The colors, the sounds, the technology. I could go on….
For me the Tour has been what it’s always been , three of my favorite weeks of the summer. Watching the Tour makes me want to ride. It makes me want to talk more about this great sport we are part of. It makes me cheer even when some rider I’ve never heard goes out in front for 100 miles alone and brings home the victory regardless of what the howling pack trying to catch him does.
Lance is gone from the Tour but will never be forgotten , I wear my Livestrong bracelet everyday to remind me of what he has done for so many people and what he continues to do for this sport.
I watch every day wondering if we will ever see another American cyclist like Lance . I watch every day to see if “Big George” can win another stage or bring home another champion. I watch every day to see the likes of Christian Vande Velde can bring another yellow jersey home or if Cadel will finally win one. I watch every day to watch people doing what I have always loved to do since I was 3….Ride my bike.
Is the Tour a bore? Hell no.
Ride On !