28 July 2007

Why I must still like the Tour

I like the Tour de France for the cycling, the struggle and the determination of the racers. I’ve always like that; it was a family passion I shared with my dad during many summers. My father never even owned a bike—not sure he could ride one—well he could because in his only riding story from childhood he saw this elderly woman dressed in black at the bottom of a hill and when he began his decent said rather fatalistically: “I’m afraid I might run her over!” And he did, without any serious consequences, thank god, and as he claimed in his typical honourable manner: “Believe me when I say I never meant for that to happen.” Other than that he never owned a bike.

But summers without the Tour for us just would’ve been the same. Here in Spain we planned our lunch – and we have big lunches here – and even our siesta strictly around the Tour (well, except in the very flat stages where we could take a nap here and there without anything happening in the pelotón; heck, if they could rest why couldn’t we?) And so like my father I liked the Tour before I liked cycling. This is true. I didn’t know what a brand-name was and didn’t care whether someone rode an Orbea or a Cannondale or a Bianchi, or why they used culottes, gloves or energy drinks. I just loved those guys giving it their all, I thought. Who couldn’t respect guys like Mercx, Indurain or Armstrong defending those jerseys year after year. And who couldn’t just love some unknown cyclist giving those boys hell climbing the Pyrenees?

We were naïve I guess. We never gave much thought to doping or cheating or all the money that has eventually ruined the sport. Isn’t money the only “legal” drug that ruins all? Still, as disappointed as I am, I must still like the Tour. It’s like that member of the family that has gone astray; I’d like to take him back, you know, despite his errors and imperfections. If anything, I must like the Tour as mere payback for those lovely summer afternoons with dad. And in case this goes wrong, we still have the Vuelta! www.cyclingnews.com presents the 94th Tour de France

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