Friday, July 3, 2009

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...

I love cycling.

Riding a bike is the ultimate rugged individuality for a liberal hermit. You go from point A to to point B on your own power, and on your own terms. Good for lungs, heart, legs, soul. And you save on tolls.

I love badasses.
Lance, Greg, Jan, Carlos, Miguel..... But especially Lance. And George Hincapie. The Tour is the most difficult endurance sporting event known to man. What these guys go through during 21 stages, 3500 kilometers, in a little over three weeks, is unfathomably, um, sweaty. And they get to eat a lot. And there's brinksmanship with the tactics, and they ride over cobblestones at like 25 mph, and I don't know how long a kilometer is compared to a mile, and the lieutenants exhaust themselves for the team leader in the mountain stages, so that bit by bit, the leaders are stripped away to the last man, who either has the petrol in the tank to claim the summit first, or he doesn't.

Lance has won seven of these mothers, all in a row. During that time, he trained all year exclusively for the Tour, and beat everyone into submission. Normally, I have an issue with Texans, but for Lance I make an exception. By his own admission, not the most talented rider in the peleton, but by God he worked the hardest and he wanted it the most. Add the king of directeurs sportifs, Johann Brunyeel, to that font of desire, and you get the best cycling drama out there.


The Tour is long, and has something for everyone -- the General Classification (overall winner, Yellow Jersey), the King of the Mountain competition (Polkadot Jersey), the Sprinter competition (Green Jersey), the Best Young Rider (White Jersey), even the guy who's Dead Freakin' Last has a special place in Tour lore -- he's called the Lanterne Rouge, or the Red Lantern, a pro cyclist caboose.

Lance on the Tourmalet, Greg LeMond's win in 1989, when he rode the fastest time-trial ever to steal the Tour from Frenchman Laurent Fignon on the streets of Paris, Lance winning a stage after the death of his Motorola teammate Fabio Casartelli, LeMond humbling his French mentor, dubbed "The Badger," on the way to the first American TDF win in '86, Lance on the Ventoux, George Hincapie winning his first mountain stage after serving the glory of others for so long, Lance on L'Alpe D'Huez, Thomas Voekler electrifying all of France by staying in yellow for ten days in 2004, just for the sheer Frenchness of it all.


The spandex-bespecacled peloton, flying
through medieval towns with sunflowers and lavender their permanent spectators. It's gorgeous. And the circus in the mountains. Check out the Basques in the Pyrenees and the costumed fans who wait hours just to sprint alongside their favorites for a few precious seconds in July. Good stuff. Don't forget the team time trials, and the legendary "Blue Train" of Lance's former Postal Service squad.


There are no New York Yankees in the Tour de France.

My grandma became a fan when I helped her move in July of 2004 and we took breaks by watching the Tour.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen -- there's something really great about two elegant Brits dissecting the Tour and its myriad inner tales. There are no better cycling commentators on the planet. Add class clown Bob Roll, and it's a trifecta.

Robin Williams is a huge fan, and used to travel with Lance's entourage, calling him "Brother Armstrong." I like that.

My sister was a Category 2 racer once (nearly pro!). She still rides, and is also into trail running now

In 1999 or 2000, after Lance won, I stapled a Postal Service envelope over the top tube of my bike, and rode a victory lap in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle makers before they were aviators.

Stage racing combines teamwork and individual effort, like no other sport I know.

The Tour is an international competition that happens every year, unlike the World Cup and the Olympics.

Queen never wrote a song about freakin' NASCAR.... I'm just sayin'


  1. I liked this entry a lot. FYI, I forwarded it Michael Green who runs Bike Blog NYC, and I hope/expect him to at least mention it on his blog.

  2. Cool! Thanks Jake--glad you liked it.