July, despite the heat, has always been my very favorite month of the year. When I was a youngster, it was the month we decorated our bikes for the annual Bike Regatta. The child with the best decorated bike won, which was never me, still, it was a fun thing to do. As I grew up, I lost my fondness for bikes. After all, I lived in the Motor City, and once you're of a certain age here, it's a given that a love affair with bicycles will give way to one for cars.
All of this doesn't explain my inexplicable adoration of the sport of cycling and Le Tour de France. Perhaps there is a genetic cause; something passed down from my Belgian cycling grandfather, Leon. My mother said that back in the day, before he emigrated to the States, he'd actually cycled in Le Tour. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that he did love cycling. I was just a youngster when he passed, so I never got the opportunity to question him about his youth and his passions for pigeon and bike races.
As for Le Tour, it has everything a person could want in a sport:
- Incredible physical feats of accomplishment as men cycle about 2,200 miles in 3 weeks. Some tours have exceeded this with one, in 1926, that was 3,570 miles long. Whew. That must have been especially grueling!
- Intrigue, especially with the ever changing team compositions from year to year and the constant doping accusations.
- Men who look good in spandex.
- Strategies galore.
- The best scenery in any sport. Don't believe me? Check it out as cyclists spend hours flying past enormous fields of lavender and sunflowers, or agonize during steep mountain ascents with breathtaking (literally) vistas. I'm quite certain while descending the mountains, the cyclists see nothing except the road beneath them. Descents are so fast and rather hairy.
- Men in spandex.
- Nobody in the crowd seems to have a vuvuzela. Thank God.
- It's a sport where one can win without winning. There are several winning categories, each with their own jersey color: white belongs to the best young rider, green goes to the best sprinter, the white with red polka dot jersey goes to the best climber, and the maillot jaune, or yellow jersey, belongs to the overall leader who has the best time. Right now, it's on Australian, Cadel Evans. He deserves it, though he best watch out for my favorite, Andy Schleck, who was amazing on the mountain today.
- Colorful announcers like Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett. In my mind, they're the best pairing of sports announcers ever.
- Men in spandex.
So you see, it's an interesting sport that one becomes easily attached to watching. I'm sorry I was traveling and forgot to record the first few days. I missed the hellish cobblestone race, though I've seen some video. If you feel you can't possibly like this sport, give it a try. Unsure about the rules? Because of course, there are rules, you can find them here. You can find the race, broadcast daily, on Versus. This year it's in HD, and the views are simply spectacular.
I'm hoping to make it to the finish line with my own yellow sweater by race end.
Photo: From wiki commons of the 2006 Tour de France.