Tour de France Withdrawal

Normally I don’t watch much TV on a daily basis: Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow are favorites, and then sometimes I get hooked on a new series. But when the Tour de France is on, for three weeks I watch the entire race stage every day — three or four hours. Sunday is the final stage into Paris, with one more competitive sprint around the Champs Elysees but the overall race decided as of end of day on Saturday. By gentlemen’s agreement and longstanding practice, whatever are the race standings on Saturday is the order in which the major contenders ride into Paris.

There is an overall winner of the Tour, the one who wins the yellow jersey and the most money, and a sprint winner — the latter decided on Sunday, the former at end of day on Saturday. I know it’s confusing if you don’t follow the sport. There is also a mountain climbing winner, and a best young rider winner. They all get different colored jerseys.

The Tour this year was very exciting — and despite some major crashes and broken bones there were none of the ghastly injuries that sometimes happen and sideline riders for a long time. Lawson Craddock, the American guy who broke his scapula on the first day of racing finished the Tour — quite astonishing, with such a painful injury. The long climbs up the Alps were grueling as ever, and the lightning fast downhills breathtaking. I always enjoy the view of rural France from the helicopters above the race riders.

I was in Paris in 2010 when the riders came in for the final stage, and it was a real highlight of my life. Always grateful to friend Jane who invited me to Paris, and who came with me at 9:30am to claim our spot. We were glued there as people arrived all day so no one would crowd in front of us. The riders came through at 4:30pm. That’s real friendship, when she doesn’t even follow the sport. 🙂

The Tour is a once a year event, unlike football, for example, which devoted followers can see every weekend from fall into winter and the Super Bowl. Professional cycling is not a high profile sport; I doubt that many of you can even name one of the riders currently at the top of the rankings. How I got to love the Tour so much is a mystery even to me, but there it is.

Until next year….

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