As with any good love story, I can't quite recall the actual day that I fell in love. But isn't that what love does to us? It sweeps us off our feet in a whirlwind, leaving us wondering if we can ever get enough. I do recall it was somewhere between July 3-25, 1999. It was the 86th Tour de France, when I fell in love with the race and a couple hundred men.
Cycling (not biking- that's what dudes in leather on motorcycles do) has always been a passion for my husband. So naturally his love for the sport, slowly began to wear off on me. That particular summer in July, the media caught hold of an American that was making a name for himself in the European dominated Tour. We all know now, that American was none other than, Lance Armstrong. Now a common household name, a World Champion 7 years straight and to me a personal hero, a beacon for hope in the fight against cancer.
I am still unsure as to how I got caught up in this whole Tour de France frenzy, that every July leaves me glued to my television at the crack of dawn (live coverage on Vs). Worried I am going to miss something major, so I better not venture out of the house until the stage has ended. The nervous feelings I still get, everyday watching this group of men battling unthinkable conditions with their bodies and a bicycle between their legs. Their bodies pay a price, no matter the weather conditions, they are on their saddles. Typically for 20 days and over 2,000 miles. Mountain climbs, sprints, time trials, and only two days of rest thrown in.
No other sport can compare.
It's not only the physical endurance that left me wanting more. It was the excitement of a break away from the peloton, wondering how far they would make it, before they were swallowed up once again by the group. Or watching a newcomer just hesitate in one moment, second guessing himself, that cost him a stage win. Even those moments where there are scary crashes and seeing the sportsmanship come out of that same man's fiercest competitor, when he gets off his bike to see if the man who just crashed was ok. They both hop back on their saddles and race up a few thousand feet in elevation to the finish line. What a rush.
I know I fell in love because it's the rawest display of human endurance, admiration, respect, and passion I have ever witnessed. I just wish the country I call home new what a beautiful thing cycling is.
This year there are 4 Americans racing in the Tour de France, one of which is my favorite, George Hincapie who has entered the Tour every year since 1996, Christian Vandevelde, Danny Pate, and up and comer William Frischkorn.
I cried on July 25, 1999, the day Lance Armstrong stood at the top of the podium, wearing a yellow jersey in Paris. Here's the shortest clip I could find paying tribute to his amazing Tour de France seven year streak:
If you get a chance, tune into the Tour, take a peek into what all the excitement is all about.