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I got bored and wrote a Tour story--my gift to you all(8 posts)

I got bored and wrote a Tour story--my gift to you allteoteoteo
Feb 7, 2003 3:03 PM
Hello all..being a shut-in today I decided to dabble in a little writing--Something I do from time to time. Below is a part fiction and part real experience from my trips to the TdF. It's a very rough cut right now and in need of some big edits but I wanted to turn loose to some people that may enjoy it. After all what good will it do stored on my hard drive....

In the world of cycling there is no more mystic place than July in France. The routine of an entire country revolves around sport in the form of the Tour. From the free daily papers to saturation of TV coverage the whole country is immersed—or at least it seems.
In the neighborhood bars men gather for a Pastis—a tradition summer afternoon drink. They watch the goings on and talk of racing or everyday life even. In the smaller towns there may be only one such bar but in Paris this scene is repeated every few blocks. You stroll in a stranger and draw long stares—you are an Américain after all and this is their bar.
Like the Patrones of the peloton nothing slips by their watchful eye. As you order the Kronenbourg biere (beer) you hope for the best. Wanting to blend you sip and the conversation begins anew with the Patrones, only occasionally throwing a glance your direction. Outside this place is a city or town with no connection, but inside the confines the bar aided by cathode ray tube and a beer, you take comfort.
Soon your journey continues and you leave Paris for the race itself. Perhaps to intercept the race in the Alp or the Pyrenees, from the Gare du Nord train station you board the TGV high-speed train or you navigate the Parisian traffic bound for the A7 Autoroute in a rental.
The morning sun will rise over Les-Deux Alpes and as you stroll to breakfast the moment begins to sink in. Over coffee and Pain Chocolat you stare out the window in the direction of the vaunted Alpe d'Huez. The wanderlust soon will be reality as LeTour is finally upon you. Traveling along the N91 the bike will deliver you to the base Alpe d'Huez and the town of Le Bourg-d Oisans.
Everywhere you turn cyclists. In all shapes, sizes and ages. Bourg-d Oisans is alive and you spot a cycle shop with a line out the door. People taking home a piece of the trip for those less fortunate—yes, the friends left behind and watching at home. Soaking the warmth of the sun you press on through throngs of fans. Families of all nationalities display a deep sense of tradition.
As you stop for a photo a polite Belgian grandfather offers to snap a photo of you beside the sign showing 21 switchbacks that wait. His English is good and in a light moment that passes he introduces you to his grandson and family.
They carry backpacks filled with blankets and provisions for a picnic. Some wine and gruyere cheese, a baguette with perhaps some jambon (ham). Grandfather hints of a Miko ice cream bar for the little one if he behaves. The ice cream man's truck will call to the stranded masses on the mountain later in the day. As he hands back your camera the L'Equipe Newspaper slips from under his left arm.
Though French is not his first language he knows the coverage us unrivaled. Under a shaded tree he'll know who wants to beat Mr. Armstrong to the top of the mountain and how they will try to do it.
Coming close to the first switchback the vendors are readying for a busy day. Frites at 9:00 AM? All in a days tour watching for most. Pot bellied men pumping mayo into one corner of the frit tray and ketchup in the other. Up ahead you see Didi Senft posing for pictures. To most he's known as "The Devil" famous for running and pitchfork waving antics.
The full scope of your undertaking is upon you as you peer up the first of the mythical 21 switchbacks. With all the pageantry surrounding you turning the pedals is a gleeful experience. The chapel in the Village of Huez will appear as you climb. The Gen
I hope you didn't type for 5 hours and then get truncated :-) nmDougSloan
Feb 7, 2003 3:41 PM
Maybe I did...but here it is continuedteoteoteo
Feb 7, 2003 4:39 PM
I just pasted out of word

In the world of cycling there is no more mystic place than July in France. The routine of an entire country revolves around sport in the form of the Tour. From the free daily papers to saturation of TV coverage the whole country is immersed—or at least it seems.

In the neighborhood bars men gather for a Pastis—a tradition summer afternoon drink. They watch the goings on and talk of racing or everyday life even. In the smaller towns there may be only one such bar but in Paris this scene is repeated every few blocks. You stroll in a stranger and draw long stares—you are an Américain after all and this is their bar.

Like the Patrones of the peloton nothing slips by their watchful eye. As you order the Kronenbourg biere (beer) you hope for the best. Wanting to blend you sip and the conversation begins anew with the Patrones, only occasionally throwing a glance your direction. Outside this place is a city or town with no connection, but inside the confines the bar aided by cathode ray tube and a beer, you take comfort.

Soon your journey continues and you leave Paris for the race itself. Perhaps to intercept the race in the Alp or the Pyrenees, from the Gare du Nord train station you board the TGV high-speed train or you navigate the Parisian traffic bound for the A7 Autoroute in a rental.

The morning sun will rise over Les-Deux Alpes and as you stroll to breakfast the moment begins to sink in. Over coffee and Pain Chocolat you stare out the window in the direction of the vaunted Alpe d'Huez. The wanderlust soon will be reality as LeTour is finally upon you. Traveling along the N91 the bike will deliver you to the base Alpe d'Huez and the town of Le Bourg-d Oisans.

Everywhere you turn cyclists. In all shapes, sizes and ages. Bourg-d Oisans is alive and you spot a cycle shop with a line out the door. People taking home a piece of the trip for those less fortunate—yes, the friends left behind and watching at home. Soaking the warmth of the sun you press on through throngs of fans. Families of all nationalities display a deep sense of tradition.

As you stop for a photo a polite Belgian grandfather offers to snap a photo of you beside the sign showing 21 switchbacks that wait. His English is good and in a light moment that passes he introduces you to his grandson and family.

They carry backpacks filled with blankets and provisions for a picnic. Some wine and gruyere cheese, a baguette with perhaps some jambon (ham). Grandfather hints of a Miko ice cream bar for the little one if he behaves. The ice cream man's truck will call to the stranded masses on the mountain later in the day. As he hands back your camera the L'Equipe Newspaper slips from under his left arm. Though French is not his first language he knows the coverage us unrivaled. Under a shaded tree he'll know who wants to beat Mr. Armstrong to the top of the mountain and how they will try to do it.

Coming close to the first switchback the vendors are readying for a busy day. Frites at 9:00 AM? All in a days tour watching for most. Pot bellied men pumping mayo into one corner of the frit tray and ketchup in the other. Up ahead you see Didi Senft posing for pictures. To most he's known as "The Devil" famous for running and pitchfork waving antics.

The full scope of your undertaking is upon you as you peer up the first of the mythical 21 switchbacks. With all the pageantry surrounding you turning the pedals is a gleeful experience. The chapel in the Village of Huez will appear as you climb. The Gendarmes will stop you and ask you to walk the bike for 100 meters or so just to keep the bikes, pedestrians, and vendors in harmonious coexistence. As you continue your upward journey you feel a twinge in your legs and gain a new respect for what the riders must endure.

Rounding a switchback you hear loud music and singing—you've heard singing already today but this is louder and more spirite
The finaleteoteoteo
Feb 7, 2003 4:42 PM
Rounding a switchback you hear loud music and singing—you've heard singing already today but this is louder and more spirited. As you draw closer the noise reaches a low rumble and into your sight are hundreds of orange jumpsuit clad Dutch fans. As they dance you notice that they are stopping riders and have painted the entire road with their native flag.

As you read "Kroon", "Dekker", and "Rabobank" on the road you wonder what will become of you. As the sea of orange envelops you the cry of Allez Leipheimer comes from your mouth. As you dismount to dance a roar of "Levi is ok, ole, ole" rings in your ears. Back on your bike you are positive the party from last night never ended for these fans.

As you pass on towards the summit you notice how the air has become thinner and sweat that beading on you earlier has now given way to a slight chill. The sense of accomplishment is near as you near the barricades that signal the final kilometers.

Tents are everywhere and fans have already carefully staked their claim to the precious little space available. The closer to the top the more guarded real estate becomes. Stepping away from a choice spot without someone to defend it is sure suicide.

Careful thought and freedom to soak the suns warmer rays carry you a few kilometers down to find a spot to make your own. Maybe you'll see and American encampment to join, or perhaps you spot the friendly Belgian grandfather in his bucket hat. As you people watch and stretch your tired legs lunch feels in order. Perhaps a baguette sandwich and Orangina drink will restore your levels. If you're lucky you can join someone's picnic—sharing is a way of life on the mountain. As the urge to nap overcomes you a shaded spot beckons and only the occasional sound of a promotional newspaper truck passes by. Barking out on their PA that an umbrella and copy of their publication is just what you need.

Waking from the slumber you wander past a group gathered around a TV. It is under a pop-up shade tent erected next to the RV. The race is intact and a few hours out as nobody is willing to risk suicide glory until they reach the Galibier. The afternoon sun continues to trek through the sky and soon the publicity caravan arrives. Part Mardi Gras and part rolling billboards the caravan passes or throws out free trinkets to the captive audience.

The vehicles are imaginative as the crowd you've seen today. Only hours ago a lone man ran past wearing only shorts and shoes carrying a life-sized cut out of Bjarne Riis on a bike. On the TV screen riders have attacked on the Galibier and your ego gets a boost from your earlier intuition.

Choppers are near and the veterans know that the race is coming close. The high hover of the aircraft is perfectly choreographed as they bring the rest of the world the view from above. As you dart back to the TV you see grimaces on the faces of the suicide attackers. Le Train Bleu is hard at work making tempo as they roll past the frite stand you now recognize from this morning.

The :23 lead won't be enough the pace is so torrid Botero is already at the rear of the chase group as he struggles to hold a wheel. Victor Pena peels off on switchback three, Jose Luis Rubiera takes his place and the attackers are swallowed and then spit out. Soon others are in trouble and it's up to Lance to deliver.

You can hear the roar of the mountain below and the choppers are closer. They have passed Huez and the Dutchies below. Your adrenal glands are on overload and the roar envelops the road. Gendarmes on motorcycles blow past and the red commissaires car with Jean-Marie Leblanc is in sight. The air overhead swirls from rotorwash and an armada of motorbikes and cameras appear. Between them you catch the glimpses of jerseys and Lance is there, Heras too!

The noise level is deafening and as the select group of riders goes past Lance springs from his saddle. You find and extra bit of stren
On second thought maybe notteoteoteo
Feb 7, 2003 4:43 PM
The noise level is deafening and as the select group of riders goes past Lance springs from his saddle. You find and extra bit of strength in your voice to add the last bit of encouragement—you don't know where it came from but is was there. Is this the attack that will cripple them all? Did you witness the moment that will spring him to the podium yet once more?

The roar is coming down and back to the TV you run. Voice gone and ears ringing the adrenalin still pulses through you. Lance has left the bunch and it's obvious he's not going to be caught. Your now your sure the slight twist of Lance's head as he past must have been to the sound of your voice—as much you know it's not true your mind still holds the glimmer of hope. In that thousandth of a second that his eye caught you and that his ear tuned to the familiar sound of a voice from home.

Quickly you're back to the road as pulverized remnants of the Postal blitzkrieg roll past you. From the tops of their handlebars hands are perched and salt encrusted faces contort trying to focus on anything but the reality success that has slipped yet again. You cheer for Rubeira and even in his exhausted state he manages a wink. His earpiece is dangling and all communication with the team is forgotten—his job complete. The autobus will be coming next with the likes of the more horizontally inclined.

The last stragglers are passing and home beckons. The contact high will be with you for hours and your trip back down the mountain takes only minutes. As you weave your way through those on foot the tired once in your legs is gone. The desire to stop and call friends at every payphone is enormous. Back on the N91 you make your way back to the hotel in Les Deux, exhausted but elated sleep will be difficult. 5000 miles away from your bed you've found home.
Picnic sharing at the TdeFms
Feb 8, 2003 9:24 AM
Your comment about sharing food on the mountains brought back a very happy memory of 2002's Stage 17 for me. My family stayed down in Beaufort for the race. I cycled about 2/3 of the way up the climb to the Col des Saises. I had water, a sandwich and two bananas with me. A French family near me had a grill with sausages -- they offered me some and I gave one the kids a banana. During the publicity caravan, I gave all of the loot that came my way to kids. By the end of the day, we were fast friends even though the family spoke very little English and I speak very little French.

If you want to see the race, the best place to see it is on TV. Accounts like yours help to explain why people stand on mountains for hours to see a few seconds of racing. Thanks, for the story.
Spirit of the Mountainteoteoteo
Feb 8, 2003 12:47 PM
Saises is a beautiful spot, I rode the climb on my way to Annecy. I remember the lush green and all the cows in the road impeding my progress only caring to give me a blank stare. The sharing is something I noticed right away and I call it the spirit of the mountain. As fans you share a bond and people around you can become friends--even if only for a day. Just a smile or the look in their eye lets you know you have a friend and the language barrier is easily overcome.

The vast majority of the French are wonderful fans of the sport and can see when you share the passion. I write this with the plan of publishing a book on the Tour from the side of the road. I want people to understand the essence of LeTour. Everyone can deliver race results but I want people to share what is in my heart and know that what happens before the race arrives is what makes the event special.
A bestseller?ms
Feb 8, 2003 6:02 PM
If your pictures and story are any indication of what you are planning, I think that you will have a bestseller, at least with those of us on this board. I have attended the World Series five times (1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1983), Baltimore Colts games in the days when they were a local obsession (have you ever seen the movie Diner?), ACC basketball games at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke (8000 fans who never sit crammed into a 1930s field house) and Big Ten football games at Michigan (105,000+ people in the stadium on almost every football Saturday). But, I never have attended an sporting event like the Tour. It truly is a special event. Good luck with your book.