Road rash! Drama! Really tight pants! Viva le Tour!

It's the Super Bowl of bone-crunching, gut-wrenching human endeavor, the one sporting event I can't keep my eyes off every year. High drama at hot speed, tight corners in tight britches, gorgeous spectators in haut couture and crazy Fellini cast costumes. The Tour de France kicks off in Monaco tomorrow. A quick overview of the grueling three-week course:


The Gare Bear was big into bike racing when I met him (back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, but I still remember that bike-racing backside with wistful fondness as we work the daily crossword puzzle...) Decades later, I did a book that required extensive research on le Tour. Gary and I did a long driving trip through France, caught a couple of the mountain legs of the race, and got completely swept up in the history and drama of this amazing event.

Rather than my own ugly American paraphrase, here's l'histoire du Tour in quaint French-to-English from the Tour de France web site:
The line between insanity and genius is said to be a fine one, and in early 20th century France, anyone envisaging a near-2,500-km-long cycle race across the country would have been widely viewed as unhinged. But that didn’t stop Géo Lefèvre, a journalist with L’Auto magazine at the time, from proceeding with his inspired plan. His editor, Henri Desgrange, was bold enough to believe in the idea and to throw his backing behind the Tour de France. And so it was that, on 1 July 1903, sixty pioneers set out on their bicycles from Montgeron. After six mammoth stages (Nantes - Paris, 471 km!), only 21 “routiers”, led by Maurice Garin, arrived at the end of this first epic.

Having provoked a mixture of astonishment and admiration, le Tour soon won over the sporting public and the roadside crowds swelled. The French people took to their hearts this unusual event which placed their towns, their countryside and, since 1910, even their mountains, in the spotlight.

Le Tour has always moved with the times. Like France as a whole, it benefited from the introduction of paid holidays from 1936; it has lived through wars, and then savoured the “trente glorieuses” period of economic prosperity while enjoying the heydays of Coppi, Bobet, Anquetil and Poulidor; it has opened itself up to foreign countries with the onset of globalisation, and now finds itself at the forefront of the debate on the malaise afflicting world sport in general. Over a hundred years after its inception, le Tour continues to gain strength from its experience.

Comments

Amy P said…
Go Team Astana! It's so good to have Phil and Paul's voices in the house again. They are hands down the best announcers in all of sports.

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