Friday, July 4, 2008

Tour de France 2008: Building A Rainbow

Dedicated to the late, great Tim Russert, who somehow managed to give his family and friends a brilliant double rainbow that spanned our nation's capital directly after his memorial service, while they were playing Over The Rainbow no less.

I was putting away some old Tour memorabilia the other day, and rather ironically uncovered a groovy poster I have from the '70s, Building a Rainbow (not a great representation, but you get the idea). It's a depiction of a construction site, where thousands of little workers are, naturally, building a rainbow. It's full of social commentary - workers dying, fighting, unionizing, being kept separate from Management. As we approach this year's Tour de France, I think the statement of that poster matches the spectacle that takes place each July. The Tour is a grand, beautiful thing, but underneath/behind/all around there is strife and pain and the struggle for fairness and justice.

I'm going to try very hard to concentrate on the beauty these next three weeks. Not to ignore or bury the difficulties, but to not wallow and despair. Another big scandal seems unimaginable, but it did last year, too, and look how that turned out. Whatever happens, things are moving in the right direction so with any luck it won't be something big enough to put the whole sport at risk.

I can't get myself excited about the big favorites, but maybe they'll show me something as the race goes along to endear themselves. The fact that Alejandro Valverde skated clean from Puerto still rankles, but I have some vague hope that his subsequent fall from form indicated some kind of cold turkey and now he's the real deal. (Remember, trying to stay positive!) Cadel Evans - well, Joe Lindsey hit that one on the head, Tubbs needs a personality transplant to find his way into my heart. Oops, positive, hmmm, well he's attacked a couple of times this season, good on 'im.

The guys I'm really looking forward to will be stage hunters and road captains. George Hincapie, guiding his Team Columbia as he has so well all season long, and hopefully getting himself a stage along the way. Christian Vande Velde and David Millar, also leading their young team Garmin-Chipotle, in great form, in great spirits, and looking to leave a serious mark on the race. Jens Voigt and Fabian Cancellara, with their boundless enthusiasm and thrilling killer instinct. Stuart O'Grady, tough as nails. Andy and Frank Schleck - I'm a sucker for a cute brother story, bonus - they can ride the heck out of their bikes, and either one could be a contender. Thor Hushovd, the gentle giant.

And Danny Pate. I get misty-eyed just thinking about him in the Tour, what a story. I'd give a link to one of the recent mentions of his journey, but the Garmin-Chipotle boys have given approximately 5,000 interviews in the past week, so I wouldn't know where to begin. The short of it is he is a great talent, but made his career in the States because of the rampant doping overseas. Jonathan Vaughters talks with great emotion about finally getting Pate where he always belonged - racing with the best in the Big Show.

Garmin-Chipotle unveiled the new kit. I don't know that the argyle needs to be that subtle, but it's still there, so that's good. Biting my tongue about the white shorts. Must. Stay. Positive. Pray for sun, boys, that's all I'm sayin'. I loved the packing list they gave on the team site, I'm so glad they're sponsored by Clif Bar. I literally do not know what I would do without Clif products - I have a Luna Bar for lunch every day, Clif Bars and Shots and Bloks are my staples on rides and hikes, I would be lost without them!

VeloNewsTV has already got me staying up late to keep up - next week will be impossible! Delight once again in the smooth (and endearingly convoluted) stylings of Neal Rogers. How sad it is that he has no Dave Zabriskie nor Chris Horner this year, but I'm sure he'll still have plenty of fun content for us. That was good stuff in Girona, riding with the big boys (and Christian's wife, love that).

As the doping cases go on in the courts, as the alphabet soups snipe at each other, I still can't wait for Saturday. The past couple of days, whenever that "The Tour starts on Saturday!" flash crosses my mind, I smile and tear up. If I can dare to dip into the soup and quote Patrice Clerc, "A chapter can never be more important than its book." He was talking about Lance, but could just as well have been talking about the current difficulties. For whatever the chatter is, whatever comes up, there will be racing. There will be teamwork and sporting gestures and heartfelt wins and near misses and newspapers up the jumpers and idiot fans getting in the way and laughter and shenanigans and tears and pain and annoying commentary and water-bottle humpbacks and colors and sun and flowers and speed and grace and suffering and effort, supreme effort. Nowhere else I want to be.

I was giving my bikes a thorough wash and lube today, imagining all those team mechanics across the sea doing the same on a much grander scale - more bikes, greater love and devotion, and bigger butterflies in their stomachs. I'm ready to ride and ready to watch. Go get 'em JV.

1 comment:

Nikki said...

Hey Julie!
Can't wait for Saturday! So happy you're writing more again. :-) Looking forward to fun chatter with you over the next few weeks. Good stuff!

And with the new kit... oh my... did we not stress the requirement for dark bottoms enough? I do think the tops look sharp though. I'm wondering if the lighter color is to aid in trying to stay a little cooler in that hot sun?

Is it Saturday yet? Tee hee! Let the fun begin!