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July 20, 2002

Le Tour While most of

Le Tour

While most of the sporting world has its collective eye focused on the British Open, I find myself grossly uninterested in the whole affair.

I play some golf. (Quite poorly, I might add. BigWig is better than me. For that matter, so is WoundWort. I suspect that Fiver is better than me too, but I can't recall if we've ever played together. We probably have, and since there are very few people that I've ever beaten at golf, we'll assume that he is better than I. Actually, the only person that I can say I've beaten at golf without having to stop and think about it is my father. He stinks at golf. That is to be expected though, given that he is 67 years old, has back, knee, and hip problems, played his first game at age 64, and uses his 1 wood for driving, pitching, putting, and spreading mayonnaise on his sandwiches. To give you a better idea of how poorly I play golf, even he has beaten me on at least one occasion. I suck. But I enjoy the game.) I usually have at least passing interest in the four Majors. I am a fan of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Davis Love III. I am pulling for Tiger to win golf's mythical Grand Slam. But I find that I am annoyed by all the media coverage of the event. I have visited CNNSI and ESPN several times a day for the past week and the BO is usually the top story and IT'S PISSING ME OFF!

I am not visiting to read about the Open. I want to know just what the hell happened today in the Tour de France!

I love this event. I am obsessed with it. I get up in the morning and check for updates before I get in the shower. I arrive at work, boot my computer, fire up my browser and check for updates. I take my mid-morning sabatical to the men's room around 10:30 a.m., come back and check for updates. I go to lunch, come back and check for updates. And again after my mid-afternoon sabatical. And again when I get home from work and...You get the picture.

My enthusiasm for the event has mirrored the rise of Lance Armstrong's dominance of it. (If there wasn't an American in contention, I probably wouldn't follow it. In that respect I am typically American. We don't follow a sport that we aren't expected to win. See: World Cup)

The Tour first drew my attention in 1999 when Lance came back from battling testicular cancer (Beavis interlude: "He said 'testicular'. He. Hehehe. Hehehe." Whereas my brother channels Zod, I channel Beavis, Butthead, and a slew of other cartoon characters. More on that later.) to win his first tour. I didn't follow the actual race, but the whole thing made a good story and I was glad that an American won.

I probably followed a little more closely in 2000. I watched a few minutes of the race if I saw it on TV while I was flipping channels. I would get the update on the leaders and then turn the channel. I read the articles in the Sports pages if they caught my eye. I was pulling for a repeat Armstrong victory. Lance won again and I was well pleased.

Last year I really started to get serious about it. There was a lot more television coverage and I would find myself watching entire stages of the race. I found out what the word "peloton" meant. I already knew that the overall leader wore a yellow jersey, but I didn't know that there were white jerseys (Best Young Rider) and green jerseys (Most Points) and even a polka dot jersey (Best Climber). I found that out too. Lance won again. Lance is the man.

And now it's 2002. And I'm obsessed with the Tour de France. Unfortunately, the vertical scan in my television ceased to be during a thunderstorm a few weeks ago and I'm too cheap to get a new telly or to get the old one repaired, so I can't watch the Tour on TV. But I CAN listen to it. And I do. I listen while I surf the Internet looking for stories that talk of Armstrong's invincibility. (I eat stuff like that up. It's hero worship in it's basest form.) I watch the video. I listen to the audio. I get my tour fix every few hours and I spend the days of rest between stages in very restless fashion indeed.

There was some early talk that Lance was over the hill. Lance won the prologue but lost some time due to an accident and then lost in a time-trial for the first time in a goodly while. (Didn't even know what a time-trial was a few years ago. I naively thought that all the stages were time-trials. I mean, you raced to beat the clock, right? Guess not.) I began to listen to the talk. Maybe Lance is over the hill. Maybe he hasn't got enough juice to win again. Maybe he slacked off on his training a bit. Maybe we'll lose this year! Oh my God! It'll be just like losing the America's Cup! Oh, the horror! Oh, the shame! Oh, the humanity!

But then we got to the mountains and all is well in the world again. Lance won the first two mountain stages going away, with much help from his U.S. Postal Service teammates, and it appears to be mostly downhill from here, notwithstanding the several remaining mountain climbs. Lanced finished 30th in today's stage but it's all part of his master plan to win in the end so I am unconcerned.

If Armstrong wins the Tour this year, it will be his fourth and he will become part of a very select crowd. Only four men will have won more Tours and only three men have ever won four in a row. He will leave behind fellow American Greg Lemond, who won three tours between 1986 and 1990. No other American has ever won the Tour de France. If Lance wins this year, he'll have a chance next year to do something only one man has ever done: win 5 tours consecutively.

Thankfully, I'll be on vacation this week, the last week of the tour. I'll be at the beach with my whole family: mom, dad, brothers, sister, nephew and niece. The house in which we are staying has a working television, or did the last time we were there. When my family packs up for the day and trundles out to the beach to play in the ocean and soak up the rays, I know where I'll be: on the sofa watching Lance climb the mountains into history.

Posted by Kehaar at July 20, 2002 01:45 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
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