Something was missing, this morning. It started off in the usual routine – grab a Diet Coke, sit down at my desk, check messages. Start the Slingbox client to have today’s stage on in the backgrou . . . oh. Le Tour is over. And I miss it already.
I’m not sure how this happened, me becoming someone who values watching a sports event. I’ve never been much of a spectator – you couldn’t drag me to a football game, baseball games are only enjoyable for the lazing in the sun, and in any event, I’d much rather spend my time doing something than watching it. But something is different, with the Tour.
I ascribe much of it to an ability to identify with the riders. Not that we’ve anything actually in common, of course. Alejandro Pettachi can bump against 50mph on a flat sprint – I’ll be lucky to get much past 30mph. I’m ready to take a day or three off after a hard century ride, but the entire Tour peloton does it for three straight weeks. But there is something there – some familiarity. I do know the fear of high speed mountain descents. The desperate efforts to hang on to the back of the peloton in a race. But there’s something more. And I think Ursula captured it pretty well, over at PodiumCafe:
Sports are so popular because they are a distillation of this courage/suffering struggle. With sports we can sometimes catch a glimpse of this struggle and the attempts to overcome it. But where sports comes up short to often is that we spectators usually only see the final sprint, so to speak. The games of most sports are too short to see the full struggle, the full futility of what the athletes are attempting to do. We only see the glory. True, we see “losers” but these athletes don’t really lose, because coming in second is not a loss. They still finished with style. Sure its disappointing to come in second but really is oh, Zidane really suffering for coming in 2nd last year? How about the Chicago Bears? The silver medalists at the Olympics? Not really.
Of all the sports and the sporting events the Tour de France (and the other two Grand Tours) comes closest to life. The TdF goes way beyond a marathon to where its hard to even see the beginning of the race when we are at the end. In the TdF everybody loses, even [Tour winner Alberto Contador]. Everyone suffers humiliation, a million humiliations for three weeks. The Tour is too stupidly hard for any of the racers to do otherwise.
We don’t watch the Tour because we want to see the humiliations. We watch because we can identify with the struggle against them. We watch because the riders don’t give up. The keep at it, trying to overcome those humiliations again and again. Mile after mile. Stage after stage. Year after year.
Le Tour est mort. Vive Le Tour.