Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Le Tour

Those who have been with me on The Buddha Diaries since this time last year may remember that I'm an avid follower of the Tour de France.  Have been since I was a teenager in the early 1950s, with my own spiffy red drop handle-bar sports bike with a ten-speed Benelux derailer gear--very fancy equipment for its time--on which I raced around the Sussex downs.  It was mostly, I fear, to get away from school and enjoy one of the little Woodbine cigarettes to which I soon became addicted.  

The Tour, of course, is a more benign addiction.  It's the only sports event I ever watch on television--though unfortunately it lasts for twenty-one days!  These days, I have the luxury of recording it on Versus, with the ability to surf through the commercials and the boring bits at high speed.  And, with the return of Lance Armstrong after a four-year "retirement," this year's has been one of the most fascinating races I can remember, including a compelling and as yet unresolved drama on the Astana team in which he rides.  Last year's Tour winner, Alberto Contador, finds himself unexpectedly in competition for the team leadership--and leadership of the Tour itself--with this rugged and canny old-timer who has won the race seven times and appears to be gunning for an eighth.  Team-mates, some of them real contenders for the win themselves, are increasingly in a situation of divided loyalties, and their unity or disunity as a team will certainly have a significant impact on the outcome.

As for Lance, well, I assume he will still be riding the Tour in his seventies, and likely even then ahead of the pack.  

French fans have long delighted in grumbling about him, attributing his historic success in their race to doping; this year, to judge from media reports, there is less nasty whispering and more admiration and support for this peculiar giant of a sports event his presence has dominated for the past decade.  In interviews, he's playing it very cool indeed, embracing the role of the good team mate even while everybody knows he's out to win.  At the moment, he's in a comfortable third place, eight seconds behind the Tour leader and two behind Contador.  But there is still more than half the race to go, and some of the stages in the Alps will be the hardest yet.  We'll see if he continues to press his case in the mountains.


Contador has age and Armstrong's four-year absence working in his favor.  He's also a spectacularly strong climber. He needs to be careful, though, about alienating his team--as he did a couple of days ago--with an attack on them at the end of a hard day's ride, in which they loyally worked to pave the way.

Come to think of it, it's exactly what I was talking about yesterday. It's all a matter of discipline, right? Priorities, strategy, persistence...

So I'm looking forward to watching the coming stages of the race--and Ellie will have to put up with being a Tour widow for a couple more weeks. 


secret agent woman said...

I had no idea the race lasted that long. I'm afraid I have a very limited attention span when it comes to sports. Like maybe 15 minutes.

PeterAtLarge said...

I don't even have 15 minutes for any other sport. Just this one. Just to finish is an incredible feat of endurance.

They call him James Ure said...

Yeah he usually blows the rest away once he gets into the mountains. He's got the lungs of a whale.