Every year every cyclist I know, in every country around the world, speaks the same language. What language, you ask?
Well, there’s some Spanish, some Portuguese, German, a little English of both varieties and with a few accents, and of course more than a touch of French. It’s that pidgin, that polyglot language, the one we all speak this time of year, even when we don’t bother the rest of the year. It’s the language of the Tour de France.
Whether they root for the sprinter, the climber, the new guy or the old favorite, every cyclist I know watches this race. It’s more than just a race. It’s an Epic, a Grand Classic. It’s a way of life for the pro cyclist, the event they train the year to ride, and they base the success or failure of the season on their performance in the French Alps. And for 21 days in July, we get to follow on the journey with them.
We see every lone breakaway, every crash, and every triumphant finish. The strategy and the communication and the amazing machinery and the most powerful riders in the world make this a mesmerizing draw. Something we just can’t not watch.
And when your friends and neighbors don’t understand why you get up at 5 am to watch the day’s stage, and when the mailman’s only reference to the Tour is to the doping scandals that have plagued cycling in the press, sometimes deserved and sometimes not, all you can do is sit back, watch that day’s finish, and try to explain it to them in terms that they will understand.
It’s our World Cup, our Superbowl, The Final Four, Wimbledon and baseball’s World Series. It’s 21 days of glory and pain and human suffering and human triumph. And we get to ride along.
We get to see what is the best that every cyclist can be. We see heroes fall, and youth take up their challenge. We see the best of humanity in those 21 days.
And it never fails to make us part of the action in some small way. That is why we watch the Tour.
And that is why I hope you’ll watch it with us.