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Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Lance, Rhymes with Tour de France

And vice versa

A lot of things in this world give me a boner. Among those things are bicycling and France. Just walking into my apartment you have to run a gauntlet of bicycles (3) and bicycle-related gear. Once inside, my affiliations with France are obvious if not as perilously obvious as my bike fetish: a bookcase of French literature and a water color of Notre Dame Cathedral on the wall.

These two interests come together like colliding freight trains during the month of July. The Tour de France, or Le Tour, is one of the great spectacles in sport. If you don’t agree with me on this just give me your address and I will ride one of my bikes over to your house and beat you up.

I no longer have bootleg cable at home so I am forced to get my daily Tour fix elsewhere. The Outdoor Life Network (OLN) coverage is excellent and I try to watch it every day--last year I taped every single stage. I either go to my gym and watch as I ride the exercise bike or I find a bar and watch the repeat coverage later in the day. I can’t imagine that anyone but a true bike geek could get off on watching a bike race on TV. I love every minute of it. I lust after the great bikes they ride (especially the time trial bikes) and the backdrop to the race is the beautiful French countryside. What's not to like?

The Tour de France is also the greatest motivational tool when it comes to my own cycling fitness. What I like most about cycling is hill climbing. The Pyrenees and the Alps have nothing on Washington’s Cascade Mountains. I go out at least once a week and find a nice long mountain road to ride. It is nice to be able to watch as the Tour gets into the mountain stages and be able to say, “Been there, done that.” The eighteen miles up Mount Rainier is as tough and even longer than anything on the Tour. Of course, they sometimes ride three peaks in one stage.

Lance Armstrong is going for his fourth consecutive Tour victory this year. He began in high form by winning the opening day prologue, a short, 7 kilometer time trial. On the first full day on the Tour Lance put the hammer down and showed everyone that he is the man to beat again this year. It was a flat stage where Lance had nothing to prove. In these first few stages Lance simply needs to stay in the pack until he makes his move during one of the upcoming time trials or in the mountains. Lance didn’t win the stage but he upped the ante a bit that day.

I can’t see anyone challenging Lance in this year’s Tour but a lot can happen in 2,000 miles of racing. Christophe Moreau of the Credit Agricole team--my favorite rider next to Lance--may have a chance but only if Lance stumbles. What will probably happen is that Lance will win and take another step towards solidifying his reputation as one of the best cyclists in the history of the sport. See you all in Paris on July 28th.

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