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Le Tour de Rants

By Dave Fox
Seattle, Washington 

Cyclists trudge up a mountain in the Tour de France. The guys behind them on the motorbike are cheating. (Photo: flickr/lyfetime)

I have just returned from Europe, where I participated in the Tour de France.

To participate in the Tour de France, do the following:

  • Attempt to locate remote control.
  • Recite obscenities because remote control cannot be located.
  • Go to the kitchen for a beer.
  • Retrieve remote control from refrigerator, where you left it the last time you went for a beer.
  • Turn on television.
  • Open beer.
  • Sit on couch and comment on how the bikers in the Tour de France look very tired, and would be much happier if they would sit on the couch and drink beer instead of riding bikes up the Pyrenees Mountains.

This was my first year participating in the Tour de France. I did so in Norway, where I have friends with televisions.

The Tour de France is a thrilling event in which sporty men with names like Lance attempt to ride bicycles through French villages without getting hit by camera crews on motorbikes. The camera crews are not the only obstacles. There are also cars, which drive alongside the cyclists, handing them beverages.

As the drivers of the cars lean out their windows holding plastic cups, they shout to the cyclists, “Vous avez soif?” which I believe is French for, “Would you like your martini shaken or stirred?” The cyclists chug their beverages and toss their cups by the side of the road. Police await them at the finish line to fine them for littering.

You’d think on a motorbike, he could at least keep up with the cyclists. (Photo: Jarrett Campbell)

In addition to the kamakaze camera crews and the rolling bartenders, the cyclists face another obstacle, which the French call, “les idiots.” Les idiots are spectators who, unrestrained, partake in the race by running around in the street, a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’, waving flags and yelling, “Go, Lance, go!” Les idiots are there to cheer on their bicycle heroes. They want their bicycle heroes to win. And their bicycle heroes just might have a fighting chance if only les idiots would get the hell out of the way.

At one point in the race, one of les idiots ran out in front of the lead bikers, completely naked, revealing a distractingly unsavory crack. (At that moment, I experienced one of the hazards of participating in the Tour de France in a country where unsavory cracks can be shown on television.) On another occasion, a fan of an Italian cyclist reached over and put his hand on the cyclist’s spandex-coated butt, giving him a little nudge up the hill. Had the spectator’s nudge been any nudgier, he might have left the cyclist sprawled and bloodied on the road.

Helping to interpret all of this excitement, for those of us who were partaking in the Tour de France from Norwegian couches, were Norwegian sports commentators, whose job is to enthrall us with pedal-by-pedal action.

This is not a job I would like to have. I mean, seriously, how much can you say about people riding bicycles?

“There goes the Ukranian from Team Stolichnaya, up the hill! Look! Now, there he goes, down the hill! There he goes, up the next hill! And now he is going down! Look at him pedal! Have you ever seen a Ukranian pedal like that before?”

My Norwegian friends and I partook in one whole day of the Tour de France, and boy, were we tired when it was over. The next day, we pledged, we would do something more relaxing, and drive over some bridges to some islands off the Norwegian coast.

But the next day, it was raining.

“Is there any point in going to the islands in weather like this?” I asked one of them.

“No.”

“What should we do instead?”

“We should drink beer,” he said. “And watch the Tour de France.”

So that’s what we did for another day. The TV announcers told us repeatedly it would be a pivotal day in the race. The bikers had six mountains to tackle.

Eventually I lost interest in the race. That happened somewhere around the time when the announcer said (I swear, he really did say this), “Armstrong has just put on his sunglasses. I don’t know what that means.”

The next day, I was on an airplane, zooming over Greenland on my way back to Seattle. Clear skies over Eastern Greenland gave me a stunning view of the glaciers.

“They should have a Tour de Greenland,” I thought, as we flew above the icy peaks. “It would be an exciting place for people to ride bicycles while I drink beer.”

Alas, I returned to Seattle and forgot all about cycling until this morning, when it was announced that some guy named Lance had won the race. As he neared the finish line, he slowed down to sip a celebratory glass of champagne from atop his bicycle seat. I guess he was getting tired of all of those martinis.

Published on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

One Response to “Le Tour de Rants”

  1. Sumdruncomic
    July 28, 2005 at 5:36 AM

    Irony will now be re-defined when Lance refuses to participate in Bike-to-Work day.

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