July is always a weird month for me. Mostly it’s the sleep depravation.
I’m a Tour de France fan, which you may already know as the TDF is practically a character in Lily Does Sweden. Sadly though, I’m not in France in July so the race for me starts live — on NBC Sports every day for a month — at 4:30 AM.
Admittedly, I have zero investment in cycling itself. I don’t participate in TDF fantasy cycling. I don’t cycle. I don’t even own a bike. But I like the TDF itself, the scenery, the crashes, the massive athleticism combined with the even more massive denial of drug use.
I view the TDF as a stand alone event, a chance to drop in on an alternative subculture. Kind of like a friend’s wedding really, except way longer.
I know most of the top riders and their stories. I have a few favs, but overall my go-to is Tommy Voeckler — who is also a French favorite. But I’m tour savvy. I know there’s way more to the Tour than just the actual race and its riders.
There are the broadcasters: Phil Liggett (from the UK) and Bob Roll (aka Bobke, from the US). “Bobke is the best thing to happen to commentating in years.” Say that to anyone about the Tour and you’ll sound in the know. Probably you’ll also start an arguement, but hey, that’s the Tour for you.
For those of you who don’t know, the Tour has great commercials you won’t see anywhere else. And the Bobke ones are some of the very best. There was even once a nude Bobke commercial. . . . Sorry, having a laugh attack. . . . What was I talking about . . . uh . . . oh yeah . . . .
The Tour has wonderful roadside fans, some in costume — most in rather more than the Swiss above, swinging their huge flags. Most of them are cycling enthusiasts or cyclists. The Swiss are cyclists. You can tell by their tan lines.
Some people just set up camp and wait for the Tour to come to them at one. Others follow the race around all month. But everyone cheers on their nation’s riders, regardless of team. Of course, fans can be dangerous too, they can cause accidents, but so does the odd dog now and then because there are generally no barriers. I mean, NO barriers . . .
Most people, who haven’t actually been to the Tour live, don’t know there is a long pre-race parade that travels through each town a few hours ahead of the first riders’ arrival. It’s a bit like Mardis Gras because people throw candy and stuff off the floats. Also, along the Tour route, each town or district tends to put on displays so when the choppers go by there’s a nice visual. It’s all kinda hokey, but in a good way.
Yeah, I like the Tour. I like the rest day hotel room arrests, the petty squabbling, the sudden withdrawls, the strategic plotting, the swearing in multiple languages, the last 1000 meters, the sprints, the mountains, the time trials, the weird rivalries — even within teams, the accusations, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the weird victory line “dances,” the colorful jerseys, the little stuffed lions, and . . . .
And, ok, I do actually look for the Clean Bottle mascot at every stage. Don’t ask why. I don’t know myself. I just like seeing this cheerful 8-foot bottle trotting alongside the riders. It makes me feel good. I want one so bad — a mascot, ok and a Clean Bottle.
I suppose my loving the TDF but not cycling itself says a lot about my level of inexplicabilty. Which reminds me, I have a dog I have to take to obedience class tonight.