Monday, July 26, 2004

live strong.

it's been a perfect day at the tour, perfect from start to finish.

it started as we were driving into besancon. a phonak van was in front of us, and a cyclist, too, and as we drove past, i realised that it was oscar sevilla, warming up. yay!

my dad and i found a good parking spot, just about 500m away from the tour route in downtown besancon, about 2 cycling minutes behind the starting area.
it was a perfect viewing spot, too, a long ascent where you could see far in both directions, with a bend, too. no careful planning could have provided us with a better spot, really.

we had lovely neighbours standing next to us.
to the left a super-friendly french father and son team. we had fun attempting to actually discuss cycling with bits of french, german and the use of hands and feet.
to our right was a group of american blokes in their early thirties (chris, doug and alex) all of them currently living in basel. chris, was as much of a cycling crack as me, so i had someone to discuss cycling things with en detail, you know, whether robbie mcewen is a fair cyclist, whether thomas voeckler might win the tour one day, why the people who were calling jens voigt "judas" on the way up l'alpe d'huez have no clue about cycling etc.

the other two were tour virgins. alex, though being a tour first timer, turned out to be interesting company, too. he used to be in the marine corps, went to iraq last year, and he's not in support of dubya. an interesting conversation was had between the two of us on american foreign politics and everything else and it might get into a second round, too, as basel is just an hour away, and as he has only been to freiburg briefly. we might go to next saturdays time trial 2 in bühl as well, or at least i asked chris and him. it would surely be nice. lance will be there, after all, as well.
alex, doug and chris were meticulously prepared: they had lots of good food (including giant sandwiches and fruit salad), beer to share (!) and an american flag.

so i ended up standing in front of, or next to an american flag for the whole day, mostly speaking english, too, and wearing my "live strong" shirt supporting lance. the only way to not appear american would have been a large "i'm german, though!" sign, but that would have gotten in the way with the clapping, cheering and photographing. so i tried not to care too much.
our little group was later joined by fred, another american and a complete tour viewing pro for years who was fun to talk to as well. he actually spend yesterday in paris, lucky him.

so my dad and i were in good company, in a good spot, and in such a good mood that the awful amount rain that came down on and off for the first few hours didn't matter that much.  later it got hot and sunny and perfect.
i could not come up with a better place to be, a better thing to do than standing at the side of the road in besancon, in the sun, waiting for lance in good company, drinking beer. i was totally and completely and utterly happy. and i still am, actually.

and then the riders came, jimmy casper, laterne rouge, being the first one. and the fun started. the atmo was lovely, the cheering was good because among those last riders there were tons and tons of french.
at some point, my dad went to a different space to watch, and while that wasn't exactly what i had hoped for for our father/daughter tour de france weekend, it was alright. i wasn't all by myself, after all.

so we cheered. we guessed who was coming next, because no one had brought, and no one around us had, a classement generale from the previous day (i had tried to but the internet cafe suffered from dsl death friday night). we tried to come up with all the first names of the riders riding past, as the cars following them only showed their last names. we did an organised "aussie aussie aussie! oi! oi! oi!" cheer for the aussie riders. we spoke cycling. we cheered. i took lots pictures and some even turned out fabulous (blessed be my mothers' minolta dimage camera). if that law thing won't work, i'll be the next graham watson. he.

between the riders, some of those who had already finished were already cycling home. poor liberty seguros cyclists not only had to ride home, but they had to ride home with big backpacks on their backs as well. i would have expected them to have better funding.

at some point, three t-mobile people, among them erik zabel, were riding home slowly (and without backpacks) among lots of cheering and clapping and hoopla. zabel looked totally happy and relaxed, being on his way home and all, and started giving high fives to fans as he rode past.

tour de france groupie confession of the day: i shared high fives with erik zabel.

i have washed my hands since then though. because as lovely as erik is, he ain't lance after all.

so what can i say? it was a lovely day.
late in the afternoon, the top ten riders cycled past, the cheering got more intense, the excitement got, too, and then it were jan ullrich, andreas klöden and ivan basso riding past, all 2 minutes apart from each other, and then came lance, riding furiously and faster and better than everyone else, everyone cheered and clapped, the maillot jaune was shining in the sun, and within seconds lance had passed, and the moment had, too, and the spectacle was over.
they were the highlight of it all, of course, these few seconds (and i have a video to relive the moment, too) and then everyone went home.

we said our goodbyes, the blokes and i, my dad came back to the spot i was standing, and we started walking back to the car.

all day, i had seen people wearing lance's yellow "live strong" wristband, and all day i couldn't make myself ask one of them whether they got them from somewhere right there, or whether they had brought them from home, having bought them from the net. because i longed for one. i've longed for one for ages.
on the way to the car, there was a huge group of american cycling tourists, all very fit looking, all wearing yellow "live strong" wristbands, right in front of me.
so i finally chatted to the man right in front of me.
"excuse me sir, i just realised that you're all wearing the live strong wristbands. did you get them around here somewhere?" it must have been a bit odd to be asked that by someone wearing a yellow t-shirt inscribed with "live strong".
he explained that they got them earlier during the day from a car during the caravane. i said something about not seeing that and he was friendly enough to explain that you could get them at niketown shops in the us, and online, too, to which i replied that i knew that, but that they didn't ship overseas. i thanked him for the info, we said goodbye, and he walked faster, returning to his group. i was a bit bummed out that i had missed that chance to get that muchly desired wristband and my total high of a day of tour watching, was just a little bit dulled. just a tiny tiny little bit.
and then, with a few steps, the american cycling tourist came back to me, the yellow wristband that had been dangling round his right wrist now in his hand, and he pushed it into mine, saying something like "you know what? there you go, have mine, i know you'll really enjoy it". and i was stunned. "thank you. thank you so much. you've just made my day even better than it already is." i replied. "i thought so!" he said to me, smiling broadly, jogging back to his group. that's cycling fans.

a day at the tour. can you imagine anything better to do in july? i most certainly can't.