Friday, July 23, 2004


i bought a yellow t-shirt yesterday.
it's really very yellow: canary yellow. as yellow as it gets.

i've never owned something this yellow before. my only other yellow piece of clothing, my bored of the beckhams shirt, is much less bright, much less yellow than this t-shirt.

this morning, i carefully wrote "live strong" on it, with black textile paint, in that nice bauhaus 93 font.
why, you may wonder? - i'm getting ready for the tour.

my father will arrive this afternoon, and very early tomorrow morning, we'll drive the 160km to besancon to watch this years' final time trial. i can't imagine anything nicer to do tomorrow than standing at the side of the road for a whole day, shouting "allez! allez! allez!".
we've done this before, my dad and i, watch the tour. 4 years ago, the tour visited this hometown of mine, and my dad visited then, too. we had two glorious days: my city was arrival town for one stage, and start town for the final time trial. those two days were the foundation for my fascination with the tour. - a year later, when the tour was on the other side of the border, my dad and i saw two more stages.

until the tour of 2000 i had never thought much about cycling as a spectator sport.
sure, i heard about the tour and knew who won when and who the biggest cyclists were.  sure, i was excited when ullrich won, i heard about the doping scandal in 1998. sure, i admired what the cyclists did in the mountains. - but i never cared much.
had someone asked me, i would have probably deemed it pretty boring to stand by a road for a few hours, waiting for the woooosh of the peloton, a whole 5 seconds worth of cyclists riding past you.

but watching the tour, seeing it in real life, is so much more than those 5 seconds, so much more even than those 5 seconds 147 times in a row, as my dad and i will experience them tomorrow at the time trial, when each cyclist will ride alone, 2 minutes apart.

to me, watching the tour is about excitement, about passion, about speed, about meeting people, about dedication, about tradition, about fun, about support for those who participate in what i reckon to be the hardest sports event in the world.

if you've never been to the tour, it might be hard to imagine how cool it is to wait for the peloton.
the waiting begins in autumn, when the tour route is announced. where is the best place for me to see a stage?
on the selected day, you stand at the side of the road in some obscure french town as more and more people turn up, the entire life in that city standing still, in wait for the tour.
you search for the best spot to stand, which can be a bit tricky when not familiar with the city. wide curves are good, those where you can see far in both directions, and you choose to stand on the outside of the curve, even though that might mean that the riders might be a few more metres away.

you talk to the folks next to you, and they come from all over the world. i've personally stood next to  half of europe, americans, canadians. - no matter where you are from, you share one interest, and it's cycling (at least on that day) and you share theories on tactics and discuss favourites. those who are fluent in french and who are experienced tour watchers bring portable radios, and they are the ones to turn to with the neverending question of "where's the peloton right now?"

at some point, the street is closed, more or less (depending on the size of the city you're in), and the caravane arrives. it's sponsor cars and carriages giving away free samples and pressies, from coffee, to sausages, to tools for cheering (green hands, white inflatable tubes), the giant yellow lion (the one that credit lyonais gives to the winner of the yellow jersey every day) drives past, just as a giant aquarel water bottle that sprays the audience with water on hot days, and huge cyclist figures representing the different jerseys. official yellow tour cars sell memorabilia.

after the caravane, police rush through, and cars from the organisation, and more police, and more extremely fast cars from the teams and you wait and wait some more, and the excitement rises and the people move closer to the street and you wait some more and then you'll start hearing the helicopters.
with the helicopters comes the breakaway group/the poursuivants/the peloton. and you cheer. and you try to take photos. you cheer some more. you clap, showing your admiration. you attempt to see who's where.

and then they are past you, and more cars rush by until the van with the red sign passes and it's over for the day and you're happy and elated that you were there, for this giant sport event.
and then you say goodbye to those you spend the day with and drive home, with the radio on, so that you get to hear what happened to the peloton after you saw it.

i'm so much looking forward to tomorrow. i haven't been this excited in ages.
it will be so cool to see lance in yellow. it will be so cool to wear my undergound lance support shirt; underground, because i just could never ever bring myself to waving an american or texan flag, not just because this is france, where lance is still resented on some level. i'm excited about who we'll be meeting, about how many people will be there, what the atmo will be like, how jan ullrich will hold up. i'm excited about spending time with my dad.

i'll see the tour tomorrow. and good grace, i. can. not. wait. any. longer.

finally lance will actually hear me yelling my support. - it's been a bit ridiculous, screaming at the telly these past days, jumping around the flat as he took the yellow jersey and won those stages.

time to get ready for tomorrow. i need to buy a small radio and paint my toe nails yellow.