Ah, Summer; extra daylight, pleasant evenings spent sitting in the warm glow of a late sunset, wearing T-shirts and shorts all night long, and of course, the event that supposedly unites all cyclists regardless of prejudice, even attracting the interest of mainstream American sports fans, at least the ones that like to watch soccer. Le Tour de France and its live coverage has most of us getting up at 4:30 AM to watch as 198 of the world’s fittest cyclists punish themselves for twenty-one days under the estival sun. When I think of le Tour however, all I can muster up is a half-interested “Who cares?”
You know who won’t be getting up before dawn, sitting in front of a laptop watching a bunch of guys sitting in one position and staring at the butt in front of them for several hours? Me. While I will be getting up before the sun, I’ll be riding my bike on local trails alone or with a cadre of fellow devotees.
There will be no lack of competition on these rides. In fact, we will be going harder than our compatriots in multi-colored lycra half a world away… Well, at least once our handicap is applied. You see, for us, there is but one winner; the rider who gets back to the trailhead first. That’s it. There is no “hunting for stage wins,” or chasing any jersey except the winner’s jersey. We will not hold back and wait until our masters tell us if our overall lead is threatened when one of our buddies opens a gap. Nay, we shall attack! We shall chase the offending upstart and pass them with extreme prejudice, giving everything we’ve got until the foolish rebel is crushed in both body and soul.
After the first week and a half of le Tour—by Stage 11—there will be little mystery as to who the overall winner will be. As long as the leader’s team plays it safe and the top-placed rider doesn’t try anything foolish (meaning exciting for race fans), his team mates can begin mentally spending their share of the Maillot Jaune’s $600,000 premium. By contrast, July 16th will see my little group of MTB’ers taking risks and staying off the brakes, maybe even looking for an outside line pass here and there in a last ditch effort to grab the glory.
Finally, when our race is over, it’s over. There will be no waiting for samples to clear doping control—our undisputed winner will stand before us, exuding braggadocio and abusive, derogatory banter. We will not be retreating to the sealed environment of a team bus for “recovery,” but instead to happy hour, if an evening ride, or grabbing an extra espresso before the inevitable return to reality and work.
Come July 27th, when Chris Froome raises his yellow-clad arms aloft in victory under the Arc de Triomphe, where will you be? In front of a live-stream featuring a bunch of emaciated athletes? Or watching sunlight creep over the peaks and through the valleys of your local mountains as you push yourself harder and harder in an attempt to catch the person in front of you or drop the one behind. Perhaps you will be alone, chasing the footprints of bobcats and coyotes down the trail. Regardless, you will be engaged in something pure, something that will make you a better person. That’s where I’ll be. That’s why I don’t care about le Tour.