Sunday, July 25, 2010

Always Bittersweet -- Finishing in Paris

Today, the 2010 Tour de France ends with the cyclists riding into Paris along the Champs-Elysees. It has been three weeks of thrills and spills, beautiful countryside and cozy villages, sunflowers, cows, sheep, crazy fans, crowded corners, scary descents, cobblestones, engaging broadcasters, and brilliant helicopter camera perspectives. It is a long three weeks that I spend viewing much of the stage of the day early in the morning and possibly again for the replay in the evening. I'm always glad to get back to my regular schedule once it ends, but I am always sad to say good-bye to all the fun I get from watching.

I think this is my seventh year of watching the Tour de France. This year, I felt frustration with the difficulties of the route and the weather at the beginning and the multiple mountain stages. There were so many crashes in the first week. It got very discouraging. I also didn't see very many teams work together as well as I'd seen in previous years. That was different. However, I still enjoyed watching, listening to the commentary, learning, and following my many favorite cyclists. Some of my favorites withdrew, though.

The final day broadcast includes the highlight footage of the beauty and the fun of the Tour de France, always set to music. I really enjoy those summary montages. That is all part of the enjoyment of watching the tour for me. I sometimes feel like I have virtually visited France and a few surrounding areas and had a nice virtual vacation each July.

I do prefer watching on TV. We've learned that to be there in person is a whole lot of standing and waiting for the woosh of the cyclists and cars and motorcycles that often pass so fast you cannot pick out your favorites or even get a good photo. Waiting on a mountain stage catches a view of the cyclists because they tend to be moving a bit slower on a steep climb, but it is a lot of waiting and less than comfortable bathroom facilities. We've experienced all that by watching stages of the Tour of California.

Someday, I would like to be in the starting town for the Prologue a few days ahead, or in Paris for the final day, watching from a balcony. That would be memorable. Several of my friends and relatives have been in Paris on the final day and described it to me. I enjoy those stories.

I still can't completely explain the points and various other score keeping. I understand overall leader and who wins a stage and who wears the yellow jersey. It is a complex sport, and that makes it interesting, especially as I continue to understand strategy.

This year, I again appreciated how it is free to spectators to see the events -- no other professional sport can claim that. The corporate sponsors are where the budgets are met. Very important in this sport. Can you imagine pro football like that? With jerseys with company logos all over? I know we see Nike and other sponsor logos on football uniforms, but not to the extreme like in cycling.

Well, congratulations, Alberto Contador. Again. Thank you Andy Schleck for making it exciting and good luck to you in 2011. Thank you to everyone who provides a great three weeks of watching all this from my home. I will anticipate 2011 with delight.

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