I'm not trying to be an iconoclast, and I don't merely say this to be contrarian, but the Tour de France can be a real pain in the ass. The Tour takes everything that is annoying and/or troublesome about a race and multiplies it times a million. Some may say that this is all worth it because the good aspects of a race are also multiplied by a million, but they are not. Those are only multiplied by about .3, and that's about it. In my opinion, what the Tour has going for it is that it's the Tour. In that sense, the race is some kind of postmodern, self-referential loop that is more or less like when a monkey drinks its own pee. But with bikes. And less pee.
With all this in mind, I offer up the following list of observations about the Tour in no particular order, along with these pictures I took.
- A train leaves a London station at 8am bound for Cambridge. As it goes along, it starts to fill up with bike racing nerds, all of whom are wearing funny caps and colorful shirts with pockets on them. Thirty minutes later, the train reaches a station packed with metal fans leaving the Sonisphere festival who smell funny and are wearing black shirts with logos on them. What happens as a result of these two groups meeting on the train? More or less a volcanic eruption of social awkwardness that spews nerd magma and cannot be contained. This happened.
- When you are a Colombian citizen, but live in the United States, no one will give you an ID card saying you are some sort of low level/pseudo sports journalist. The US people won't because you are Colombian, the Colombians wont because you live in the US. I've mentioned this before on the blog, but it had never been a real problem until now. The ASO does not take kindly to this, and will not give you credentials if you are like me (I'm referring to my lack of ID, not to my well-known charm and boyish good looks).
- Having a Het Niuwsblad lanyard (from actual credentials obtained at the Tour of Flanders) casually poking out of your shirt, as though it's being used to hold actual Tour credentials helps. I speak from experience.
- Not having credentials is not the end of the world. Much in the same way that defensive schemes in (American) football have a strong side and a weak one, so too do the barriers that they put up at bike races. Tip: no one is watching the barriers that go behind the team buses. This is usually the weak side.
- Speaking of tips, here's one: You know the professional bike riding guy who is about to start riding a stage at the Tour de France in about eight minutes? He probably doesn't remember meeting your sister at a race in another country three years ago. I know that seems weird, but he really doesn't.
- Have you ever seen Chris Horner speak Spanish? I applaud his attempts, and his respect of the country's where he's racing, but that doesn't change how amazing it is to see him do it. I've now learned that his Italian is similarly entertaining, and watching him speak to Scarponi in Italian, while Scarponi tries to answer in English was a linguistic/comedic feast for the eyes and ears. Say what you will about Horner, but the guy almost made me do a literal spit take by just being himself. Bravo.
- Before a race starts, riders are sometimes by themselves in quiet surroundings, with fans very close by. If there was anything you ever wanted to say to a professional to their face (from behind the perceived safety that is afforded by a metal barrier), this is the time to do it. The best one I overheard, which was nice and loud was, "Your past is crystal clear, you are a huge doper." There was no one else around who rides a bike for a living, and the guy was looking directly at the rider. They exchanged awkward glances, the rider clearly heard him. It was weird.
- I've mentioned this before, but at races this size, you quickly realize that some of the riders seem to love the pageantry around them, not just the racing. At the Giro last year, it was Pozzato who was riding around fans in circles on his mountain bike , wanting to be noticed, and delighting them with his presence. So who wins the coveted Golden Peacock™ award for the Tour this year? For the first time ever, we have a tie. The winners are: Rui Costa and John Gadret. Gadret in particular was out of the bus nearly half an hour before any other rider. He did press, took a six thousand selfies with fans, let several people take close up pictures of his earrings and tattoos (?) and just walked around seemingly waiting for someone to talk to him. Rui Costa went to sign in and back eighteen times, then rode his bike around in circles by the barriers, but still played it off like he was a tiny bit surprised when people stopped him for pictures ("Who, me? Really? Okay, fine, I'll come over")
To be clear, the Golden Peacock™ award is in no way a negative distinction. These guys like their jobs, and like interaction with fans and the press that come with it. The award is given to the highest achievers in this criteria, and all of us here at Cycling Inquisition welcome the new winners with open arms.