Right around July the 1st, I usually surprise my wife with my annual statement,” Guess what time it is dear?” She says “what time is it?” I tell her Tour de France time and she groans because for the next three weeks she knows I will be glued to the “telly” and watching the Tour on a DVR rebroadcast every day or evening whenever I have a chance to sneak it in. This year because of the Pandemic, the Tour was delayed to September so my statement came as a real surprise to her but nonetheless, I tried to make it as unobtrusive as possible without missing all the exciting action of the world’s most grueling bike race. I always look forward to the insightful commentary of Phil Liggett and although we all miss Paul Sherwen due to his untimely death, the team of Bob Roll, Christian Vande Velde and Chris Horner fill the gap with expertise and insightful commentary.
This year we had a surprise as a young Slovenian, Tadej Pogacar from the UAE Emirates Team pulled off a stunning victory in the final time trial and won the stage by one minute and 55 seconds. He took back the yellow jersey from Primoz Roglic, his best friend on the Dutch Jumbo Visma squad, to create an unsurmountable 59 second lead going into the final celebratory stage into Paris. Really exciting and the role of young people in this year’s Tour was impressive. Not only did Pogacar win the Tour at 21 years of age, ( the youngest since 1914), but we had a star in our own right make his mark on his first Tour as well. Sepp Kuss, who rides in support of Roglic on the Jumbo Visma team, had an outstanding Tour and was the strongman in the mountains. Watch for him as a rising star in future tours. His stock is rising rapidly as he was a relative unknown up until this time riding out of Durango, Colorado.
I kind of lost a little interest in the Tour in recent years due to the doping scandals. But I always at least watched the recaps. This years excitement kind of reminded me of when Greg LeMond overtook Laurent Fignon back in 1989 to win the yellow jersey. France was devastated at the unbelievable result. LeMond rode the final time trial at an incredible 34 miles per hour average with the newly created time trial aero bars on his bike. I had the opportunity a number of years ago to ride twice with Greg at a charity ride in Maryland. It was my good fortune to have a little bit of the Tour rub off on me those days when I asked Greg numerous questions about the Tour. He said a lot of interesting things like, ” Fignon had the opportunity to use the bars but refused. It cost him 14 seconds and a Tour loss for France.” He also was kind enough to sign autographs for everyone long into the night. His friendly demeanor was impressive and the guy still showed flashes of brilliance on the ride although he was not in great shape due to a massive schedule of charity events and business travel. The three time Tour winner was also kind of a character. Our one friend riding with us kept trying to hammer Greg and near the end, Greg shot off to hide behind a pine tree. Our friend eventually came roaring by on his bike looking for LeMond. As he passed, LeMond came out from behind the tree and laughed with us at the wasted effort of our friend trying to hammer him to the finish. As we finished, our friend looked incredulously at LeMond and asked where he went because he was trying desperately to catch him. LeMond just chuckled and we all had a laugh at that one. The guy could take pictures for miles on end without touching his handlebars and his riding skills were obvious that day.
Those days of riding with the champ restored my faith in the race. He told a lot of stories about the organization, the history of the event, and the audacity of the upstart Americans who were making their presence known on a basically European stage. As many know, the French have a bit of a superior air about them when it comes to Americans. I can remember being in Geneva, Switzerland with my wife and trying to impress her with my limited French at a bar. The bartender was French and looked at me with disdain when I basically asked him for a glass of glass. I had a laugh about that one but his reaction was like I was Chevy Chase in European Vacation. A typical rube American trying to make his mark. The Tour is a French event and it seems to be clean at this point. They have made it their point to always have the race and make it fair as a matter of national pride. When the Tour ended this weekend, I was a little down as I always am because it is one more year passed for me, and also the Tour. I am a fan and hope that someday, I can perhaps see it in person. On the bucket list for sure. Thanks for reading