Glimpses of the Tour de France

So I said to my wife Janet the other day, ” Well dear, guess what time it is?” She said, ” What time is it, dear?” I said, “Its Tour de France time!!!” Her response was “Ugh” because she knows that for the next three weeks, I will be in the basement at night watching the recap coverage of the day’s stages on TV. Nothing like Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen in their coverage backed up by Bob Roll and Christian van de Velde. Phil Liggett has some classic commentary like, ” He is digging into his suitcase of courage.” or ” The Heads of State are all assembling at the front.” I laugh when I hear him say,” He is riding like a scalded cat.” Or perhaps his classic,” He is wearing the mask of pain” His foil, Paul Sherwen, was actually a Tour de France rider who keeps the affable Liggett grounded when he says, ” Yes, sadly Phil, you never rode the Tour.” I love the hilarious banter between these two very knowledgeable Brits.

I have never been to the Tour but it is definitely on my bucket list. I would love to take in the pageantry and scenery of the French countryside and to see some of the iconic climbs of the Tour through the Alps and the Pyrenees.

But I have had some brushes with the Tour which included a wonderful experience a few years ago riding with our 3 time Tour champ, Greg LeMond.

Thanks to my friend Scott Weiner, I had this opportunity for two weekends in separate years, and when you get to spend that kind of time with a guy, you get to ask great questions about the Tour and get some amazing answers from a truly interesting person. You can still see glimpses of his strength when he cranks up those massive thighs on the flat or when he takes pictures with his hands off the bars for miles. A riding talent to say the least and a very friendly and approachable champion.

Riding in the Netherlands a number of years ago, I got to see up close and personal, the fervor of the Dutch people for cycling. The world seemed to stand still as all the shop owners, businessmen and women, children, and travelers all stopped to see the stages on Eurovision wherever they could. All the chatter in the cafe’s was about the Tour. I was there during the event and rode some of the classic roads of the Amstel Gold Race- the premier road race in the Netherlands. People constantly talked to me about my thoughts on the Tour and showed their visible excitement for what is like the Super Bowl of sports in Europe.

But I also have an interesting local connection to the Tour who is a most interesting guy. Jean Marc Chatellier owns an excellent French bakery in Millvale, Pa. He and I always talk about the Tour at this time of the year and I find that I frequent his bakery not only for his absolutely delicious pastries, but to spend the time talking to him all about the Tour. I like his takes on the controversies, the French riders, the Americans, the UCI and the Tour organizers. If you get the chance, go visit Jean Marc and take the time to watch this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NZ4E_6NVQw&sns=em

I know that a lot of cyclists and people in general have lost interest in the Tour because of all of the doping scandals. In this edition, the controversy has been all about the Cavendish/Sagan crash and the ultimate expulsion of the reigning world champion from the event. But aside from all the madness, the Tour remains one of the most revered sporting events in the world. It puts the beauty of France on display every year and personally, I love watching all of the action. Janet eventually comes to watch especially when NBC shows the beautiful mountains and French countryside. She wears her” mask of pain” most times as she was not a bike racer, but knows how much I enjoy the tactics, and the history of this truly remarkable event. It is a lot more than guys just riding their bikes around France.

So I will be in to see Jean Marc tomorrow morning probably to see if I can get one of those exquisite cheese brioche rolls right out of the oven like the last time to accompany my extraordinarily strong coffee. He will greet me and drop what he is doing to chat about the crash, the UCI, the French riders who now are making a mark in the Tour. He is proud of his heritage and of his knowledge of cycling. I am glad to have made his acquaintance for many reasons. Vive le Tour!!!!! Thanks for reading. Word Press followers, click on the title to see pictures and video.

Yoi!!!

Well, the leaves are starting to change and the nights are becoming cool.Football season has returned to Western Pennsylvania and the beloved Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 so far and things are looking good. This brings back some memories for me which include an icon of American broadcasting. Please review the following link before you move on here. https://youtu.be/IdjYFleXNro Myron Cope was a real character whose background as a sports journalist was extensive. He became the voice of the Steelers on radio broadcasts with Bill Hillgrove for many years and entertained us with his antics and his quirky voice which you hear in the video. I always liked Myron and his commentary and in fact had an interesting interlude with him back in the day. download-1
As many of you know, the Terrible Towel, waved frantically by Steeler fans, was created by Myron and all the proceeds have been donated to his foundation for many years. The Towel has been copied by other sports teams but the original Terrible Towel is first and foremost a Pittsburgh thing and we are most proud to wave it to encourage the performance of our Steelers in crucial game situations. original_towel

A while back, I was booked on a CMH Heli-Ski trip to the Bobbie Burns Range in British Columbia with some friends from our local ski area. As it turned out, our Steelers were in the Super Bowl at this time and we wanted to somehow honor them and show our pride to the other groups who would be staying with us up in BC. I brought a Terrible Towel with me and we had our guide take a picture of all of us with the Towel on the summit of one of the peaks where we would be skiing. img_1059

I had some copies made when we returned and I sent one of them to Myron Cope with a note saying that we did our part to cheer on the Steelers in a remote location of North America. I felt good about doing that and had some internal chuckles along the way thinking about what Myron would think of the picture. One day, while sitting at my desk, I got a phone call and picked up the receiver and much to my surprise the voice on the other end said,” Is this Pat McClozzzzzzzzzgey?” I said yes it is and the voice continued with ” This is Myron Cope.” ” I found your number and wanted to give you a call to tell you that your picture is hanging on my office wall between the guys with the Towel at the South Pole and the guys with the Towel at the Great Wall of China” I was thrilled and said that I was so happy to send it to him and really thanked him for the phone call. He said it was his pleasure and that he really appreciated the gesture and went on to relate to me all the places where the Towel had been and how many pictures he had with the Towel in locations all over the world. He gave me a few ” Ummm Haaaaas.” and some gutteral “Ls” in his language. Like ” LLLLLLLLLLLambert is the best LLLLLLLLLLLinebacker in the LLLLLLLLLeague.” But his sincerity in calling me was most appreciated. I have heard a lot of good things about Myron over the years and how benevolent he was with local charities. We miss him in Pittsburgh and his cheery enthusiasm will long be remembered by Steeler fans for many years. We are proud of the Black and Gold here and Myron generated a lot of that enthusiasm. Wave that Towel, Steeler Nation, – wherever you are in the country. Thanks for reading.