Cyclists. Bikers. Two wheels. Ask any runner their opinion of these things and you will likely get a prompt and potentially strongly-worded response.
I think both cyclists and runners have days when they view themselves as the Capulets and Montagues of the athletic world. I know I certainly do. I have identified myself as a staunchly loyal member of the runner tribe for years, and although I’m perfectly fine with my pedaling brethren most days, would I question the character, just a teensy bit, of a potential boyfriend if I learn he’s a cyclist? Well…I’ll never admit that openly.
But then I met the Tour de France.
It is admittedly not the most original way to get into cycling, with the Tour’s status as the sport’s most lauded competition and all. But still, this year I find myself absolutely engrossed in the thing.
Naysayers argue that watching cycling on TV is boring, but I find it soothing and more than a little hypnotic. The rhythm of the riders as they whir along the Tour’s undulating roads, the pretty scenery of the French countryside, the entertaining zeal of the fans, and the snappy yet sophisticated repartee of the commentators all combine with the contrasting tension of wondering ‘How is there not a crash every 30 seconds???’ to produce this…force that keeps me on the couch for hours. It’s stronger than gravity.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a telecast that I’ve already seen [thank you, Versus, for showing coverage of each day’s stage approximately 11 times]. The spectacle still transfixes me. And it doesn’t stop when I turn off the television. At work, I may not have the chutzpah to watch the live race, but I sure can check http://www.versus.com every once in a while for impressively rapid textual updates of the action. And then, of course, I go home and watch that exact same race, whose results I already know, on TV.
It’s ridiculous and I love it.
In defense of my fawning over this event, not excluding [who knew this day would ever come?] its rather diminutive men with massive quadriceps, I am actually learning a lot as well. I now proudly know what all of the special jersey colors mean, from yellow to white to polka dot. I know the significance of team time trials. I know what a peloton is, and that it means “platoon” in French. I’ve learned that people from theIsle of Man are called “Manx” and that they have the coolest accent in the world, even if that accent renders Mark Cavendish’s interviews nigh incomprehensible. I’ve developed a newcomer’s awe of a calculated, beautiful, perfectly-executed team effort.
My point is that I’ve started to strengthen my tolerance of, and respect for, people who choose to wear bike shoes (cleats? I haven’t learned that one yet) instead of running shoes. I sincerely hope it lasts beyond the Tour de France. The way I see it, people who inspire French farmers to make fabulous bicycle-themed formations with their tractors have to be worth knowing.
I haven’t completely lost my head, though. Am I going to go out and buy a bike any time soon? Um, no. Not at all. I like my running shoes. I like knowing that I generally have only my own body, i.e. my own clumsy self, to blame if anything goes awry. But in the meantime…
Vive Le Tour!!