Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Tour Away from Home

I've posted about the Tour de France on this blog for pretty much as long as I've been a blogger (so much so that I've decided to make it a category tag and will go back and append it to all the other posts later). There were times when I had to settle for little thirty-minute or hourlong updates every day, and even one year when we barely got that, thanks to the Tour moving to what was then an obscure cable channel that wasn't carried by very many systems. Nowadays, of course, the former Outdoor Life Network has morphed into Versus, and the coverage is outstanding both on TV and online.

But as I said on Twitter a few days ago, the Tour has taken on even more meaning for me this summer as I've recovered from my surgery. Having regained the ability to drive only yesterday, those nightly three-hour recaps on Versus have helped me keep my sanity during a long period of time where I couldn't go anywhere at night and where, by and large, friends weren't able to come over here on a regular basis. (Having West Coast Rangers games start not too long before the end of those broadcasts added to the enjoyment, even if that would keep me up past midnight every night for most of the past week.)

So why do I love the Tour so much? Let me count the ways:
  • I like cycling. Unlike most sports that I watch, I have actually participated in cycling before, and will likely do so again once I'm all healed up. It's an enjoyable way to get exercise, there's definitely a social aspect to it if you meet up with the right people, and, while the DFW area may not be the most bike-friendly, I'm pretty close to some rural-type roads that would be fun to ride (even if a few of them are about to be bisected by the Bush Turnpike extension). And I've ridden enough that I can understand what the riders are going through, even if the very last-place entrant would mop the floor with me in a race.

  • I like Europe. As I said on the Fourth, it's been ten years since my trip to Montreux, but a lot of the memories are indelibly etched in my mind. There are a few places in the States that may come close, (hello, Vermont!), but no place I've ever been can compare to Europe in terms of natural beauty and really cool architecture. Watching the villages and towns that the riders pass through is as enjoyable to me as watching the race itself (and it's a goal of mine to be over there during the Tour at some point, watching from the side of the road).

  • Lance is back. I've been a Lance Armstrong fan since 1993, when he was a young rider out of Austin (with roots in Plano) riding in an American race called the Tour DuPont (no, really). I followed him through all seven of his Tour de France wins, and I was pleased to see him try it again; needless to say, I'm thrilled to see him in contention at the moment).

  • Phil and Paul's coverage rules. The team of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen are some of the most outstanding commentators in any sport. It's not just their cool British accents or Phil's amusing phrases (known as "Liggettisms"); it's the knowledge and enthusiasm these two guys bring to the table. If listening to Phil call the end of a stage doesn't energize you, you're probably not breathing. (The only negative I can say about the Versus coverage this year is that we don't seem to get very much of Phil and Paul in the prime-time show. Maybe they're on more in the morning--I'm either sleeping or teaching during that point--but the nighttime show only offers an appetizer of them instead of a banquet. And while the American team of Craig Hummer and Bob Roll aren't bad--though Hummer drives me nuts when he repeatedly invites viewers to tune in the next day for expanded coverage "with Bob and I"--it's just not the same. If you have the masters at your disposal, you oughta use 'em.)
The Tour goes on a rest day tomorrow, and then my own summer gets a bit busy for a few weeks, so I won't be able to catch as much of the coverage as I have been this past week. But I'll be checking for highlights every day, and it appears that I'll be able to catch either the beginning or the tail end of each stage no matter what.

Thank you, Tour--you've made my recovery go a lot more smoothly so far.

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