Monday, July 30, 2012


Thinking back at this month's posts, the thing I note is that I didn't talk one - not once - about this year's Tour de France.
And it wasn't because I didn't watch, or didn't enjoy, this year's Tour. Both Mojo and I are "Tour fans"; that is, while we sorta-kinda follow the sport the rest of the year, we only really get the fever around late May. Watching the Tour is a morning/evening ritual at the Fire Direction Center, and what's kinda of nice is that our kiddos are getting the fever a bit, as well.

This year we all started out sort of hoping that Cadel Evans would do well, perhaps even repeat his win of 2011. When it became clear sometime in the middle of the second week of racing that 1) Cadel just didn't have it, and 2) Bradley Wiggins and the monster that is Team SKY were going to roll over everyone we fell apart, each developing our own favorites. The kids fastened on to Vincenzo Nibali because we had nicknamed him "Nibbles" in the first week and they loved the image of this lean Italian as a little mouse on a bike.
Mojo just enjoyed the racing and the incredible power of the British cyclists. Think back - how many times has a team come to the Tour with two riders who could easily have won the general classification? I'll be intrigued to see what happens with Chris Froome this winter.
I turned to following van Garteren, the young man from BMC who ended up winning the young rider white. He looks like a hell of a promising guy, and perhaps he will turn out to be the Luke Skywalker that brings a new hope to Team BMC next year.

This year's Tour was the story of a team, and a rider, that were head-and-shoulders better than everyone around them.
Sports - hell, history itself - is often a tale about powerful groups or individuals. Us hairless monkeys like power, strength, and so we tend to go all that about those "great dynasties" from the safe distance of our armchairs.
But I think that we forget that drama tends to come from great rivalries, from tense encounters between opponents of nearly equal ability and strength. The great dynasties of history tend to make quick and boringly brutal work of their enemies. It must not have been a whole lot of fun to be, say, a 1st Century AD German warrior. Sure, every so often you get a Teutoburg Forest or two. But usually it's the same old-same old; meet Roman troops, get ass waxed, wash, rinse, repeat for about three centuries.
Every time you hefted the ol' spear and shield there must have been the thought, well, shit, this is gonna suck.
Great teams and great individuals tend to do that to their opponents.

This year it was SKY and Wiggins who put Britain on the podium in the sort of casually brutal way that those great powers do.
Next year? Perhaps not; unlike Rome, cycling teams tend to be quicksilver, and the tension between Wiggins and Froome is almost certain to explode this SKY team very soon.

As always, this year's Tour was a great spectacle, a great athletic event, and a great human story. We enjoyed the hell out of it, warts (doping) and all. Vive le Tour!
But this year the drama was all about the dominance rather than the rivalry. All about the greatness rather than the tension. This year it was Britons first, the rest nowhere.

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