Well that’s a bold statement….just over six months in and I’m boasting I’ve found the Holy Grail of retirement. I should have predicted this would occur, guess I was overwhelmed with all the other retirement perks. This discovery happened on July 4th, just last weekend , yet it had nothing to do with our country’s celebrated independence day. In fact the event that stirred this discovery hasn’t, didn’t and never will take place in the U.S. Those are enough hints….you should have figured it out by now.
Every year since 1903 the Tour de France has been run throughout the hills, vineyards, mountains, cities and towns of France (except for a couple years interrupted by world wars). Many, including myself, feel this is the greatest sporting event in the world. This one simple fact is proof; each day the individual physical exertion by the cyclists is equal to participating in the Super Bowl or running a marathon, but the athletes compete for 21 consecutive days with only two off days which they spend riding their bikes to keep the legs fresh.
You don’t have to be a bike rider to enjoy this event….how many of you play football? basketball? hockey? tennis? All one need understand is the rider with the least accumulated time of the 21 days is the winner. No need to understand the strategy within the race, what a domestique’s function is, what a team time trial is, what it’s like riding on ancient cobblestones, who dresses those podium girls, and on and on. True, there are long stretches where the cyclists are just riding and riding over flat, boring roads….but wait a few minutes and something spectacular just may happen (that’s what happened Monday on stage 3). And rest assured, every year the changing route will travel over beautiful mountain passes; forget the cyclists for a few minutes and take in the spectacular scenery. Here’s why I love it: the physical ability of these young athletes; the incredible scenery throughout France (and this year the first three days in the Netherlands); the passionate fans (each day in the Netherlands there were more than a million spectators…and that’s in a country with a population of only 14 million); oh, how about the fact that spectators view the race for FREE (no $150 tickets) and can reach out and touch the athletes; the view of castles, chateaus, historic ruins; the sprint finishes; the crashes and survival (imagine jumping out of a car in your underwear at 40 mph); the passion and knowledge of the commentators (Phil, Paul, Bob, Christian and the great Jens Voigt!!!); the parade of craziness that precedes the actual race….I could go on and on .
So why is the the Tour de France a great reason to retire…simple; I can, without guilt, sit in front of the television every day of the race for two, three, four hours and watch this great event. I’d never consider watching that much TV, for any movie, sporting event or, or, or….anything! If you’re a cyclist you may understand my passion, but I have many friends who don’t ride who can’t wait for these three weeks in July. I’ve been to France on a couple occasions and cycled some of the same roads the tour frequents, but one day I hope to travel there to follow the tour for a few days and experience the craziness that ensues….until then here are some interesting facts about the tour and enjoy these photos of the passionate fans of the greatest race in the world!