I haven’t really ever watched much of the Tour de France…except for when my dad said, “come here! You’ve got to watch The Crash!” Which he replayed a few times for us on his TV recording.
I’ve heard some names, Lance Armstrong, Cadel Evans, and The Brothers.
That’s just about it. I also know there’s a yellow jersey involved.
Well, now, I at least know what a race looks like. And that race enthusiasts are ENTHUSIASTS. No if, ands or buts.
And, that’s because yesterday, I left a very productive YMCA board meeting 30 minutes early so I could race home, park, change into running shoes and rolled up jeans (yes, running shorts would have been better) and run up the road, up the trail into the Garden of the Gods, and over to Ridge Road. The Race started at 1:15. I got there at 1:12.
And, among other things, learned that I really need to be exercising more. The pounding and burning in my chest had no problem letting me know that.
I was fully prepared to watch, what I thought, would be the three seconds of 100+ riders racing by me in The Prologue: The time trial for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge at Colorado Springs. Although, I couldn’t quite imagine the swarm of riders making the 90 degree turn at the bottom of Ridge Road (it’s very steep), I figured that’s how the race would go.
Until I ran into Donny. My cousin, Donny. Remember him?
That’s when I started laughing. For about the next hour that I was with him, his wife Sharon, and their friend, Leslie. You just can’t help but laugh when you’re around Donny. Because everything Donny says is funny. And, Donny laughs while he talks.
And, that’s when I started learning:
1. That the riders would come one at a time in one second intervals.
2. That they were trying to get the fastest time in the 5 mile ride, so they can be in the front of the group at the start of today’s race in Salida. That one’s only something like 130 miles. Only. And, it goes over Monarch Pass. Which really is nothing compared to tomorrow’s (I think?) race that goes over Independence Pass.
Note: Independence Pass is scary to go over in a car. You are pretty sure, in a car, going 20 miles per hour, that you might fall off the side of a really tall mountain. 12,000 feet to be pretty exact. Now. Get on a bike with really skinny tires. Put on a helmet. Hope you don’t have to use it. It’s a long way down.
3. That the fastest riders go at the end. That means Cadel Evans is last. Two hours later.
Here’s how it went:
All of the fans were standing around all up and down the sides of the road. Everyone else seemed to pretty much know what was going on, and most of them got there on their bikes. (The guy with the skin-tight-lycra-shorts-v-neck-to-3-inches-above-his-crotch one piece outfit was definitely a standout.)
All of a sudden, a motorcycle police man with lights flashing came speeding around the corner. Donny got his camera poised. Then came the first cyclist flying around the corner. Then came a motorcycle hot on his heals with a guy driving and another guy standing holding a TV camera and videotaping. Yes. Standing. On the back of a speeding motorcycle. With one hand holding the camera and the other holding a pole behind him. Now THERE’S a job for ya. Then came his team car, a little car with a bicycle mounted on the top. (I wondered, why do they need the bike on top?) Then came another car, speeding. And, three seconds later, the convoy was past us and on its way down the hill, out of sight.
One minute later, the next guy. Donny took a picture. Then the next. Donny took a picture. Then the next. Donny took a picture. Then the next. Donny took a picture. 130 times. With one minute intervals between each. Until the last 10…the fastest riders. They got 2 minute intervals.
By the time the 3 people I even knew about rode by, The Brothers and Cadel Evans, I was at the bottom of Ridge Road standing with my parents. They had been there, right smack at the bottom of the curve just behind the hay bales, standing, in their clip on bike shoes, since 10:30. It was now 3:30. Now, that’s what I call enthusiasts.
The bikes whizzed around the corner at maybe 35 or 40 mph ( a corner any car usually takes at 5 or 10 mph). The team car behind squeeeeeeeeaaled almost on the two side wheels just to make the corner and keep up with the rider.
And, finally, came Frank Schleck. And my stellar phone-camera-held-in-the-air-above-everyone’s-head’s skill. He’s the headless guy up in the corner.
And for the Grand Finale, the guy everyone (at least me) had been waiting for: Cadel Evans. He got TWO motorcycles in front of him. No one else had that honor.
Two of the men around me solemnly set down their cameras and one stated he wanted to keep this picture in his mind. He didn’t want to miss the look on Cadel’s face. It was pretty much like them saying: I want to be fully present for this moment. I thought I was in yoga.
And, in the frenzy, I snapped this unforgettable shot of the air preceding Cadel Evans. Note to self: Bring good camera next time. Too hard to make the phone camera click when the bike rider is actually in the picture. We’ll have to ask Donny for that one.
Everyone screamed, cheered, rang cow bells and blew horns. The guy next to me (the yoga guy) told me his friend is camping out at the top of Independence Pass for tomorrow’s race, and has his Speedo ready to go. I think I choked. “Speedo????” “Ya! Haven’t you seen the Tour? Everyone wears Speedo’s!” At that moment, I was very thankful the guy next to me WAS NOT wearing a Speedo.
It was pretty exciting, I have to admit. But, the best part was watching the double take and the jaw drop of another guy next to my dad when I said: “George? What’s the big deal about George?”
Hopefully they’ll all decide to come back next year. The fans and the cyclists. And, Donny. I mean, who else would see a sheriff’s suburban, lights blazing, chasing the team car that was chasing the cyclist: “Well, it’s about time someone caught one of these speeders!!!”
- The Goat Cheese Lady, race aficionado