I might be getting older. I know! This past weekend I had this philosophical train of thought about the Tour de France and how of course it’s that time again, and how at some point, it would be time every year until I die, and each year it will come faster and faster. That’s just not the sort of revelation a young person has.
But seriously, I’m thinking old age won’t be so bad as long as the retirement community I live in has whatever version of race “coverage” exists in that era, and I can watch. If not, I’ll just squat and pee in the middle of the floor in protest. Ha! Like I’ll have any control over when I pee.
I’ve been catching broadcasts of spring and summer cycling races and perusing other sources of Tour de France Preview information. In case you haven’t, here’s what I’ve found:
The race is July 2-24 and if you’re still whining about how Lance ruined cycling for you, get over it. You’ve been recklessly depriving yourself of one of the greatest shows of the year (catch it on NBCSN). Last year, for example, wondrous aerial scenery of the Netherlands and Alps accompanied action shots of not one, but two yellow jersey wearers crashing out of the Tour in poetic fashion. And not even on one of several teeth-clenching, bug snuffing, toe curling descents. If I can cram “wondrous scenery” with “crashing” and “poetic” in a single sentence, surely it’s worth checking out, ya?
For their part, the women touched lycra to the rain-soaked cobbles of the Champs-Élysées, weathering several pileup crashes before Anna van der Breggen crossed the line first in the women’s stage of La Course.
But let’s jump to the Preview, broken down by jerseys.
YELLOW: In 2015, Chris Froome won his second Tour in three attempts and there isn’t much reason to doubt he will win this year. The usual competition will challenge him, most notably Nairo Quintana, who gave Froome a serious run for his money last year.
The caveat on Froome is his propensity to ride himself into the sprinters pack during the actual 45mph sprint finish, in the name of avoiding crashes in the peloton. It’s not safe, Man! Bulleting sprinters bump shoulders and throw elbows with a guy nick-named the Gorilla who will be battling his young German countryman, Marcel Kittel for bragging rights, along with the aging but nothing if not passionately driven ball of hate that is Mark Cavendish, along with other head butters (that’s a term, right?).
Chief head butter Nacer Bouhanni won’t be at the Tour though, ‘cause he got in a fight and had to have surgery on his hand. Seriously? You’re a cyclist, dude. As the joke goes, cyclists have the body type of a T. rex.
As for an American hopeful, In 2015, Tejay van Garderen was poised to podium before dropping out sick in the third week – a tortuous process TV viewers witnessed labored pedal stroke by stroke until he pulled to the side of the road and sobbed. If you’ve been following Tejay’s career, you know he can’t seem to align the forces in his Universe for a full three weeks and my guess is, his sports psychologist whispered in his team manager’s ear. This year, Richie Porte and van Garderen will essentially share the top spot on their GMC team. If any two people can share the top spot with a teammate, it’s van Garderen and Porte, who had the trial-by-fire experience as team leader after former teammate Froome crashed out of the 2014 Tour. As for van Garderen, knowing he carries half the weight on his shoulders might be just enough relief to his immune system to get him to the Champs-Élysées.
GREEN: In case you hadn’t heard, “Sprinter Etc.” Peter Sagan has been pulling tricks on a bike a lifetime, winning the Slovak Cup as a junior cyclist riding his sister’s recreational bike. I found a lengthy treatise on why, despite a race route not as suited to Sagan as it has been, Kittel is the only sprinter who will challenge Sagan for his fifth consecutive green jersey.
POLKADOT: African Daniel Teklehaimanot earned the polka-dot climbers jersey a second consecutive year in the Dauphine. In 2015, the Eritrean was the first Black man to wear a WorldTour jersey in the Tour de France, earning the polka-dots for a day. Do it again! Do it again! Win it all!
WHITE: This Preview is a bit long as it is (takes a Treatise to know a Treatise) so suffice it to say there are a few Best Young Rider candidates who’ve exhibited raw strength, confidence, and no fear this season.
TIMBITS: As if BREXIT wasn’t embarrassing enough, Iceland beat England to advance to the quarterfinals in the European championships in one of the biggest upsets in soccer history. With its population of 300,000 – a couple hundred thousand less than Albuquerque, New Mexico – Iceland is the smallest country to qualify for a major tournament.
If Wimbledon is your thing, get this: Marcus Willis, ranked #772, earned the chance to face Federer. Willis lost of course, but his story is a good one and he enjoyed the hell out of the experience, earning a standing ovation when he won a game. Otherwise, he’s been living with his mom – presumably in the basement – having won a grand total of $247 in 2016 until his spot against Federer earned him $63,000.
In Rio, the only Olympic event that really matters is your body’s ability to fight off an infection.