Name a sport where fans can be within touching distance of top athletes in the field. If you said Tour De France (aka Tour or TDF), then you guessed right. Currently enjoying its 100th incarnation, the event brings French citizens and fans worldwide together to celebrate this crowning event of professional cycling.
For more than a few years now, the Tour has been embroiled in controversy, as winners have been stripped of titles due to testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Several Americans, notably Lance Armstrong, have suffered this indignity, due to their poor choices. Lance’s fall from grace has been long and hard, and he continues to appear in the spotlight, lately regarding a lawsuit against him by an insurance company that paid him $3 million in bonuses between 1999 and 2001. He might be considered the poster child for all that is wrong with professional cycling today.
Nevertheless, the TDF remains an exciting event to follow. Where else will you find 182 individuals dressed in 22 different shades of brightly-colored Lycra (the colors of the teams), each of whom has the express goal of placing their team’s leader on the winner’s podium, wearing a yellow jersey, at the end of it all? That end will be in 12 days, when the 21st Stage, or race, of the Tour will be completed. To complicate the race a bit more, individual racers come from many nationalities and speak varied languages.
It’s all high drama on the plains, hills, mountains, and valleys of France. In this 100th Anniversary Tour year, it will be quite an honor for whoever rides victoriously onto the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris, wearing the yellow jersey.
The TDF has been around since 1903. War has pre-empted the race for many of those years. What makes the race so spectacular to me is that it has always centered upon the most efficient vehicle known to humankind: the bicycle.
Following the TDF in 2013 is much easier than it was in 1903. Typing Tour De France into a search engine will yield multiple results, photographs and videos.
In the end, cycling fans hold out hope that this year will be a clean race, and subsequently the sport will regain some of its dignity. In any case, my wish for the riders this year is simple: may you make it to the end.