Vive le Tour!
21 days. 2,128 miles. Two wheels. Recently there has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the sport of cycling. However, in my eyes, the Tour de France remains the pinnacle of athletic achievement and one of the most inspiring events on the planet. Admittedly, an amateur cyclist myself and an unabashed Francophile, I’m pretty much the target audience.
As the Tour approaches the famous ride along the Champs-Elysees this coming weekend, I’m preparing for my own little tour. On Friday, July 19th I leave from Newton, MA on a three-day, 270 mile ride to Greenwich, CT. I’m riding the Tri-State Trek, a fundraising event benefiting the ALS Therapy Development Institute in their quest to find effective treatments for the disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Over the past five months, I’ve put in all the work; the daily spin classes and workouts in the gym, the four and five hour rides in 90 degree heat over the weekends. With just a few days remaining before we ride out, the physical preparation is done. All that’s left is to rest, hydrate, and mentally prepare for the task at hand. This is the time when my thoughts shift to those 181 riders in France.
I was a born Francophile, I never had much choice in the matter. My father holds a PhD in French literature and my parents lived and were married in the Basque town of Pau. It was a surprise to no one when I ended up majoring in French, studying abroad in Paris, and pursuing a career in travel. Although I have had the opportunity to return to France quite often, I now find the Tour reminding me of how much I have yet to see. As I rest and prepare for my own ride, I imagine myself climbing Mont Ventoux, the bald mountain which looks like it belongs on the moon rather than the French Alps. Or pedaling along the Breton coast towards the monastery at Mont St. Michel. Or perhaps sprinting to the finish in Lyon with the cathedral overlooking the stunning confluence of the Rhone and the Saone rivers. As I ride through the hills of Connecticut this weekend, those images will be on my mind and will hopefully push me through the tough spots.
That is what the Tour de France means to me. I choose not to care about who finishes first and what they did to get there. It reminds me of the country I love and it helps inspire me to achieve what I previously did not think was possible. Vive le Tour!