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David L. Stanley
It is Bastille Day

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David L StanleyDavid Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes. And there is his masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer, "Melanoma: It Started With a Freckle".

 


It is Bastille Day, 2020. If this were 1986, I’d be in Milwaukee with my mates, racing the two weeks’ worth of criteriums of Otto Wenz’s Super Week. In those pre-OLN, pre-internet days, we’d gather around the TV in the dorm on the weekend to watch the CBS coverage of the Tour. Paul (of blessed memory) would teach us the ins and outs of Euro-pro racing and Phil would frequently dip into his suitcase of courage to light the blue touch paper.

Lautnet Fignon

Laurent Fignon riding the 1984 Tour prologue. Sirotti photo

If this were 2004, I’d be on the couch with my 12 year old son Aaron. We’d watch the Tour. We’d listen to Phil & Paul. We’d see Robbie McEwen snag points towards the green jersey until Aaron had to hop on his bike and ride to tennis.

But it is 2020, and none of us are watching the Tour. Not Le Tour, anyway. This virtual Tour is pretty cool. I’ve watched several stages and enjoyed the heck out of it. It’s not bike racing as we know it, but it is still damned fit athletes duking it out.

Perhaps it is the future of cycling; this virus is not going away anytime soon. I don’t know about you, but sitting on a guy’s wheel while he blew snot rockets on your legs was never fun. Toss in the added thrill that those blobs of mucus might contain a deadly disease? Yeah, hard pass. Here it is, July 14, and I’ve not yet had the urge to do any group rides.

You cannot deny that people love to watch e-sports and gaming. Twitch is a gigantic platform. It has over 15 million daily users. E-sports just reported their first billion dollar year. Those numbers dwarf cycling’s data. Maybe, just maybe, there is a chance that a few of the folks who watch Zwift’s Tour de France might decide to throw a leg over a bike in the real world. Maybe a few hard-core riders will watch a bit of the Zwifting as motivation before they head out to ride the roads. Maybe, just maybe, a few folks who watch the Zwift Tour will realize that the people on bikes they careen past on the roads as they drive to the store are actual humans and give them room.

Maybe.

But as much as I’m enjoying the virtual Tour, I’m missing the heck out of the real thing:

The classic “peloton rolling through the fields of sunflowers or lavender” camera shots.

The screaming hordes that line the climbs.

The moto-rider passenger who uselessly waves his little paddle to move back the hordes.

The orange of Dutch Corner of Alpe d’Huez, complete with kegs of Oranjeboom and dancing Nederlanders.

The giant green waving foam hands at the sprint finishes.

The not-humanly-possible bits of bike handling.

The thousand-mile stare of a guy in a 110-km breakaway caught 2 km before the line as he rolls across the finish, alone and nearly broken.

The unalloyed glee of a guy in a 110-km breakaway who takes a stage win 300 meters ahead of the chasing peloton.

The 30-cm stare of Chris Froome eyeballing his power meter.

Climbers breathing out their ears as they strive to give nothing away on the way up the Tourmalet.

Climbers dancing like they’re doing the merengue as they attack on the Ventoux.

DiDi Senft, Teufel the Devil, running along beside them.

Sprinters and their lead-out trains muscling each other all over the roadway at 60 kph with 3 km to go.

I miss Greg LeMond in 1985, stage 17, at the finish on the Luz Ardiden. July 16. He had been instructed, nay, lied to, by his team manager.

“Later, a camera caught an anguished LeMond bickering with Paul Köchli, his coach. “All I have to say is, if Hinault was in my place, he would not have waited,” LeMond said, as the cameras closed in. “That’s all I have to say.” Then, his frustration boiling over, he turned to an intruding reporter and cried, “Do you want me to punch you in the face? Get outta here.” (Daniel de Vise, Podium Café, Nov. 2018)

I miss the 89th edition, 2002, when Robbie McEwen said to a vastly more famous
competitor of his, “Shut your mouth or I will fill it with my fist.” The famous mouth was shut.

I miss the look on Vincent Barteau – 1989 stage winner, as he soloed to victory on July 14, 1989, the bicentenary of the storming of the Bastille, in Marseilles, on the shores of the Mediterranean.

I enjoy the virtual Tour, but I’m not crushing on it. I miss, we all miss, the humanity of the real thing: the players and the peloton, the F1 driving skills of the follow vehicles, the almighty wackiness of the caravan publicitaire, the rolling party that is the fans.

The Tour is made by people. It is not the electrons and photons and computer screens and hi-speed internet connections.

It is about us.


David Stanley, like nearly all of us, has spent his life working and playing outdoors. He got a case of Melanoma as a result. Here's his telling of his beating that disease. And when you go out, please put on sunscreen.

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