Field Theory by Hadyn Green

25

Bicycle Race

I love this time of the year. I don't mean winter, I mean this exact time of the year. This is the only time during the year when there is no sport on at all.

I mentioned this last year as well (and noted from the comments that I caught a flu then as well, spooky). It's a fantastic time of year when sports stories get just a little bit crazy as journalists have to scrape together something from nothing.

So because I was stuck at home feeling sorry for myself I decided to watch a little bit of Le Tour. You know what? It's actually pretty good.

One guy in the lead, slogging up a hill, chased by 30 other guys in a pack and all excruciatingly slow. With no allegiance to team nor rider, watching this race thing going slow uphill was amazing. The pack had been miles back but had caught up on the leaders (allowing the current leader to catch up the time he needed to retain the yellow jersey).

The seduction of a slow race was intense. I began rooting for the Portuguese guy at the front simply because the commentators said he hadn't won a stage before. Go little dude!

And the crowd, so close to the riders and never touching them. Waiting all day for the riders to pass the single point where they are. Cheering like it's the last 100 metres. Later I found myself wanting to see them blasting at speed downhill through some small French village with people watching from balconies; hand-written banners fluttering in the wind as the race blasts by in seconds.

It does seem very romantic.

But this is the clean version; the drug-free cheat-free version. The version where teams aren't spending wads of cash and doing their utmost to hide the faults of their riders. When they ride you suspend belief. This is possible, this is human achievement. Watch them race the horses in the field. Watch them climb a goddamn mountain range on a bicycle. Watch them survive being hit by cars and thrown into barbwire. These men who swarm like starlings over the French countryside.

And France is always there as the passive and ever changing supporting character who occasionally steals the show. During the first stage the riders crossed the Passage du Gois causeway that is covered twice a day by the tides. Sometimes they ride on motorways through cities other times along cobbled lanes through villages. It's obvious why people get swept up in the race.

And so I apologise to those who enjoy the sport and whose attempts to get me to watch I have rebuffed. While I am still not a fan of the sport, I can certainly enjoy the spectacle.

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