Today was the most hyped stage of the 2004 Tour de France. When the tour route was announced last fall they had placed all the mountains and the individual time trials at the last half of the race. This would leave the race very open until the end. As it turns out, Lance was able to get good time in the Pyranees so it wasn’t as open as hoped.
We skipped riding today because of the insanity of the crowds and Tammy was coming down for real with the cold I came here with. We took a shuttle bus up to Bourg d’Oisans which is at the base of the L’Alpe d’Huez and watched the stage at the start.
I wont go into all the details of the stage since you can go to a Tour de France site to read about that but Lance won the stage with command and I was able to experience my defining moment of the Tour de France.
Tammy was feeling quite bad so before the stage ended she took the shuttle back to town. I stayed and took pictures as the riders started the time trial. The crowds were enormous even on the base of the climb. As Lance went past and the procession of what must have been 30 cars behind him went by, a number of us ran across the street to this little bar to watch the stage. This is where I had my “tour moment”.
I was under the awning of this little bar. There were probably 40 or so people crowded under and there was a 13” TV on a stool on one end. The rabbit ears were stuck up to pull in the race coverage. Under this little awning at the base of the mountain were French, German, Italian, Americans and more countries. Everyone spoke different languages but all we’re passionate about the tour. We stood there in a group glued to this tiny TV watching the race progress up the Alpe.
I think part of the reason why Americans don’t get bike racing is we need an us versus them. Yankees versus the Dodgers. Ali versus Foreman. If you remove the “versus” we don’t get it. We are a very bivalent country (republican or democrat, pro this or anti that, yes or no, black and white). As this international group watched the race everyone was cheering for everyone. Ullrich came through the first checkpoint with the best time and the group roared. Lance came through and bested the time and there was another roar. It was a celebration of the achievement, of what is possible. Not a celebration of the defeat of another.
I’ll remember standing in that bar watching that crappy 13” TV every time I watch the tour.
I didn’t get an opportunity to climb the L’Alpe, but that’s okay. I will come back some other time to do that. This was just as good.