Not only does this race have bitter rivalries and the nearly insurmountable feat of cycling through France over ridiculous mountain passes, but it’s dangerous. I mean really dangerous. And that makes for exciting tv.
So far there’s been a broken pelvis, concussions, and tons of scrapes and bruises. Then in Stage 9 a rider actually got clipped as some jackass driving a media car tried to pass him. YouTube – CAR CRASHES INTO CYCLIST – TOUR DE FRANCE 2011.
This caused the guy behind him to flip over his handlebars into a barbed wire fence and eventually the field. Unbelievably both riders got back up and limped to the end of the stage. You can’t make this stuff up.
A few days earlier another guy had his bike drug down the road by a passing motorcycle. YouTube – FAIL – Crash caused by motorcycle ( Tour de France 2011 ).
Come on, what other sport can boast being hit by a car as a hazard? At least in Nascar everybody has a car. Seriously. These guys are tough as nails.
But that’s not the reason I love it.
You might think it’s because of the beautiful coverage, how watching the Tour makes you believe there isn’t an ugly place in the French countryside. Because it does. There are castles and ruins around every corner, surrounded by rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. Instead of cows they have percherons, instead of corn they have sunflowers. One look at the perfectly crumbling whitewashed little towns and you know how good the wine tastes.
But that’s not it either.
It’s the names. They’re so exotic and foreign as they roll off the tongues of the British commentators that it’s kind of enchanting.
There are strong names that make you think of steel and iron, like Thor Hushovd and Linus Gerdemann, and some that remind me of bad guys in old Rocky movies, like Alexandre Vinokourov and Vladimir Gusev.
There’s Johnny Hoogerland (our hero of the barbed wire) who you know goes by Hoog. Every time they say his name I see him walking into Cheers and everyone shouting, “HOOG!”
And of course, there are the slinky ones, the names that make you blush and go weak in the knees, like Fabian Cancellara and Damiano Cunego. Just say those out loud. Ahhh….It’s a good thing there weren’t guys with names like that in school. I’d still be cruising around Italy on the back of some motorcycle. Sorry babe, but Domiano Cunego is an ass magnet.
Even some of the teams have strange and wonderful names. There’s Euskaltel-Euskadi, Katusha, Omega Pharma-lotto and my favorite, Vacansoleil.
And the American teams have some special juice too. Riding for team BMC is George Hincapie, who actually looks like a comic book superhero,
and on Garmin-Cervelo is a Canadian who was obviously destined for the sport from birth, Ryder Hesjedal.
So if you’re not watching the Tour, you should be. Watch for the carnage, for the countryside or even just to see what the yellow jersey can drive a man to do. Or watch for the names. You won’t be disappointed.
The bad news is you’re late. The good news is that we’ve got two more weeks and the Pyrenees still to come.