The Tour de France kicked off yesterday — I watched the Rotterdam prologue off the Tivo last night — and caught Lance’s solo ride through the streets with mixed emotion, caught up the explicit allegations of doping leveled against him by his disgraced former lieutenant, Floyd Landis. I have been a cycling romantic since the 1970s, when the movie Breaking Away inspired me to take my grandmother’s college graduation present and convert it into a classic Raleigh 12-speed racing bike that I rode all around New Haven and Cape Cod in a pair of sneakers and gym shorts. It was the European mystique of the sport, the wonder of what I think is arguably man’s most noble form of transportation, the sensation of flying down the rolling hills of the mid-Cape that addicted me to cycling forever.
In 2004, when Lance won the Tour, I was inspired to get back into cycling with a vengeance, pouring thousands of dollars into the helmets, shoes, gruppos I was ignorant of in the 1980s. Soon I was putting in hundreds of miles per week, hauling myself around the back roads of Cape Cod with my friends.
That all ended over Memorial Day weekend in 2006 when I was hit head on by a car and absolutely destroyed myself in a disastrous crash. So ended my cycling, forbidden by a wife unable to think about me out there in harm’s way, a would-be organ donor at the mercy of every teenage drive texting away behind the wheel.
Yet still every July I tune into the dulcet tones of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin calling the most extraordinary athletic contest in the world, one so brutal that yes, indeed, to survive the riders turn to testosterone patches, EPO, and blood transfusions.
And yes, I remain in awe of Lance, his comeback, his survival, his fighter’s spirit. It’s just very sad to see him in this, his last Tour, saying his farewell to a sport he transformed under the damning cloud of Landis’ specific and detailed allegations.
I don’t know if I will watch again after this.