By Jen See | Photo: ASO/Pauline Ballet
Watching the Tour from the west coast is not what you’d call easy, unless you’re a morning person. Wait, you’re not a morning person, are you? Because I don’t think we can still be friends, if you are.
Each night, I stare at the stage profile, trying to find the perfect balance between surfing my pillow and watching the bike race. I like bike racing. I just like sleeping better. So I look for that perfect moment, usually a race-deciding climb or any other spot that promises shenanigans, and I try to wake up in time. It never really works out, and I stumble out of bed, turn on the laptop, and hope the internet smiles on me and loads the video. Sometimes it even works before I start cursing. If only the espresso machine heated up faster. The waiting is the hardest part.
The early mornings, early for me at least, give the Tour a dreamlike quality. Did I really see a man, running along the side of the road, waving a taxidermic boar and dead duck? Even now, I’m not so sure. And the aliens. I feel like there were so many anatomically correct aliens. I can seen not wanting panty lines under your alien suit, but really, I think some kind of underthing would be prudent, you guys. I kept waiting for someone dressed as Henri Desgranges to run alongside the peloton, or pedal a trike, maybe. But it never happened, or it if did, I slept through that part.
It’s a good thing I don’t wake up to watch the Tour for the general classification. Really, the Yellow Jersey did not get around much. Awfully prudish of her, really. She fell hard for that Christopher guy, and never really gave the other dudes a chance. They got to the party, and boom! Already, she was making out in the corner. It made me feel a little sad for the other guys. They showed up, and then they had to dance with themselves all the while pretending they couldn’t tell that the other guy had already gotten the girl.
All except Nairo. He didn’t really care about the girl making out in the corner. He came to France to climb some fucking mountains. And that’s exactly what he did. I have a soft spot in my heart for the pure climbers. It’s rare for the Tour to smile upon them, what with its nasty tendency to throw 50-kilometer time-trial stages, which really, are far too long. My attention span! This time around, there was a flat time trial and a hilly one. Waiter, there are mountains in my time trial. Anyway, Nairo. That part was fun.
Mostly, I watch the Tour for the sideshows: The weird roadside shenanigans, the doomed long breakaways, the farm art. I definitely watch the Tour for the farm art. Also, they have cool castles. I feel like one of those ruined castles would look rather nice in my livingroom. I will admit that the droning voice of the commentator tasked with doing the history lessons on the castles put me to sleep every time. But who stays awake during history class? Spoiler! Nobody.
Maybe I was asleep more than I remember, but this Tour had a shocking lack of Thomas Voeckler making faces at the camera. Where was that guy hiding? Maybe one of the aliens snatched him up. Christophe Riblon saved the day for the locals with his Alpe d’Huez win. Before that, they had only Pierre Rolland’s mismatched polka dot shorts to cheer for. And no one really wants to cheer for the polka dot shorts. People! There should be rules! Skateboarding’s fine. The polka dot shorts are totally a crime. My eyes! Please consider them.
On the subject of my eyes, I really don’t know what was up with that green thing on Peter Sagan’s face on the Champs Élysées stage. Did he lose a bet? The evil you won’t win the sprint witch cast a spell on him? Maybe it was alien spoo. The aliens, they are haunting my dreams. I really wanted to reach through my screen and rip that thing off him, whatever it was. It would be cool if the internet allowed such thing. Here we are. It’s 2013. I was promised jetpacks and flying cars and an internet I could reach through and grab at things. Having arrived here, I’m thoroughly disappointed in the future.
But we did get a sequined yellow jersey. Now that thing was totally worth hanging around, waiting for this future thing to show up. Sequins. You can’t make this shit up. At least the stage was flat. I’d hate to think how much weight those things would add on a mountain stage. Next time, make it tassles. Golden tassles. And you can only win the Tour if you can make them spin. Also, can-can kicks in carbon shoes are required. It could lead a whole new sport. I might even get out of bed for it.
Alas for us, we’re stuck with the same old sport. No can-can kicks, and no golden tassles. Just a bike race around France, over some mountains, around some rivers, and through some forests. Usually, we know the winner long before it’s over. But for some reason, we keep setting the alarm, prying ourselves away from our warm pillows, pushing the cat off onto the floor (not the kitty!), and showing up to watch it.
We show up for the aliens running along the roadside and the occasional full moon. But we also show up for the riders’ hopes and dreams, some fulfilled and some left shattered on the roads of France. How painful was that moment when Riblon rode over the top of Tejay van Garderen in the final two kilometers of the Alpe d’Huez. That’s cycling compressed into a single frame: One rider’s heartbreak is another’s moment of glorious joy. And how wondrous to see Quintana smile at last as he won at Annecy-Semnoz and sealed his second place, long before he ever imagined he would.
It’s all these things, the Tour. And all these things make me keep waking up to spend July in a sleepless, dreamlike state, not quite sure what is real and what is fake, or what actually happened and what was the product of some strange fevered summer dream.