By Fred Dreier
“Tour de France. Tour de France. Tour de France.” –Kraftwerk
These days it takes little more than the first few notes of a trashy Euro techno beat to stoke the inner cycling fire. That’s right, folks, the best three weeks of the year have begun.
Of course, the athletes have been preparing for these three weeks the entire year, but it’s the last-minute preparations that had me asking some questions.
First, there is Lance’s pre-race prep, which, judging by this photo, included some movie-star impersonations. Whaddya think – is he doing Bogey or the Duke?
Then there is Jan Ullrich’s pre-Tour prep. Getting dropped on the final climb at the Tour of Switzerland didn’t help much, in my opinion. I think putting his head through the team car’s back window hurt a tad bit more.
I don’t know about you, but my final personal preparations for the Tour began not long ago. It was Friday night and I was sitting in the Boulder Theater watching Pepe Danquart’s long-awaited film “Hoellentour” (Hell on Wheels), which chronicles the 2003 Tour de France from the perspective of what was then called Team Telekom, using extensive interviews with the dynamic duo of Rolf Aldag and Erik Zabel.
Now, I admit to be a full-fledged über-dork fan when it comes to cycling films – let’s just say I regularly recite the cheesy narration to Jamie Paolinetti’s “Pro” word for word (everyone needs a hobby). But I must admit that Danquart’s film really raises the bar a notch or three.
My advice: See this thing – it has the perfect recipe for a classic film.
Start with action sequences, using the soaring French Alps and Pyrenees as the backdrop, add in countless massage-table interviews with Zabel, Aldag, Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden, plus chats with jittery Tour historian Serge Laget, top it all off with a soundtrack of Euro techno and elevator beats, and you’ve got a basic view of the film.
Yeah, I admit that the repeated shots of Rolf Aldag’s freakish half-naked body, sporting the worst tan lines I have ever witnessed, wore on me a bit, but it was all part of the film’s “behind the scenes” philosophy.
Now, I won’t give away too much about the film; you’ll have to check it out for yourselves. All I’ll say is that after watching this thing you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the “sleds” of the Tour’s mountain stages – guys like Zabel who inch their way over the passes, hoping to beat the day’s time cut. You’ll also have an deeper understanding of the amount of chamois butter these guys use. It’s kind of ridiculous.
Still, the film was a perfect kickoff to this year’s Tour, and with an ironed, stain-free maillot T-shirt, a musette chock-full of granola and beer, and my alarm clock set early enough to catch the OLN coverage, I’m ready.
World Cup runneth over – to North America
Le Tour isn’t the only two-wheeled excitement during these next few weeks. The UCI’s mountain-bike World Cup has left the European continent for this side of the pond. And while the Euro cross-country racers have all-but owned the World Cup throughout the 2005 season, save for Marie-Helene Premont’s cross-country win at Madrid in May, North Americans made a pretty strong statement on home turf.
Now, most domestic mountain bikers would jump at the chance to compete on the World Cup circuit all year long – after all, that’s where the sport’s top end lies. It’s not that the entire NORBA circuit is full of sleds, but Sue Haywood and Shonny Vanlandingham can only duke it out for so many weekends in a row before wondering what it would be like to charge after world champ Gunn-Rita Dahle. Because of sponsorship and money issues, most teams can’t afford (or just don’t choose) to send their athletes on full Euro campaigns, so when the Euro’s finally come to North America, it’s on.
It was definitely on at Mont-Ste-Anne. Credit Geoff Kabush and Adam Craig for their podium performances in the men’s cross country, but the big surprise came in the women’s XC, where North Americans snagged five of the top 10 slots, with Premont scoring the win.
Of course, the same unsaid rule of sponsorship and funding applies to the Europeans – many of them aren’t able to hit the races in North America because of money and travel issues. Still, top-end racers like Christoph Sauser and Dahle do make it to North America, and it’s refreshing to know that the domestic talent can give them a run for their money.
This coming weekend is the World Cup in Angel Fire, New Mexico, which will be another chance for the domestic pros to test their might against the European competition, so stay tuned. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a North American male and female standing on top of the podium.
Grab a cuppa, watch the Tour
Pardon me for being Boulder-centric, but for anyone searching for a lively Tour viewing spot, look no further than Amante Coffee in downtown Boulder. The place is airing the live coverage starting at 6:30, and has four rebroadcasts each day, at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Every time you spend $3 you are entered into a daily raffle for some coffee schwag, a free bike tune-up and the grand prize to be raffled off after the last stage, a new Scott bike. Pretty sweet. Plus, you get to enjoy the Tour the way it should be watched – in a packed café, bumping elbows with people who are as into it as you are.
I hope there are other places out there offering Tour specials this month. If you know of a preferred Tour viewing spot, email me the info at firstname.lastname@example.org.