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By Rupert Guinness, Of The Australian
It all happens at once on the Tour de France.And ain’t it great … at least when you are an Australian reporteron the Tour de France and have covering today’s third stage.Not that the outcome made for a easy day, nor for total joy, thanksto four very sound reasons that made a seemingly boring day so dramatic.Reason 1: The third stage from Metz to Reims was won by an Australianin Robbie McEwen (Lotto) who again beat Germany’s Erik Zabel (Telekom).Reason 2: Meanwhile, Stuart O’Grady (Credit Agricole) was undergoinga cardiogram after suffering a tachycardia attack saw his heart beat irregularlyat 235bpm for an hour during the stage until 10km to go.Reason 3: While trying to figure how to balance the story ofday four on the Tour (or anticipate if the paper will run two stories)we are reminded that the ever-improving Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) placedthird!Reason 4: Running late, knowing we had a 100km drive to our hotel,I walked into an ambush of celebrating Aussies and one Samuel Abt ofInternational Herald-Tribune fame who couldn’t resist the free champagne.Neither could I.Say no more, I am now behind schedule on a day that became an occasionto savor the joy of victory but also – thanks to O’Grady – to considerthe purpose of keeping things in perspective.Thankfully O’Grady is fine. As soon as he felt poorly, he saw Dr GerardPorte during the stage and immediately after underwent a medical check.But it is never nice to see someone undergo a heart scare, even if itis one that the victim knows it is a condition that is treatable.As O’Grady said after miraculously coming out of his camper van to talkto waiting media 10 minutes later: “I think everyone else was worried aboutit more than me.”Saying that, it was not hard to think of O’Grady’s parents Brian andFay who have come on the Tour for the last three years to follow him.Yesterday, they were not there. This year they are following the Tourback home via the small band of Australian print, radio and televisionmedia on the race. Their absence and O’Grady’s condition made for thoughtabout how to most accurately report the events, to make sure they readan account that is accurate but also has feel. Definitely not a beat-up.Among us in the Australian media, a decision made was to make sure hisparents heard the latest news first-hand by telephone, rather than hearor read about it via our reports.No doubt, O’Grady himself would have called. But we hoped that by hearingit from one of us they would also gain confidence it would not become abeat-up.It is still a major story. A heart scare is a heart scare. And it begsthe question – albeit from the less knowledgeable (such as me) on the subject- if continuing the race is worth it.That concern was shared throughout. It was a measure of the respectriders have for each other that that rode up to O’Grady to talk, pat himon the back and check he was okay. It was also a measure of O’Grady’s incrediblegrit, determination and riding prowess that having recovered, he stillcontested the sprint to finish 10th.As the sun sets over Reims tonight, it is a measure of everyone’s concernin the race that people are still asking if he is alright.Not so much if he is fit to race, but just plain old alright.The Tour is the greatest race in the world. It is so much a part ofpeople’s lives. July would not be July without the Tour.But similarly, when someone’s life is even slightly threatened (if thatis the correct way to describe O’Grady’s situation today) the race rateslittle importance.Editor’s Note: Aside from having a name that conjures up visionsof a nice refreshing pint, Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for the dailynewspaper The Australian. A former European correspondent for Winningand VeloNews, Guinness will be sending in a daily column from theTour.