Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Cycling Obsession

I can't explain why, probably five years back when Lance Armstrong was going for his record-setting fifth Tour de France win, I became obsessed with pro cycling. It's like Jana's obsession with Mt. Everest. It's not that I even like to ride a bike. I really pretty much don't. I had read Lance's biography, and if my bout with cancer had been even remotely in the same stratosphere as his, I very much doubt I'd have had the fight in me to beat it. I was amazed at what he was doing. So at first it might have been about cheering Lance on, but after that first year, I was hooked. I think I remember the exact moment. I was watching a mountain stage, and they were showing some guy pedaling up the "hill" when I noticed a spectator behind him. When he crossed the spectator's path, the angles of their bodies made it appear as though he was going up a 45 degree angle mountain. I know how my lungs feel even scooting up an "incline". Right then my lungs started to burn for this guy. By the time Lance retired, I knew what I'd be doing every July from then on.

I imagine some people might think that watching cycling on T.V. is about as exciting as watching golf. But I get it. The agony of a peloton pile-up one minute, the thrilling "Where the hell did HE come from?" sprint finish, the next day's admiration for the cyclist who is continuing on despite a broken collarbone or 52 stitches in both knees combined, the awesome sportsmanship (which I'm sorry, I find SORELY lacking in Girls U12 premier soccer), plus, the burning lungs. At first it was only the Tour de France, which also boasted the most amazing photography and scenery. It had everything, or so I thought.

A couple of years back they added the category of who's getting kicked out today for allegedly doping. The first year after Lance, I was so crushed with the exclusion of some of my favorites that I almost didn't watch. Eventually I got back there, but it was hard. After last year, which was still a thrilling finish, in the back of my head there's an asterisk as I'm remembering the disgraced yellow jersey wearer who was kicked out for missing doping control tests and lying about his whereabouts and the amazing performance of the aforementioned stitches wearer who was also removed, along with his poor (and presumably innocent) teammates. It's like a damn soap. I think if they added a "who hooked up with which podium girl last night" column, it would seriously have everything. Except I know, from reading every book I find on the subject, that cyclists would never want to waste their energy hooking up. I've heard they try not to even climb stairs during the duration of the race to save that energy, also.

I'm worried already about this year because of what's happened so far. Team Astana, who was kicked out of the TdF last year for doping, has seemingly rebuilt the team. They've got a new manager, last year's winner and Levi Leipheimer. So they've already been banned for this year, which sucks. Levi happens to be a Montana boy, so that was always an extra bonus. I do have some other favorites, but I think what makes it so special is just what it takes to even finish. If you cross that line, even last, look what you just did, you know?

Anyway, my obsession did spill over into my reading materials, also. You can check out a few of the cycling books I've read here.

Every now and then I think it would be cool to start riding my bike more than the two miles or so my daughter and I rode every other day last summer. But then I actually go out and ride and think, No, I don't want to be doing this, no way, no how. But I can't stop watching.

No comments: