Tour de France Flag

The 2014 version of the Tour de France has started and at Coeur, we can honestly say we are excited. We’ve had a love affair with cycling and the Tour is the sport’s biggest moment in the sun. I must emphasize the word “honest” because, if I am really, really honest, I’d tell you that my relationship with the tour has been rocky the last couple of years.

Like many Americans I was introduced to cycling by Lance Armstrong via his book “It’s not about the bike”. The protagonist of the story was compelling, powerful and determined. He was also, as we now know, fictional. In fact, it seemed as if the entire cast was made of actors. They played their roles well and stayed in character until the end. When the truth came out, I felt a bit like a jilted lover and soured on professional cycling and the Tour.

The emotional blows come in flurries. The allegations had always been out there but for some reason, I was able to rationalize them. They were just jealous. Haters will hate. Everyone takes shots at the guy on top.

The real cracks started to appear when Bill Strickland stated that he thought Lance doped. You see, Bill was something of an insider. He was a writer, a cyclist and he had been a Lance defender. He didn’t say why but something made him change his mind. The cracks widened as former pros and teammates came out and made their statements. For me, the dam burst when I read Tyler’s Hamilton’s book “The Secret Race”. The book had a ring of truth that was hard to deny.

I guess that was when it almost ended. The Tour was dirty and to a degree so was all of pro cycling. I still enjoyed riding but “cycling” had been exposed.

When the movie “The Lance Armstrong Lie” came out, I had no interest in seeing it but it turned out that it was playing at a theater less than a mile from our condo. For those of you who don’t know, in 2009 Alex Gibney was hired to make a film about Lance Armstrong's comeback to cycling. The film was put on the shelf when the doping scandal erupted. Gibney had some great footage and decided to change the storyline. The film picks up in 2013 and presents an insider's view of the scandal.

One Wednesday night, Kebby and I walked over to see it. The move was made out of boredom more than anything else. I expected that the movie would just deepen the rift with cycling and perhaps even put a final nail in the coffin.

At first that is what happened, it started with clips from the Oprah interview and we just slumped into our seats. Then, something odd happened. There was some amazing footage of the race and the pure beauty of the sport started to shine through. First, our eyes turned to the landscape. The flat segments were warm and welcoming. The sunflowers turned toward the course and the flowers actually seemed to be smiling an approval. The farmers mowed outlines of bikes in their fields and we could almost feel the sun.

When the course started to climb, the immense, unbelievable wild beauty of the Pyrenees almost hurt our eyes. To us, no other sport has such a magnificent stage.

Tour de France Riders

 Then we started to re-notice the peloton. Once again, we were mesmerized by this colorful, muscular mass of movement. For much of the race, it served as the centerpiece. Sometimes it was a merciless thing that absorbed riders who valiantly attempted to ride off the front. Other times, it was a powerful but clueless entity that couldn’t get organized to pull the escapees back. But it was always fascinating and is was so incredibly fast.

Riding through fields

Finally, we began to become reacquainted with the individual riders and their tactics. We were in awe of both the raw speed of the sprint finishes and the sustained suffering associated with the climbs.

By and large, we began to ignore the non-cycling parts of the movie and we knew in our hearts that, once again, we had fallen in love with professional cycling and most of all Le Tour.

And now we’re excited again. For the next three weeks, we’ll be glued to the TV and will be following every stage. We hope that, if you like us, took a break from watching this great sport, that you’ll give it a second chance.

It is truly beautiful and we think you’ll be glad you came back.

Viva Le Tour

Reginald Holden