I don’t want to whine, but it’s lonely being a Tour de France fan.
Most people don’t understand why the hell you watch it. And they sure don’t want to hear about what happened on yesterday’s action packed stage that you are bursting to share with somebody. Anybody. Hello….
You end up talking to the barista at Starbucks or the checkout person at Target. They’re at work; they can’t walk away from you. Captive audiences. Maybe I should go to some cycling shops to “browse”. When one of the employees asks if they can help me, I can say, “How about the stage of the Tour yesterday? Crazy, right?”
Not just crazy. It’s batsh*t crazy.
So, the great thing about my trip to France last year was that I was surrounded by people with the same obsession. They know who the riders are and what teams they’re on. And what a GC rider and a peloton is. And, most important, they know that the English language television announcers of the Tour are like rock stars!
Yeah – rock stars.
Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin are the Tour announcers who broadcast to all English speaking countries. Bob Roll, or “Bobke”, is a former American professional cyclist who augments – along with a couple of other guys – the broadcast for American audiences. All 37 of us. R-O-C-K S-T-A-R-S!
I had my picture taken with all three. Now just let that it sink in.
It happened this way children… On that first fateful day of my TdF experience last year – Stage 17 in Chorges, France – remember, just when I though things could not get any better? They did. Both are long stories – blah, blah, blah. But I got to meet Bobke and Paul. This is a big deal and the 36 other people in the US who are cycling fans understand this.
These guys, along with all of the other media type folks and broadcast vans from all over the world, are behind an impenetrable fortress of chain link fencing at each stage finish. No credentials = no access. Without access, it’s hard to stalk…eh…talk to you’re favorite “rock star” announcers.
Honestly, it was dumb luck. It was being in the right place at the right time. Twice. It was being bold enough to holler “Hello!” Asking if they’d mind getting their picture taken with you. Granted, the pictures are with them on one side of the chain link fence and me on the other, but I’m getting the “shoulder touch” from both. R-O-C-K S-T-A-R-S.
Our group went on to watch three other stages in the French Alps. I couldn’t even get close to the media area for me to try to stalk…eh…find Phil Liggett, the missing link in my triumvirate of cycling broadcast gods.
Then, quite unexpectedly, in Paris, the amazing city of lights, magic happened. Ah Paris!
Stage 21 of the 100th edition of the Tour de France. The cyclists were going to be coming into Paris at dusk. It was 90 degrees F at 9AM.
To kill time, I decided to walk down the entire Champs Elysees from the Arch d’Triumph to the Place de la Concorde. Wanted to “soak” up the TdF experience. It was hot, humid and crowded. I was soaking it up alright…
Almost at the end of my walk, by the media trucks and busses, BEFORE of the chain link fence was erected, I spied HIM. It was Phil out in the open – no credentials needed. He was a sitting duck! I walked up to him and babbled like a tweener meeting Davy Jones at a 1968 Monkees concert. Some nice bystander took a picture of us. Got the “shoulder touch” again. Yeah – that’s right. I needed a cigarette. I don’t smoke.
The fence eventually went up, the cyclists arrived, the Arch d’Triumph lit up, the awards given and it was over. It would have been a serious let down if I hadn’t stayed in Paris 10 more days… Ah Paris!
The 2014 Tour de France ends tomorrow. I’ve been watching it on TV. I’m in Atlanta.
Pass the Prozac please.