Possibly drug chemists and drug users - athletic and non - might get a rush out of the 23-day tour, which begins July 5th. But is the common ruck all a buzz?
If not a buzz, maybe a flutter, knowing there’ll be more than France to gawk at. British towns such as Leeds, Sheffield, and Cambridge will be cycled through first. Let’s hope overly officious British immigration bureaucrats don’t hold up the cyclists before they head to France, like they did in 1974.
Definitely citizens of Masham, Yorkshire are a stir. Council sourpusses ordered their green, yellow, and white knitted jerseys, more than 20,000 worth, strung up as bunting, to be taken down. Safety, you know.
We know we should stand to attention, or at least sit up straight, as the Tour pays homage at Ypres, the Belgian town. That’s where mustard, chlorine and phosgene gas attacks left hundreds of thousands dead in WW1.
We’ll stop texting if we hear that the hot-air spat between Chris Froome and Sir Stanley Wiggins is really over. We’ll give our heads a shake if we find out that Froome has agreed to general manager Sir Dave Brailsford’s possible picking of Wiggins to Team Sky.
We’ll listen to British fans’ raucous reaction should Wiggins not be selected. They ache for a British bicycle bombardment with both leading the British bike troops. (Although with Alberto Contador leaving Froome in his dust in the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné with the Tour fast approaching, it may not matter who is on Team Sky for the Brits.)
And if Wiggins is picked, many will weep knowing that Wiggins’ role will be to support Froome. We’ll ponder why Wiggins would agree to this domestique deployment.
Because, if not for a chest infection and inflammation in his left knee he’d have defended his Tour de France win of 2012. He was the first Briton to win it. (Unfortunately, kids Ben and Isabella were bullied at school after their dad won the 2012 race. They were moved to another school.)
Speaking of moving and knees, Wiggins was riding this week in the Tour de Suisse. But he got rammed from behind, crashed, and now his right knee is swollen. And his Tour de France chances have further slimmed.
Back to the bigger picture...
We cads will contemplate the competitors trying to navigate the stage 5 cobblestones. We’ll calculate the possibility of broken bones, cogitate whether the bikes, made by 19 or so manufacturers, have what it takes, and we'll deliciously deliberate over possible lawsuit snafus.
But despite these discussions above, most of us will ruminate with what’s primary on our plate of debate: Who is using, what’s being used, will they get away with it, and should we get some?
If the Queen and Prince Philip at Buckingham palace glance at the race will they see any “clean” riders whizz by? Will Prince Harry, Prince William, and Kate, at the Tour’s start, in Leeds? Or will all talk of whizz be of competitors peeing into bottles to disprove covert drug use? The latter is what floats critics’ boats, makes their blood boil, and gives them a case of the hashtag harrumphs: #I’mSoPissed!
Has the drug scene affected eyeballs? Are TV audiences down? Depends.
In the USA, since Lance slithered from the scene in 2009, final stage viewership has dropped in quantities greater than foods wolfed down at Las Vegas buffets. But NBC Sports Network did report a 67% increase, thanks to 560,000 viewers, in the 2013 last stage, over the year previous.
And in Europe, relief that Lance’s stench no longer permeated things, possibly accounted for the Eurosport channel’s 17.1 million viewers tuning in to the 2013 race’s beginnings. That, and the 100th year anniversary milestone, had to help push up the numbers.
But do kids, in numbers great or small, still aspire to cycle? Do the parents pressure the kids one way or another?
No matter who pressures who to do what, remember the kid had better have a big heart if he does take the plunge. Did you know that professional cyclists’ hearts are up to 40% bigger than average?
And did you know that the UCI formed the CIRC PDQ because the UCI wasn't minding its ABC’s in dotting its i’s and crossing its t’s?
Yessiree, the International Cycling Union birthed the Cycling Independent Reform Commission to investigate the International Cycling Union because it was asleep at the wheel in missing the atrocious act of Lance Armstrong.
For instance, in May of this year Chris Froome had his knickers in a knot because he, Vincenzo Nibali, and Alberto Contador were training in Tenerife and nobody drug tested them. He’s mad at the UCI about that.
What’s Lance up to this year? His seven Tour de France victories came with “help” and though the wins have been wiped off the map, his arrogance hasn't. In April 2014 he told Outside magazine he still considers himself the victor. In his interview with Oprah he said he wanted to compete again because he was a competitor.
Becoming a debtor may be more like it: he’s being chased for, give or take, $96,965,465.82 in damages.
When Lance isn't being harassed for cash and when he isn't blowing a gasket, seething at the capriciousness of the cruel cycling gods, he’s blowing a tube instead. Here, he shows us how to fix a flat bicycle tire. Even in this video, he’s uniformly unappealing. He doesn't do self-deprecation well.
Froome, given Armstrong’s tainting of the Tour de France, is - despite his protestations at the UCI for not testing him - under suspicion of “taking.” He’s a bit hot under the collar about it. He also, literally, had been running hot, in his preparation for the “biggest bike race”. He won the 2014 Tour of Oman in February. And have you seen his legs? Veins galore.
Froome will be trying to muscle in on a second consecutive win. He’ll block out the tussle between pro-drug takers and anti-drug officials. He’ll pedal, knowing there’s absolutely no assurance that new, peddled, drugs won’t be conjured up to fool the wardens of the sport.
For what it’s worth George Hincapie, top domestique in his day, thinks road cycling has cleaned up its act these past few years.
Even if he’s right, we’ll relish a little criminality-collage villainy. The Tour de France has historically offered a miscreant miscellany of races being “bought”, of objects puncturing tires, of short cuts being used, of bikes being sabotaged...
You know, maybe cycling 3,664 kilometers over 21 days - with only two days off, for that’s on tap this 2014, is a crazy sport if, looking back, cocaine, chloroform, ether, strychnine, opioids, amphetamines, or nitroglycerin have been needed to deaden pain, relieve boredom, or heighten performance.
Maybe the athletes, managers, and sponsors, need to grow up. After all, taking ecstasy so one can neck with strangers is a crazy sport too. But most of us grow up, and out, of that.
Let’s just hope this year’s Tour doesn't fall flat.