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Blowing Up

Posted by MDugard on Jun 30, 2006 12:17:41 PM


I can't believe I'm going back. Every year I say that it's my last

Tour, but every July I find myself on a plane, flying off to what a

friend calls the Tour of Irresponsibility. It's a little bit of that,

I'll admit, because any time you take a twenty-three day road trip the

rules of regular life are suspended. But what brings me back is the

dramatic arc of it all, the way the race starts off with such fanfare,

then becomes a grind, then becomes transcendent as riders push their

way up over the mountains and on into glorious Paris. Every time I come

back from the Tour de France I feel this pull to do a little bit more

with my life, because despite its bombast and politics, the Tour is

inspirational. No matter whether I needed a jolt like that or not, I'm




Well, not yet. I'm writing this from the Minneapolis airport. I lay

over here for another couple hours (a tremendous airport, by the way;

lots of glass and stores and moving walkways) before pushing on to

Amsterdam. I'll arrive just in time to watch the Germany-Argentina game

in the airport, then fly straight on to Strasbourg. It'll be dark when

I arrive but that pre-Tour frenzy will be in the air -- an

international throng of spectators, revelers, etc. All of which will be

accentuated by France and Germany's presence in the World Cup. I have

no clue where to find my hotel. I have this image of me wandering the

streets of Strasbourg like a nomad, dragging my wheeled duffel,

searching its medieval streets for my hotel. I'll find it, sooner or

later. The question is when. Ah, well. That's the adventure of it all.

And the Tour, if nothing else, is an adventure.



By the way, my buddy Austin Murphy from Sports Illustrated will be

joining me next week, making this the fourth time we've driven the




And finally, the French have a way of injecting a boatload of drama

into the Tour each year. It's what they do, and they're very good at

it. Now they've done it again. All the stories about Lance Armstrong

potentially being a doper have been revived just in time to shine the

world's spotlight on the Tour. Now comes word that even guys like Ivan

Basso and Jan Ullrich are under suspicion. What does it mean?

Everything and nothing. It is what it is. Until those charges are

proven, they don't matter. But to start the Tour under a cloud like

that will be difficult for those two... more press attention, more

doping scrutiny. I don't think it means that the French are finding a

way for one of their own to win (Voeckler and Moreau... unlikely), but

it makes like a little easier for the George Hincapie's and Floyd

Landis's of the world. No matter what happens, it's going to be an

exciting three weeks. Stay tuned.



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