The idea is to pick up where the Tour de France leaves off. Why
limit ourselves on this, the 100th anniversary of that epic race,
to a few loud shirts--the yellow, green and polka-dot jerseys
bestowed, respectively, on the overall winner, sprint champion
and king of the mountains? Having spent a retina-and
marriage-straining number of hours soaking up the Outdoor Life
Network's coverage of the Tour, I feel qualified to dispense
Not all of them are the kind you put on your mantel. Take, for
instance, the unofficial Tour Dunce Cap, earned by Walter
Godefroot, the director of Team Telekom, who accused Tyler
Hamilton of faking his broken right collarbone. Hamilton, of
course, won the admiration of his fellow riders and of sports
fans all over the world by finishing the Tour--in fourth place,
in fact--despite having fractured his clavicle in a mass pileup
in the first stage. Doubting Walter described the fuss made over
Hamilton's injury as a "cheap American p.r. stunt."
Actually, Walter, a cheap p.r. stunt would be more like my
publishing your e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org inviting readers to
share with you their feelings about your accusations.
Godefroot's boorishness was particularly out of place at a Tour
marked by sportsmanship and class. Before dueling one another
over the last two kilometers through Marseilles at the end of
stage 10, for example, Jakob Piil and Fabio Sacchi shook hands in
a gesture that said, Good luck, may the best man win. (It was
Piil.) Then there was Gentleman Jan Ullrich, slowing to wait for
Lance Armstrong after the race leader crashed on a climb just six
miles from the end of stage 15. (Armstrong had extended a similar
courtesy to the German in the Pyrenees two years before.) Having
remounted his bike and overtaken his rival, Armstrong uncorked
his race-clinching attack, dropping Ullrich like a bag of
Quikrete en route to winning the stage. As he passed Sylvain
Chavanel, the last rider between him and the finish line,
Armstrong gave the Frenchman a consoling pat on the back.
The Tammy Wynette Stand by Your Man Award goes to Jorg Jaksche of
Team ONCE, who lost four minutes in the overall standings as he
kept vigil by the side of his fallen teammate, Joseba Beloki,
last year's Tour runner-up. Beloki lost control of his bike
during a screaming descent near the end of the ninth stage. The
sickening crash--the Spaniard fractured his right femur, wrist
and elbow--was foretold by the winner of our Madame Trelawney
Divination Award, Phil Liggett, the OLN analyst who pointed out
that the tar on the roads had softened dangerously in the
blistering sun. Ten seconds later, Beloki went down.
Liggett, it bears mentioning, was nominated for a real award, a
Sports Emmy, last year. He should be nominated again in '03,
along with his sidekick, Paul Sherwen. The Madden and Michaels of
the velo world are equally engaging and enlightening, whether
narrating a breakaway--"Now you'll see Roberto Heras dig into his
suitcase of courage!" declaimed Sherwen, referring to the U.S.
Postal domestique on a stage 14 climb--or holding forth during
the race's slower moments. Who could help but be fascinated, for
instance, as they filled airtime during the 13th stage with an
explanation of precisely how the riders are able to answer
Bob Roll, the gap-toothed OLN analyst who gave the impression, at
times, that he was making his way around France in Ken Kesey's
bus, hit his stride as the race went on. Like Sherwen and
Liggett, he did not shy from pointing out, early in the Alps,
that Armstrong was not as strong as he'd been in previous years.
Roll also starred in the best commercial of the Tour, an OLN
promo in which he performed spot-on impersonations of Howard
Cosell, John Madden and, in an inspired bit of lip-synching,
That spot was the exception. I found myself loathing most of the
commercials the network ran during the Tour; found myself hoping
the brothers in the Subway ad would gain back all the weight.
Nevertheless, those of us who cannot get enough of the Tour sat
spot-welded to our tubes. Now that it's over, there is a void in
our lives, an emptiness we can conquer only by digging into our
suitcases of courage.
The next SI Adventure will appear in the Sept. 8 issue.
COLOR PHOTO: PETER DEJONG/AP YOU GOTTA RIDE HURT Hamilton's injury was plain to see.
Godefroot's boorishness was particularly out of place at A TOUR
MARKED BY CLASS.