caro | standing on a road in france in july. | tour de france 2004, stage 19, final time trial, besancon, france
standing on a road in france in july.
have you ever spend a whole day standing by the side of a road in france in july? if not, you should. there are few better ways to spend a day.

"standing by the side of the road? for a whole day? in france? why?" you might wonder.
for the tour de france, the greatest cycling event in the world.

"cycling? isn't that the silliest spectator sport ever? isn't it a bit stupid to wait for a whole day to get 5 seconds of wooooosh as 150 cyclists ride past? isn't that boring?" you might reply.

you know what? watching the tour is anything but.

watching the tour is worth it.
watching the tour is about excitement, about passion, about speed, about meeting people, about fun, about dedication, about tradition, about cheering "allez! allez! allez!" and last but not least about showing admiration and support for those who participate is the hardest sports event in the world.

if you're a first time tour watcher, go to one of the time trials: they offer an entire day of spectacle, as all cyclists cycle past on their own, several minutes apart. they are all handily accompanied by cars with name tags, so that even if you usually don't care much about cycling, you know who you're cheering.

i've got some tour watching experience on my back: over the past 4 years, i've seen 5 stages from the side of the road and the time trial remains my favourite, simply because it takes so long, because you get to see, you get to cheer every cyclist, you get to meet plenty of new people.

this years' final time trial was perfect.

my father and i made the short 2 hour trip to besancon and found a perfect spot to watch, on a long incline.
standing by the side of a french road with a few hundred people for a few hours, you inevitably start to chat with the people around you. on our left: a french father and son team. on our right: a group of three us blokes in their thirties.we soon started chatting, all of us, in french and english and german, with our hands and feet, about cycling and favourites and whether anyone might beat lance armstrong. no matter who you're standing next to at the tour, there is always someone to chat with, as on that day, you all share one thing: a passion for cycling.

we shared a bit more, the american blokes and i, a passion for lance armstrong. i wore a yellow t-shirt with "live strong", lance armstrong's mantra on it, the blokes, chris, alex and doug, had brought a large american flag. i'd usually be hesitant to stand behind an american flag for a day, simply because i am not american, because i tend to disagree with what happens in the name of that flag these days, but on that day i did.
we talked lots in the course of the day, chris, doug, alex and i. of course we talked about cycling, about lance, about jan ullrich, about ivan basso. we talked about the weather, which was a bit wild that day. we talked about the olympics, about doping in sport. we laughed. a few hours later, we talked about relationships, about europe, about why alex and doug were learning german in switzerland. even later, we talked about the war on terror, about george w.bush, about 9/11. alex tried to explain to me why he joined the marine corps and what being in iraq was like.

the blokes and i, we shared lots that day. lots more than just cheers and admiration for lance.

to me, that day by the side of a french road in the company of americans was about lots more than about cycling, and it gave me more than just a spectator experience.
it helped me to realise /(qelle surpirse!)that my nasty little prejudices about americans aren't any better than any other prejudice in the world. it reminded me once more how fabulous communication is, how much you learn from talking to people, even if you don't agree on a certain issue.

somewhere in the course of the day, waiting for cyclists, i realised how cool the reflection in chris' mirrored glasses looked:
the american flag that i didn't mind that much by that time, my yellow "live strong" shirt, the road.

it was about so much more than sports that day, standing by the side of the road in france.
08 2004
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