I generally dislike watching sports. I’d much rather be running, biking or swimming than watch other people chase after a baseball or football.
But there was a sport I loved watching: The Tour de France. If you ever spent some serious time on the saddle of a bike, you would know that there is something special about guys who can peddle hour after hour, day after day through the steep mountains of the Alps and the pastoral countryside of France.
The race is so grueling that it takes years and years to master. Being young is a huge disadvantage. In fact, the sweet spot for winning the Tour is the late 20s.
Eventually, a lack of time and cable connection took me away from the Tour. The last two I watched were in 1997 and 1998. In the prior year, there was great speculation that unusually young Jan Ullrich was using performance-enhancing drugs.
The Tour nearly crashed again in 1998 as a huge doping controversy, called the Festina Affair, was uncovered. That further lessened my interest in the race, because I’m a strong believer that performance-enhancing chemicals do not belong in sports. (When I was in cross-country, a teammate who rarely trained, would take speed right before big races and frequently win.)
On the eve of this year’s tour, another scandal is emerging with Jan Ullrich’s name high on the list, reports The New York Times. Jan and another favorite, Ivan Basso, will not compete after team managers suspended them for alleged contact with a doctor implicated in doping. Up to 58 riders may be involved in the scandal.
I bring all this up because as a dad, I was waiting for the day Seth was old enough for me to introduce him to the sport. I couldn’t wait to explain the nuances of the race; the strategy of attacks; the complex technology and the physics of drafting. Not now.
Luckily for me, Seth still relies on training wheels, which leaves time for organizers to clean up the race. For now, I leave the TV off on sheer principle. And the fact we still don’t have cable.