Tag Archives: Tour de France

The Tour de France and the NCAA

One of the Liars sent me this link under the subject line “meanwhile on the Tour de Cheats,” prompting me to post something I have been meaning to get to for weeks: the vile, corrupt, dishonest, and disgusting nature of the NCAA and whether the ugly taint of the NCAA should touch fans watching March Madness or college football.

But first, the Tour. Yes, it sucks that Contador joins the long list of cycling doping idiots* (but some praise to Andy Schleck for saying the right thing when told he now gets first place honors: “There is no reason to be happy now. First of all I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. I battled with Contador in that race and I lost.”). And it takes a certain kind of renewed faith and willful innocence to watch the Tour every year, hopeful this is the year the race is completely clean. Baseball certainly required a similar renewed faith and willful innocence after the Sosa-McQwire-Bonds era and the Majors and the fans are better for it. Maybe, hopefully, insha’allah, this is the year cycling completes its Otto-like cleanse…because it is a tremendous thing to watch. The athleticism, the gorgeousness of France, the strategy…all of it is hard to resist, every single year.

As for the NCAA, if you’ve missed the recent campaign by Joe Nocera of the NYTimes, its worth the 20-30 minutes to read through this, this, this, and this. The short version: the NCAA operates in a way completely antithetical to the core values of this country. No due process, guilty until proven innocent, no restoration for wrongs committed by the authorities, and no limit to the  authorities’ reach and power. The NCAA is a perfect example of power and money corrupting absolutely. And every time I put on college hoops now, I feel compelled to seek forgiveness.

To take just one example, consider this from one of the Nocera columns linked above: Let’s put aside the question of why college athletes usually have to sit out a year when they transfer, even though coaches can switch schools at the drop of a hat. That’s a column for another day. Let’s focus instead on O’Brien’s plight. How can a student who has graduated from one institution be prevented from participating in an extracurricular activity at a different school? How can a miffed coach’s pique control the activities of a student who doesn’t even play for him anymore? Can a music teacher who is angry at a violin student prevent him from playing in another school’s orchestra? The very idea is absurd. Why is it any less absurd when the student is an athlete? Why is it any less wrong? Yet that is precisely what the N.C.A.A.’s rules make possible.

So what connects the Tour and the NCAA? The Tour de France (and cycling generally) appears to be trying to cleanse itself of doping. While plenty of people have accused the different cycling federations of turning a blind eye or even aiding and abetting top cyclists, the overall direction is towards a cleaner sport, much like baseball eventually evolved. The stand-out problems now are cheaters like Contador. The NCAA, however, is the stand-out problem. The NCAA is not getting better, its getting worse – more powerful, more corrupt, more entrenched.

Yes, I’ll still watch March Madness and will probably watch college hoops this evening. But as I read more and more about the NCAA, I find it less and less appealing. The Tour could have a clean year this year if every individual rider refrains from cheating. I don’t see the NCAA reforming anytime soon, but it needs to…because eventually its all going to fall apart.

*yes, its possible Contador is innocent and I hope he is. At least he has been able to appeal the rulings against him and the process – if not perfect — is fairly transparent. 


ELLT Pic of the Day (#61)

a whole mess of bikes ready for the triathlon…..and an appropriate image for the last day of the Tour de France

ELLT 2011 – 7 Days and a wake-up

as Tom McP reminded me during a road bike ride this morning, one week from today we’ll be enjoying The Knot as we get ready to race the following morning. Tom, by the way, clocked in over 100 miles on the road bike this week, so expectations for him on the time trial have now gone way way up.

and today is one of the best days to watch the Tour de France. I haven’t been able to watch much of it live, but plan on watching it all this evening. What I did see this morning we’re stunning views of the Alps with incredibly small and winding roads…plus a lot of guys on bikes. At 8pm, pour a glass of bourbon, put the telly on Vs, and enjoy…

I also was able to escape for a quick mountain bike ride yesterday and did the time trial course. It is not as hilly as I remembered, but there are a number of tough turns (because of the roots) and deceptively nasty gravelly/rocky spots where it looks like you can accelerate, but you have to be cautious of spilling. The bridges are easier than they look (particularly the longer and narrower one), but I do think we’ll position a camera-man near the second bridge to capture the crashes.

On the plus side, if you crash on the mountain bikes, all that’s left is 3-on-3 hoops….

Bastille Day

very simply, what I like about France (one day late):

  • 35 hour work weeks — I suspect no Frenchman wishing to post thoughts about America on July 4th got trapped working through hellish spreadsheets for the 13th day in a row.
  • Yorktown — walk the site of the final battle of the American Revolution and you appreciate the decisive impact of France’s military assistance. There is no France without the US (in 1918 and 1944), but there is also no US without France.
  • Zinedine Zidane –– sportsmanship and playing the game right and balancing aggressiveness with control and all those things we try to teach kids resonate when we step on the court for pick-up hoops (or golf or whatever) and reveal our own character when the competition gets heated and passionate, when “only-a-game” is completely forgotten. When Zidane retaliated, it was easy to tell the kids watching with us that what he did was wrong. When we learned what was said, we realized that Zidane did the right thing, the only thing he could do, and what any one of us would want to do. We all admire Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron for the stoicism and class they displayed, but I can’t say it would have been disappointing if Hammerin’ Hank had headbutted some racist punk before stepping up to the plate.
  • The Tour — makes me look forward to July every year.

yes, that is a France national team soccer jersey

The Tour de France: addictive wanderings through the French countryside

(posting again because The Tour is as addictive as in previous years. And this year a knobby Brit is leading, which is entertaining on its own)

Yes, I am going to continue sounding my weak trumpet and shouting about how addictive the Tour de France is, once you allow yourself to spend a couple hours getting into the rhythm of it.

Already this year, the Tour has provided a photo-finish and a few note-worthy crashes, plus a 4th of July victory by an American rider. The team trial, brought back this year to keep the overall classification as tight as possible for as long as possible, was a curious thing to watch, but less entertaining than most stages. But with that out of the way, what remains are some flat and long stages, which usually include the compelling escapes-and-catches, and the mountain stages, always the best part of the Tour.

As always, the team work, the speed on the descents, the mad sprints to the line, the hypnotic images, viewed from a helicopter, of 100+ bikers packed close together and winding through country roads in France — all of those are reasons to tune in for any stage, but the ones that stand out coming up are:

Stage 14 – Saint-Gaudens Plateau de Beille (July 16): 6 category climbs, ending with a “beyond category climb.” The highlight might be the descent off the Category 1 climb (just a little less difficult than Beyond Category) mid-way through the stage.

Stage 18 – Pinerolo Galibier Serre-Chevalier (July 21): 3 Beyond Category climbs and the highest altitude finish in Tour de France history. And the descent after the second climb might be Beyond Beyond Category if they tried to ride up it.

And 7:05 pm starts for baseball usually end by 10pm, which gives you (Otto) an hour’s worth of Tour de France before lights out at 11 (if you’re not up early watching it live, of course).