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September-October 2002 Newsletter

Tradition

by Dave Stewart


The past week has been a harried one for me. Monday was full of preparations, Tuesday I left on business well before dawn. It was late on Wednesday night before I returned. Sweet Deborah and I left for a family 4th of July gathering on the 4th of July and returned late in the day on Saturday. While the Tour de France was constantly in my thoughts, it was only at the very conclusion of the OLN coverage of the TdF that I caught a few minutes of bike racing. There was a replay of some of the rides, including Lance’s, a flash of his interview, in French, and the podium presentations. Late last night, I finally got around to reading about it on the internet sites.

I felt no surprise at the names in the top 20 and satisfaction of a rather parochial pleasure seeing the number of Americans in that group. I took the Velonews poll; I sided with the group that expects Armstrong to keep the yellow jersey only a day or two. But I see the overall race being a thrill in which all the possibilities are wide open at this juncture.

The OLN commentator made a comment about this being Lance’s first interview in French (though he must have meant this Tour; I seem to recall this was notable in the past as well. At any rate, I like the idea that the American hero can converse in something other than Texan). A French language interview certainly makes sense after Lance’s appeal to the French public to curb this inane and foolish bunch of bureaucrats who are conducting the never-ending and indecisive investigation into allegations of Postal’s drug habits.

When I watch Lance give “The Angel of the Mountains,” Charly Gaul, his climber’s jersey on the podium, the practical nature in me sees that as a good PR ploy along the same lines as conducting interviews in French. But I put that nature aside and find myself hoping that Lance’s real reason is to honor the tradition of cycling through the honor to a past hero of cycling.

Here’s a man of honor who has been (by accounts) Pantani’s hero but who cooled toward him after Pantani’s problems with alleged drug use mounted. Here’s a man of cycling who was an unequaled climber in his own day and who still puts his time and life into competitive cycling and holds honor among the best that the World has to offer today.

Here’s a man whose chest is far too broad to ever fit into that polka-dotted jersey again. But Lance recognized that Charly Gaul’s heart was still the one of “The Angel of the Mountains.” That, my friends, is what makes cycling wonderful and lasting.


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