Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's July and time for the Tour

When I lived in Spain, I loved watching the Tour in July- a hot, lazy month and the stages of the Tour were perfect for relaxing on the sofa.  Here's a short piece I wrote for a bicycle magazine.



July- it’s the middle of summer in Barcelona and it couldn’t be hotter.  July means my teaching schedule is split in the middle and I get home at the hottest time of the day.  That also means that I am stuck in my sweltering top floor atico apartment.  During the rest of the year, the terrace is a delightful luxury but in the dead of summer even with the awning stretching out over the top, it’s too hot to venture out in midday. 

No air conditioning, no escape.  Even my gym has an air conditioning system that barely generates a light chill.  I get home after teaching two English classes at a multinational insurance company.  The students are what you could picture in such a class.  There are four of them who study risk or numbers or god knows what.  But it is easy enough and it pays the rent.

I stop on my way home trudging up the hill to my flat, stopping to pick up lettuce and prepared gazpacho which I drink by the liters, providing liquid and salt in equal measure.  After I eat, I lie down on the sofa, remote in hand.  News comes on and then, the Tour de France.  Nothing could be more suitable for the summer than the peloton making its way through the pretty green French countryside.  The droning voices of the two announcers, one a former cyclist himself, never fail to put me under. 

At some point during the broadcast, my two kids get home from their colonias, which is a kind of school camp.  Mostly it serves to let the adults keep working and give the kids who don’t have doting grandparents a place to be.  My wife, Lina herds them away.  “Daddy’s watching the Tour.”

“Daddy’s sleeping.”  Paul the older child announces.  Undeterred, Lina says “ssssh” and takes them into the kitchen to feed them the kind of snack I was never allowed, a piece of baguette with nutella.  It seems to do them no harm.  They have boundless energy and no cavities.    The voices have penetrated my consciousness and I shift away from the TV screen, having given up all pretense of watching. 

Big days are mountain stages and time trials but those are interspersed with these slow days where the overall standings never change and I can fall into that delicious drowsiness without worrying anything can happen.  I usually wake just in time to see the stage winner kissed by young women dressed in the color of the winning jersey.   The yellow jersey and the small stuffed animal are handed out to the leader of the tour at the end of the broadcast.


“And there’s been a fall!  A rider is down!”  the announcer’s voice reaches a high pitch.  Immediately I turn back to the screen and I watch the replay of the unlucky rider get his wheel caught in the rider in front of him.  That one miscalculation and Joseba Beloki, a rider I’d been following attentively like the rest of Spain, is on the ground.  Minutes later he’s taken away in an ambulance. 
“Damn.”  Beloki had been the Spanish heir to Indurain.  Having been in Spain long enough to watch Indurain ride to five victories, I’d pinned my hopes on Beloki.  I rubbed the sleepiness from my eyes.

I get up, stretch, and head into the kitchen to join the boys for a bit of that bread. 

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