It is something that has been with me since childhood. I am fascinated by feats of endurance. My earliest memories of endurance center on distance running. The marathon, 3000 meter steeplechase, and 5000 meter run fascinated me. My childhood athletic heroes were Willy Mays, Johnny Bench and Davy Concepcione but also included Jim Ryun, Kip Keino and Frank Shorter. This is the reason I latched onto participating in long distance running events during high school.
And it wasn’t just track and field that interested me as a kid. Long distance auto racing like the Baja 1000, the 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 heurs de LeMans, and especially the Paris to Dakar Rally were events I would read about whenever I got the chance. When cable and satellite TV entered my life as an adult, watching these events became a joy.
Then I became aware of le Tour de France. Like the marathon, it has human endurance as its main component. Like the Dakar Rally it happens over many days. It has a gentlemanly aspect to it. The very first day I watched the event a rider crashed, and a rider from a different team stopped and stayed with him until medical help arrived. Back in 2001 Lance Armstrong slowed down and waited to see if Jan Ullrich was okay after a spectacular crash sent the German and his bike flying over the guard rail and down into a ravine. Ullrich returned the gesture in 2003 when Lance was accidentally knocked down by a cheering spectator. Ullrich might have won the Tour if he had charged ahead while Lance was down. Some people have said he was stupid for waiting. I say he was being courageous and kind.
Human spirit, competitiveness, kindness and especially endurance are what make the Tour de France so fascinating to me. This year there have been several bad crashes, and most of the riders that were favored to win have had problems of some kind. The way is wide open for an underdog to win. It is proving to be a very interesting Tour thus far.