Seeing the Tour de France through a Fan's Eyes
Waiting for Lance with Sheryl Crow.
There was a small encampment where we were located just 2 kilometers below the finish. Our intrepid leader, Peter Thomson had led a group of elite riders 120 kilometers over four major cols that morning and arrived a bit earlier to select this perfect viewing spot for what promised to be a pivotal day in the three week race. This was the first huge mountain stage and Lance might choose this to make a statement on the nature of this year?s race. The spot even had a Kronenberg Beer tent, which also dispensed snacks and coffee. As the afternoon wore on many of us sought refuge under the small overhang of the circular tent covering the serving area. Peter insinuated himself into the function of the snack tent and translated orders for the beleaguered bartenders. The rain increased and got colder. There was a spot of hail. My partner, Al and I talked to some French cyclists and obtained the time-honored emergency gear of a garbage bag to stem our shivering. Peter had pushed further into the tent to make room for more freezing patrons. He was behind the counter when someone in our group poked me in the side and whispered, ?Isn?t that Sheryl Crow over there?? I barely looked and shook my head no, then paused for a better look. I pulled out my glasses for this. Sure enough, not ten feet away Sheryl was elbowed up to the bar with a US Postal team official hovering right over her. She was staring intently at the TV, which was in black and white and got its reception signal from some bent rabbit ears. The commentary was in French and Peter helped the circle understand the race progress as the rain pelted down. The peleton had descended the very course we had ridden that morning and were now starting the ascent up to where we waited. They were following our lead, albeit a bit faster. Participatory cycling is a combination of amazing effort and numbing waiting. We all babbled and whispered discreetly and Sheryl stared at the TV, apparently riveted by the drama unfolding. Thankfully, nobody interrupted her intense concentration, as we all knew she was a super fan also. Cyclists abide by many unwritten rules and at the top of the Tourmalet nobody was about to waver no matter who the celebrity. To pester for an autograph now was to risk being hurled off the mountain by thousands of respectful cognoscenti, cycisimo amore.
By the time the peloton reached the halfway point of the climb we could hear the helicopters, which only add to the excitement. I could not see the small TV very well and found the rapid-fire commentary stretched my rudimentary French skills, but I did have a perfect line of sight to Sheryl. Without even really making a conscious decision, I figured I could best watch this drama through her