Column: A wild ride
The Tour de France finally rolled to an end last weekend with some foreigner most Americans probably have never heard of narrowly edging out another foreigner most Americans couldn't identify even if he rode past them on his bike yelling "Vive le tour!" which I believe is French for "Watch out for the drug tests!"
This year's Tour was particularly thrilling and somewhat controversial, with Spaniard Alberto "El Pistolero" Contador winning by just 39 seconds over Luxemburger Andy "The Luxemburger" Schleck. Considering the pair had just ridden their bikes nearly 2,300 miles over the course of three weeks and topped some mountains that are significantly larger than anything you might find in southern Dakota County, that's a pretty tiny margin.
To put that in American sports terms, it's like the Vikings playing a week long game decided by 1/1,000th of a point. Which might actually happen if all of the players had the same kind of upper-body strength as the average professional cyclist. Cyclists are the rare group of elite athletes who I believe I might have a chance to regularly beat in an arm wrestling match.
For Americans, of course, the big story of this tour was Lance Armstrong, the seven-time champion who was attempting to rack up one last win on his new team, which was sponsored by noted bicycle purveyor Radio Shack -- or The Shack, as they for some reason now prefer to be known. Ultimately, the comeback attempt fared about as well as you might expect when your team is named after a hovel. Lance crashed several times on an early stage and fell out of contention. His attempt to win one of the stages fell short, and in the end the legacy of his final tour is a few amusing commercials hawking cellular telephones and one last attempt to discredit him as a user of banned performance-enhancing substances.
That last part isn't actually anything new. It wouldn't be the Tour de France without someone attempting to discredit Lance Armstrong in much the same way it's not officially county fair time until your fingers are sticky with funnel-cake sugar and you can feel your arteries beginning to clog.
So far none of those attempts has been successful, but that doesn't mean there isn't foul play involved. At this point I wouldn't be surprised to find out any professional cyclist is a doper, and I'm honestly not too concerned about it. Remember earlier when I said these guys bike 2,300 miles over giant mountains? If they want to inject a little extra blood into their veins to give them a little boost, I say let them do it.
Last week's Tour finale wraps up a big couple of months for sports in which Americans have little interest, and a nice little run for Spain. The Spanish soccer team won its first World Cup at the end of June and Contador took home his third tour trophy on Sunday. Perhaps never again will one country be so ecstatic while another is so indifferent.
At least not until the US rallies behind my upcoming series of pay-per-view arm wrestling competitions. Spain's going down, this time.