Why There Will Always Be A Tour

With all the uphevals in the last week of the TdF, what with Rasmussen being fired, Cofidis, and Vino, various writers and old participants stood up and screamed that the Tour must stop, there must be no yellow jersey handed out, and the sport is totally discredited.

Fortunately ASO didn't listen seriously to these people.  besides the intense political battle beoing waged in the sport right now, the one thing ASO has going for it (along with many of us fans) is that they understand the meaning of the Tour...

Life is pain.  It's an lifetime of losing and humiliation with only glimmers of clarity and happiness.  Ultimately though everybody loses everything, ultimately everybody dies.

But with all of that the suffering is optional.  Crazy as it seems, the more one can face the pain head on the more satisfying life is.  Courage is the essence of being alive. If we are courageous enough, if we have enough heart, life is a reward even with the pain.

Sports are so popular because they are a distillation of this courage/suffering struggle.  With sports we can sometimes catch a glimpse of this struggle and the attempts to overcome it. But where sports comes up short to often is that we spectators usually only see the final sprint, so to speak.  The games of most sports are too short to see  the full struggle, the full futility of what the athletes are attempting to do.  We only see the glory.  True, we see "losers" but these athletes don't really lose, because coming in second is not a loss.  They still finished with style.  Sure its disappointing to come in second but really is oh, Zidane really suffering for coming in 2nd last year?  How about the Chicago Bears?  The silver medalists at the Olympics?  Not really.

Of all the sports and the sporting events the Tour de France (and the other two Grand Tours) comes closest to life.  The TdF goes way beyond a marathon to where its hard to even see the beginning of the race when we are at the end.  In the TdF everybody loses, even Bert The Accountant.   Everyone suffers humiliation, a million humiliations for three weeks.  The Tour is too stupidly hard for any of the racers to do otherwise.

We also see the racers react to the pain and humiliation.  Some of the riders face it squarely and deal with it.  Other riders crack under the pressure, the pain in more than physical ways and do things to make it all go away.  That's the essence of doping: not to so much eliminate the pain (the riders would be doing heroin if that were the case) but to eliminate the suffering.

Presumably in the recent past most of the riders doped.  It became part of the culture.  In essence in reaction to the extreme pressure the riders and the teams were under, the whole group (or most of them) collectively said, "We want just the glory and none of the suffering."

But glory is a false flat.  Its not true reality and it seems like now there are at least parts of the cycling world that are realizing this.  But not all: remember those writers and old participants I mentioned at the Intro?  they just want to see the glory and to them any sign of weakness can't be tolerated.  They want the Tour of their dreams.

Dreams ain't reality.  There's a lot of ugliness in life; we all know that.  Sports can't ever be separated from that reality of ugliness and if at any moment it seems like it is then there's something going on beneath the surface that we aren't paying attention to as well as a lot of politics going on to keep it underground.

So to me the doping revelations of this year's Tour are acceptable if for no other reason then because they are just reflecting human nature when it gets stressed out.  They are honest if flawed reactions to a race of pain.

In no way am I letting Vino and ~:> and Moreni and Sinking Joke off the hook.  I am just noting that people will always try to cheat pain and that we saw that this Tour makes it a good Tour.  Yes, I know some other riders (who knows how many) "got away" with doping.  That also is much like life where people cheat successfully to "get ahead".  In the end they are always brought down and their deaths are that much more personally scarier.  (Ain't it obvious I'm a Buddhist?)  This is why the Tour is better than the spring Classics too.  Riders dope for both types of events but the Classics are too short to bring out the true essence of the riders. Only a Grand Tour, applied year after year, can do that.  For the participants of the TdF, the race never really ends.  You can see that in what retired participants say.  You can see what they can face still and what they shy away from.

To me the whole idea of a Grand Tour was an act of collective genius by the French culture.  Its a modern day Belles Lettres.  Its the nearest truest distillation of life into the art form of sport.  Its why the Tour will always be with us.