It’s that time of the year when my thoughts turn to fit young men, two spinning wheels, and astounding European vistas. It’s almost time for the start of the 100th Tour de France. I don’t know of any other African American women who share my love of cycling, but as usual, that doesn’t deter me from my passion.
It all started about twenty years ago, when I had a boyfriend who loved professional cycling. During the five years we lived together, he spent most of the month of July glued to the television as the stars of international road racing fought for position over three weeks. If I wanted to talk to him during this time, I had to learn new words like peloton, domestique, and learn the significance of jersey colors. Every year, I watched and learned, and even though the relationship didn’t endure, my love of cycling remained strong. But over the years, the Tour, like my ex-boyfriend, broke my heart many times. Both of them cheated on me, making it hard for me to trust again. But every year, the Tour turns me into a believer one more time. Most of the riders I have loved over the years – Pantani, Hamilton, Leipheimer, the oh-so-sexy Mario Cipollini, even Lance Armstrong – are gone, many in disgrace, and in Pantani’s case, in death. But still I believe – in the future of cycling and the majesty of the sport. And there is always a new crop of young riders that share my beliefs.
I still dream of standing on the Champs Élysées one day, with the crowds and the pickpockets, as the peloton goes streaking past. Even though I am afraid of heights, I imagine myself cheering on the riders as they battle Alpe d’Huez, with its spectacular twenty-one hairpin turns. One day, I plan to make my dreams a reality, if I can only save up the thousands needed to make a vacation to the Tour happen outside of my television screen.
But for now, I review my Velo 2013 Official Guide to the 100th Edition, check the times, get my official Tour tee shirt (found at a thrift store) out of the closet, and prepare to wake up at 4:30 AM on Saturday morning to watch the festivities begin in Corsica. It’s time to fall in love again…