Docs at the Top
It was the day before the event the whole cycling world had been anticipating for nearly a year.
It was the day before the event the whole cycling world had been anticipating for nearly a year. Lance and all the cycling gods were going to ascend the legendary Alp d?Huez and we were going to be there to witness the whole glorious race. But we had a few problems; well maybe more than a few. To be precise, we had two million problems in the form of cycling fans who had gathered from all over the globe who wanted to see the same dramatic struggle. Lance Armstrong was attempting to garner a record setting sixth Tour de France crown in the form of a tight yellow cycling jersey and a grupetto of challengers were determined to stop him. This mountain had to be the battleground where they could not give another inch. If the challengers were beat back here, the Tour de France for 2004 was basically over and Lance Armstrong had a record sixth maillot jaune.
The night before the race, when we gathered at our mountain hotel- it was like an army staff planning an assault. The gendarmes of France had been telling everyone and every media outlet that there were going to be two million fans on the Alp spread over ten miles of famous switchbacks. We had been planning an early start, cycling in from 35 kilometers away into the valley, getting on the mountain before 8 AM . Thomson Bike Tours, our hosts and guides, use bicycles like cavalry horses. When the roads get clogged near the Tour de France routes, we jump on our bikes, cruising through the buses and crowds, and the gendarmes just wave us onward toward our goals. At least that is the way it has been for the last few years at the Tour. But, all the dire signals buzzing around the Tour seemed to be altering this arrangement. The inside word was that the gendarmes would close the mountain at 6AM. Ach, it wasn?t even light until after 5:30AM and we had over twenty miles to ride while somehow keeping a group of 25 riders of varying abilities moving onward before attempting to climb on our bikes one of the most difficult mountains in the world.
There were two orthopedic surgeons even more excited and avid then the average crazy cycling fan in our riding assault group. Actually there were four orthopods in our group, but two especially devoted Lance fans. They had started riding together over ten years ago when one of them was mentoring the younger, newly minted resident in pediatric orthopedics. Tony Herring, Chief Orthopedic Surgeon at Scottish Rites Hospital of Dallas had taken immediately to his young pediatric orthopedic fellow, Channing Tassone. He was drawn to his focused energy and exuberance. When they learned each was a cyclist, neither was surprised and they started to ride home after long days at the hospital. This cemented a friendship which culminated in Channing inviting Tony