Seeing the Tour de France through a Fan's Eyes
Waiting for Lance with Sheryl Crow.
eyes. Ten feet away she was alternating between grabbing her cheeks and holding her hands in front of her chin as if in prayer. The rhythmic pounding of helicopters signaled the impending arrival of the lead riders and Lance. It was clear that the US Postal Blue Train was in formation to make a major move. Between kilometer seven and five George Hincapie took an amazing pull with Floyd Landis and Lance just off his wheel. As the pull went on second after interminable second Sheryl seemed to be overcome with some unknowable paroxysm of emotion and start silently crying. How could this veteran monster of a domestique be pulling this high up on a climb? For many years, Hincapie was a rider who pulled the lower portion of a climb and then fell away like a huge spent rocket booster. The TV just stayed on this lead group, which included, Richard Virenque, the polka dot jersey, and Ivan Basso, the chief threat in the 2004 TdF to Lance?s dominance. Hincapie kept at it for 2-3 minutes before Floyd took over. Unbelievable, the Blue team was firing in precise order. Sheryl looked incredulous. We all were. This was the move . Lance was still in Postal blue but this was the drumbeat of dominance. George was pounding out the rhythm and the saints were following. Sheryl and all of us kept glancing down the piste and calculating when we would make our break over to the roadside for a live shot of the riders coming by. Sheryl hopped a bit and tugged at her cheeks one more time as the Postal team official whispered in her ear. Then they turned and bolted over the ten meters to the cycling piste. At this elevation you have to deal with the Basque orange clad crazy fans and somehow share the road. Sheryl had her bodyguard to clear out a path, I settled on climbing up on a Jeep Cherokee and standing on the spare tire to get myself above it all. The sirens sang as the first motorcycle cops breezed through to part the sea of crazed fans. The throng immediately flowed together again and a new brace of flics sirened yet another split. Like all of us, Sheryl peered through the crowd as if to see only what she desired. She crouched and fidgeted uncertainly; ready to leap out of the way, like a toreador dodging a bull. Finally, a red TdF official car, siren blaring its signature singsong French blasts, somehow parted the crowd enough for Basso to spin by with Lance right on his wheel. I watched as the two motored up around the bend toward the end of a magnificent 163-kilometer ride. I noted that Lance was bareheaded and Basso had a CSC hat on backwards with his sunglasses on his forehead. By the time I looked back to check on Sheryl, she was