Dear Tour de France,
Let me be clear, Tour: I realize that you are not a cognizant entity; you are an event. Hence, I will not feel angry if you do not respond. Even so, I think there are some things you — and your constituents — need to know what I am expecting from you this year, if you wish us to continue on friendly terms.
First and foremost, I expect you to be dramatic. In 2003, you got it right. You knocked a bunch of people down (but not so hard that they couldn’t get back up), had high-speed wrecks, and a nail-biting finish. Last year, however, you seemed to relax your guard. You phoned it in at first, and then overdid it when you tried to compensate, knocking people out instead of simply knocking them down. By the time the race ended, I was watching stages because I always watch the stages, not because I was interested in what would happen next (Hint: when the biggest topic of discussion is when — not whether — some guy who got the yellow jersey by fluke is going to lose that jersey, you’re on the wrong track). This year, don’t disappoint me. I want a tour that is — above all else — to make me care about some rider or group of riders.
Next, I want T-Mobile to fulfill their promise. Ullrich, Kloden, and Vinokourov all on the same team? Are you kidding me? Tour, please talk to these three and explain to them that this is their last chance. if they work together, they really and honestly have a chance of beating Armstrong. Explain to Jan that most cyclists — including this Fat Cyclist — have a lot more in common with him than they do with Lance. Tell him to win one for guys who gain winter weight. And tell Kloden and Vinokourov that I absolutely forbid them from pursuing individual glory. Sidelining Zabel was a clear message of intent. If they don’t follow through, they’ll have me to answer to.
Tell Lance he’s run out of brownie points. He had cancer and had an awe-inspiring recovery. That’s great; so did my wife. He had twins. That’s great; so did my wife (and I daresay she’s got Lance beat on that score, since she did the actual bearing of the twins). He got divorced and started dating a rock star, then won the 2004 TDF in the most conservative, least-inspiring way possible, as if it had been scripted by committee. Brrrrrrappp! I’m sorry, sir, but you’ve run out of credit. Tell him I’ll be happy to root for him, but only if he gives me a reason to. And being faster than everyone else is not a good reason. Tell him to do something amazing. Tell him to do something brash. Tell him to have a wreck early in the race, if he can’t think of anything else (though — let’s be honest — that’s a little passe now). Tell him to do something.
Tell OLN they’re on double secret probation. Last year I didn’t have a DVR. Now I do. Any more Al Trautwig-esque shenanigans and I will simply fast forward any time I see a talking head. Furthermore, please tell Bob Roll that he’s only 30% as entertaining as he suspects, and that he can rectify this — to a large degree — by talking 70% less. Tell Phil and Paul they’re doing just fine.
Tell the crowds on the side of the road that they’re freaking me out. Last year, I had to walk out of the room a few times when I saw racers riding into that sea of people. This year, please let everyone know that it’s not polite to get too close to people (it violates their personal space), and it’s downright rude to spit on them. I think that will take care of the problem. If it doesn’t, please alert them that if they don’t cut it out, they will no longer be able to call US citizens “ugly Americans” with any degree of credibility. That should do the trick.
Tell someone to surprise me. This is really just a recapitulation of my first point, but I want to make it clear. I would like nothing more than to see some racer I have never heard of — or am only peripherally aware of — bust out the race of a lifetime and demolish all my heroes. For more than anything else, I am capricious and want to be entertained.
These are strong demands, Tour, but I feel that if you step up to the challenge we will both be happier. We’ve had some good times, Tour. Let’s try to work this out.
The Fat Cyclist
PS: Today my weight is 173.8. Which means that somehow I jettisoned 3.6lbs during the day yesterday. Which is why the weekly weigh-in will no longer be on Mondays — my weight always spikes over the weekend.