Les Sports Divers
Happy 100th Birthday, Tour de France
Le centenaire du Tour de France
2003...One of the
world’s most grueling sports celebrates its centennial in July of this
year. For the 100th time, an international group of lycra-clad
musclemen on two wheels will set out to ride thousands of miles for
three weeks across the mountains, rivers and valleys of France
to compete for le
maillot jaune, the yellow jersey. On July 27th the Champs Elysées will be crammed with
people eager for a glimpse of these superathletes when they arrive in Paris
to cross the finish line.
This renowned bicycle race began as a
promotional stunt to gain newspaper readership. In a clever competitive
move, the publisher of a sporting journal decided to boost sales by
sponsoring a different sort of cross-country bicycle race, the longest
ever (more than 1,500 miles) and in six stages over a period of time. The
paper’s vivid day-by-day reports of progress of the 60 participants
did much for bicycle sales, and the newspaper sold hundreds of thousands
of copies as well. The Tour de France has become a French institution,
and over the last century many a French school child learned as much
about the geography of France
from assiduously following this summer race
as from any classroom lessons.
year’s 22-day race covers 3,350 kilometers (nearly 2,100 miles) in
20 segments. Although the route is changed each year, it always includes
steep mountain roads, rolling fields of grain, grapes and sunflowers,
historic monuments, small isolated villages, and of course the grand
finale down the Champs Elysées in Paris.
is a world of superstars. And heroes. American Lance Armstrong competes
again this year, hoping to join the elite of bicycle racing with his
fifth T-d-F win. But he is already a superhero, not only for his
athleticism but because of his valiant fight with cancer in the midst of
his career. Other famous names that roll off the tongues of true
aficionados include the Spaniard Miguel Indurain, Belgian Eddy Merckx,
Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil, and Greg LeMond, the
first American to wear the yellow jersey with his win in 1986.
the Tour de France ranks as the world’s third most popular sport,
after the World Cup and the Olympics. In fact, because these latter
occur only periodically, it is said that this glorious race is the
world’s most popular annual sporting event. Whatever…millions of
people tune in to follow progress, via television, the internet, and, of
course, the newspaper. For details on this year’s route,
up-to-the-minute coverage, and profiles of racers, check out the
Bicycling News site at www.tourdefrancenews.com.
For French coverage, try www.letour.fr.
Lance goes for
his fifth win
in the 100th Tour de France
Take me out to a ballgame...
Amène-moi au jeu de baseball...
October 2001...Any baseball is better than no baseball, and in
France you take what you find. On Sunday, October 15, we found the French
championship for 15-year-olds at Le Vigan, up in the Cevennes about an
hour and a half from Uzès. The Barracudas from Montpellier won a close
and exciting 8-7 victory over the arrogant "Pukes" from Paris,
the PUC or Paris University Club.
|| The field at Le Vigan features one
of the few actual monticules de lanceur (pitcher's mounds) in
France. Normally they just pitch off flat ground, lighting up the hitters'
eyes while terrorizing the thus afflicted lanceur, the pitcher. Quality of
play was, well, ragged. But spirited.
A young man from Toronto, name of Osborne, heads
up the coaching for the Montpellier Baseball Club, a group of adult
players. This past year he also coached the French national team, who were
eliminated in an Olympic qualifying round by the powerful Dutch and
Italian teams. We'll go down to Montpellier in February when play resumes
to see his team. Apparently their ballpark has an Astroturf infield.
As for the boys, Montpellier celebrated the final
out with a classic thrashing human dogpile near the monticule.
Afterwards trophies were presented. Each player also received the gift of
an onion. It's a local specialty. Well, as we
were saying, any baseball is better than no baseball.