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July 23, 2006

Missing the Tour de France

Now, I did OK with the World Cup, because it was on terrestrial TV, but I have missed nearly all of this year's Tour de France, which in Greece is restricted to being shown on Eurosport on satellite, which has been a real disappointment to me.

The thing is, I know cycling racing sounds *soooooo* boring, but the Tour de France really is the most incredible and utterly bonkers event.

It is the only sport I know where you have to simultaneously compete as an individual, and as a team, yet also have to co-operate with your rivals. Unlike athletics, because of the way wind resistance works, if you break away in a small pack from the main group, not only do you have to pace each other, but you have to actively work together, and consciously rotate the lead around to take it in turns to be in the streamline.

And they pretty much ride for 4 hours every day for twenty days. Sometimes up mountains. And some of the stages are designed so that they start with a really high mountain climb, and then you have to cycle another 100km. And then cycle up another mountain. And then sprint to the finish.

As I said - bonkers.

This year has had an incredible story. With four days to go, leader Floyd Landis cracked on one of the highest mountain stages this week, and went from first place holding the yellow jersey, to eight minutes off the pace and nowhere. Nobody recovers a deficit that big - his race was over.

Except the very next day, over mountains, which are not his speciality, he made the ride of his life and one of the most astonishing comebacks in the entire history of the Tour de France to get back to within a few seconds of the lead. On Saturday he reclaimed the yellow jersey in the penultimate stage, and is all set to be acclaimed as the winner of the tour in Paris today.

Sadly I've only glimpsed a few hours of the race on the TV whilst in the Notos internet cafe at the harbour, and the rest I've had to follow via text on my phone - which isn't quite the same thing.

Next year it actually starts in London. I might well be there. At the moment my current "sporting holiday" calendar includes visits to the Tour de France in London 2007, Euro2008 in Switzerland, 2009 Tour de France in France, and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Plus QPR vs Leeds and maybe a Leyton Orient match and some rugby in London in the next couple of weeks, which is somewhat less glamorous.

Of course, my wife never tires of pointing out to me that I am only interested in the Tour de France because Kraftwerk made a song about it, and that I only bought a bike again as an adult, well, because Kraftwerk made a song about the Tour de France. And also that I really should have grown out of pretending to be a robot by now.

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Pleased to see you haven't forgotten the more humble teams after your world cup exploits. The O's first home game back in League 1 is a Tuesday night match against Millwall - I'd recommend that if you are around. I'll be going, Sue should have my number via her NCT mob if you want to come along and join in the east london derby fun.

I'm actually going to be at QPR on the night Milwall visit Leyton, because as luck would have it my Leeds United are in town that night. I might get to the Saturday O's game against Bournemouth though.

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