The suffering

9 07 2010

There’s something sublime about 5 a.m.

It’s quiet. The light is soft. The air is fresh, clean-smelling.

I'm not the only one crazy enough to be up at 5 a.m.; Katie shot this photo for her blog when she went out for an early run before work.

And the day’s live tv coverage of the Tour is about to begin.

This year, OLN has decided to forego the repeats they used to show through the day, as well as the evening show they used to pick up from VERSUS. I suppose the ratings for Mantracker and Operation Repo are just so much greater than one of the great sporting events in the world..

It’s live or nothing.

Or sure, I could just watch the day’s stage at a more regular hour from the recording on the PVR, skip through repetitive commercials. But what would be the fun in that?

So the alarm clock has been set for five.

Although, oddly, my body seems to instinctually know it’s Tour time, and I’m usually awake before the alarm buzzes, showered and ready for the day a few minutes before the pre-race show signs on.

The smooth, mannered deliver of Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin as they tell the story of the day has become the sound of my summer.

As we only get the live broadcast this year, our exposure to gap-toothed Bob Roll is limited to the pre-race, but I love his enthusiasm and goofy joy; I miss him. The current host, Craig Hummer, seems solid, if a little Lance-centric; he’s certainly a step up from Al Trautwig, who never seemed able to wrap his head around the nuances of bike racing. And thank god we’re rid of “the Cutters” and Kirsten Gum; that was a dark era of Tour broadcasting.

The grating familiarity of the commercials is also part of the viewing experience. So much so I don’t really bother fast forwarding through them when I rewatch the stage in the evening.

As there’s only a half dozen of them, their repetition and the cycle in which they appear is oddly comforting, like revisiting an old friend again and again: the Lexus that seems to protect its inhabitants from all the evils in the world around them; the whooping guy with sideburns bursting into the locker room as dudes in towels are shaving, lamenting all the “pulling and tugging” they have to endure; the Specialized commercials with Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador which are actually pretty entertaining, the overly-earnest snippets about Cervélo’s history; the promos for the bad OLN programming, Mantracker, Ghosthunters, and of course, Operation Repo.

Today was the last day before the mountains. Tomorrow my alarm has to be set for 4:30 a.m. Let the suffering begin!

This morning’s ride that almost didn’t happen turned into one of my best of the season.

The breakfast waffles weren’t sitting so well in my belly, and with the sudden summer heat, I contemplated just kicking back on the balcony, maybe catching a movie in a cool theater this afternoon; with a ride scheduled for tomorrow, I could afford a day off I reasoned.

But, as Katie says, this is my “game time,” so I kitted up anticipating a fairly short day, maybe 50 km or so.

Strange thing happened on my climb out of New West though; my legs felt awesome. And the heat wasn’t that bad; we’ve been waiting for summer long enough, so we’re not allowed to complain now that it’s here.

That’s how 50 km became 70 km became 103 km. In less than four hours. Which is an excellent pace for an urban ride given all the slowing down and stopping for lights, peds and stop signs.

The bane of ever cyclist's pace; stop lights.

Seems I’m not alone with my frustration with traffic lights; a guy on a Specialized S-Works with whom I’d been trading pulls for a few kms gave voice to a few choice expletives I was thinking after we hit our third straight red light, then blew through it with ferocity.

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