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Posts Tagged ‘Tour de France’

west-end-gallery-160First thing this morning, many thanks to everyone who came out to the West End Gallery on Friday night for the opening of my show there.  I am most appreciative for anyone who takes the time on a hot Friday summer evening to come into the gallery.  It was great seeing old and new friends as well as seeing how they reacted to the work, which was hung beautifully by Lin and Jesse.  They did a great job pairing the paintings with original glass work —  each seemed to reflect and enhance the other.

Again, many thanks for making this a great show.  If you haven’t had a chance to get into the West End Gallery, please do try soon.  The show hangs until September 2.  I will also be giving a Gallery Talk on Saturday, August 6 from 1-2 PM at the gallery.  As is now tradition, there will be some sharing so mark the date and try to come on in.

This morning is the end of the Tour de France, the incredible bike race that is one of my favorite events of every summer.  This last day is generally a ceremonial stage, with the riders coming into Paris en masse for a final end of race for one final sprint to the finish line.

Tour de France Froome and Team SkyThe race leader this year is past two-time Tour winner Chris Froome, a Kenyan-born Brit whose skinny frame hides a huge diesel motor within that seems to just chug and chug without end.  Froome’s dominance is quite remarkable but just enduring such a race is incredible in itself.  Three weeks with only two days of rest that covers about 2100 miles that wind around France and neighboring countries, up and over the highest peaks and mountain passes in the Alps and Pyrenees.  

It is speed, strength and sheer endurance mixed in with the toughness to scramble up after hitting the road at 45 MPH and continue riding a tough course for another 50 miles.   Imagine running half and full marathons nearly every day for three weeks over rugged terrain in all sorts of weather.  That’s the Tour.

I always hate to see it end.

So for this Sunday morning music here’s a French classic, La Vie en Rose, sung by the wondrous Rhiannon Giddens.  It is a gorgeous version that she mad in response to the terror attacks in France last year.  Unfortunately, it applies this year as well.

But be optimistic and have a great Sunday!

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Mont Saint Michel-Jeremie Eloy-wanaiifilms-comI am really swamped in the studio getting work ready for my upcoming show at the West End Gallery.  Too much to d0 so I wasn’t going to write anything today except maybe mention the start this morning of this year’s Tour de France, one of the great spectacles of world sport.  This great bicycling event starts at Mont Saint Michel, an old abbey on a tidal island off the of coast Normandy, France.  As you can see in the photo above, it’s an amazing sight, one that always stirs some mysterious emotional response within me.

But since I am so busy I just want to share a video I stumbled across.  It’s from Moon Mullican, known as the King of the Hillbilly Piano Players in the 1940’s and 50’s and a huge influence on early rockers like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis.  This is Grandpa Stole My Baby with a video that features an early film, most likely from the time around the turn of the 20th century, well over a hundred years old.  I could not find any attribution for the film but it has two dancers, one a seemingly older gent, who show some pretty nice dance moves that fits well with the song.  I couldn’t look away.

Give a listen and take a look for yourself.  Have a great day and weekend!

 

 

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PrintI’ve written here in the past about the Tour de France, the epic bicycle race that that criss-crosses France for three weeks each July.  About 2100 miles in 21 days that climbs through the heights of the Pyrenees and Alps.  It is an incredible test of strength, endurance and nerve putting perhaps the greatest endurance athletes on the planet on the edge of their physical capacities.

For me, this event is like a yearly Olympics or a 21 game World Series, each day bringing something new to marvel at– incredible scenery, awe-inspiring performances and sometimes horrifying crashes.

And this morning, as the race winds down to tomorrow’s finish on the Champs de Elysee in Paris, is one of the most fabled routes in the Tour– the climb up Alpe d’Huez.  Over 68 miles filled with ridiculous grades, hairpin turns and fierce competition.  Just great sport.

Below is a profile of today’s route and below that a little riding music from Queen.  Got to run– the race is on!

Alpe d'Huez Route 2015

 

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Vive Le Tour!

Tour de FranceToday marks the beginning of one of my favorite sporting events, the fabled Tour de France.  It’s three weeks of the most grueling biking imaginable covering over 2200 miles with multiple climbs through the French Alps and  Pyrenees that would seem difficult in a car let alone on a bicycle .  It is a contest that is a mix of  sheer power, endurance and strategy.

After watching for a number of years, I am convinced that these are among the most highly conditioned athletes in the world.  Day after day, they climb on their bikes and ride over an average of a hundred miles per day at the highest pace imaginable, not to mention the practice/warm-up rides they put in before many stages when they more or less ride the entire course.  How their bodies continue to respond is a marvel to me.

So for the next three weeks I am thrilled to have the Tour to watch with my breakfast– a great sporting event along with some of the most spectacular scenery to be found.  Vive le Tour!The pack of riders cycle in the Alps during the ninth stage of the 94th Tour de France

 

 

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I’ve written here before about how we follow the Tour de France each year and normally that is the extent of our cycle racing for the year.  Cheri tries to keep up with the tours around the world but news reports are few and far between outside of the Tour de France and its extensive coverage.  Well, starting today there is a new race bringing many of the world’s top racers and their teams here to the USA for a gruelling trek through the Colorado Rockies.

Called the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, this event covers 7 days of racing over some of the highest mountain terrains.  All of the racing is at elevations over 6000 ft and several of the peaks they are scaling reach well over 12000 ft, more than 2000 ft above the the summits they faced in the Tour de France.  It will be an exciting race that should be a real test of endurance over extremely high altitudes. 

Tour champion Cadel Evans and runners-up Andy and Frank Schleck are among the elite cyclists that will hopefully make this into an even more anticipated event in the future.  It would be great to have a showcase here in the states that gets the type of coverage that allows casual viewers to see  the excitement  and drama of the racing combined with spectacular scenery that makes cycle racing a compelling sporting event.  Hopefully, the organizers of this race have set up a course that showcases these strengths.

The race begins today with a short time-trial held in Colorado Springs before heading to the high peaks.  It is being covered by NBC and shown on its Versus network, beginning at 4 PM EST.

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Another Tour

Well, it’s the first weekend in July which means  we’ll be eating breakfast with the Tour de France, which kicks off this morning,  in our house for the next few weeks.  My wife is a huge fan of the fabled bike race and avidly keeps up with the standings, although I suspect it is the stunning scenery of some of the climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees that are the real attraction. 

It’s going to be a different Tour this year.  Lance Armstrong has retired and is under constant attack for purported use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Three time champion Alberto Contador is under close scrutiny following a positive result for PEDs in last year’s tour, one that he blamed on steroids in Spanish steaks.  He was booed loudly at the team introductions and has taken over as the most reviled rider in the Tour.  Andy Schleck seems poised to finally win the Tour.  He came in second in last year’s Tour, his margin of defeat exactly matching the time he lost in an incident where his chain came off on a climb– 39  seconds.

As far as I know, Schleck has no PEDs rumors hovering around him. 

I believe that PEDs have been part of the Tour for many years now.  I don’t doubt that Lance Armstrong used them just as I don’t doubt that every team competing has at least two or three riders, most likely their best, who are doing exactly the same thing.  It is a very competitive sport with pretty high stakes for those who race near the front and that usually means that whatever it takes to be first when they cross the finish line will be done, even if it skirts the rules.  This is a race over 19 days that stretches for around 2000 miles, over peaks that are ridiculously steep and  high, in heat that is often extreme with the top riders often finisihing mere seconds apart.  You would be naive to think that riders aren’t trying to achieve some sort of edge over their competitors. 

I tend to believe they all are.  This way I can simply watch the race and enjoy that gorgeous scenery and the struggles of my favorite riders.  Go, Andy!

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Well, it’s that time of year when the skinny guys with big legs start pedaling across France, through the fields of lavender and up and down the sheer precipices of the Alps and Pyrenees.  Yes, it’s the annual Tour de France which is a  big deal in our house.  Don’t call when the tour is on in the morning because, chances are, you will only get the answering machine.  My wife is an avid sports fan for only baseball and cycling, scouring the papers for any mention of races throughout the year, so that when the Tour begins it has her undivided attention.  It’s her Super Bowl, or World Cup for you soccer fans out there.

This year looks to be a great race filled with drama and several storylines.  The most obvious is the Lance Armstrong versus defending champion Alberto Contador story.  Lance is the seven time Tour champ  who is making this his last effort in the fabled race and Contador is the two-time champion from Spain who has had a running feud wiith Lance since they teammates (in the most strained sense of the word) in last year’s race.   There is a constant snipe stream running between the two.  Lance is ancient by cycling standards, 38 years old and Contador is in his prime at 27 so youth is definitely on the side of the Spaniard.  He is also the finest hill climber in the world which he made truly evident last year with incredible  dashes up inclines that were just outside being called cliffs. 

 However, the deciding factor in their showdown may come down to their teams because even though this is an event for the individual rider, it is also a team effort based on cooperation and strategy.  Lance’s RadioShack team is deep and experienced with many of the same riders that set up Contador for his victory ( and Lance’s third place finish) last year.  Contador is still with last years Team Astana but with a host of new and less experienced riders.  There are a number of stages where this may cost him valuable time.

Lost in this showdown is the presence of the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank.  Both are very talented riders and climbers and may benefit from the spotlight shining so brightly on Lance and Contador.  Andy Schleck has been on the verge of breaking through as a champion for a couple of years now and this may be his chance to climb to the top. 

Who am I rooting for?  It’s the Fourth of July weekend.  How could any red-blooded American not root for someone with a name like Lance Armstrong?  That is an American hero name, even if you didn’t know his accomplishments.   He would be the same character if he were a cartoon with that name.  But can he finish his last tour with the yellow jersey?  Stay tuned.

Anyway, it should be a great race for the next couple of weeks.  Enjoy the race and enjoy your Fourth…

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climbing-in-the-tourIt’s that time of the year again and I’m always surprised at how interested I can become in the Tour de France bicycle race.

I realized this today when I came into the studio and remembered that this was an off day on the Tour so I wouldn’t have the race on the television in the background here in the studio.  I found myself I little disappointed, much to my surprise.  

I’ve always been a sports fan since I was a kid but primarily the big sports like baseball, football and basketball.   Boxing, a staple of the Wide World of Sports, was also a favorite although over the years I have lost all interest.  But when I was a kid, boxing held more prominence in the public eye and Muhammad Ali was at his peak.  I remember even wanting to be a writer for Ring magazine when I was 12 years old.

But bicycle racing never got a lot of coverage here and the idea of it as a watchable sport seemed kind of far-fetched.  I mean, guys on bikes pedaling in big packs for a hundred miles at a clip through all kinds of terrain, going over the highest passable peaks?  It seemed kind of slow paced and didn’t have a lot of action even though the racers sometimes flew down steep precipices at crazy speeds.  The coverage never really captured the spirit of the competition.  Besides, we didn’t know the stars of the sport, who were almost always European.  We didn’t have our own horse in the race, at least anyone who could contend and pull in our interest.

American Greg LeMond changed that a bit in the late 80’s when he won three Tours.  He drew the initial glance from the American public and created a slight sensation.  But his name sounded so, so- how do I say this- French.  The casual fan was never quite sure if he was American.  There wasn’t the same level of of coverage and technology didn’t provide for the instant worldwide dispersal of information that it does today on the web.  

No, it took Lance Armstrong to pull us in.  No wondering about that name.  We now knew we had a horse in the race.  And what a horse he was.  He brought drama to the race, from his unlikely return after his battle with cancer to the way he dominated Tour after Tour in his cool, methodic manner.  The French press and bike racing establishment despised him and that only elevated him in our eyes.

So his victories made us finally watch and the coverage became better and more comprehensive, allowing us to see the real drama and beauty of the race.  To see how truly epic were the efforts of these athletes.  I ache just watching these guys struggle over these impossibly steep mountain passes day after day.  I am amazed at the level of dedication it must take to compete at this level.

So, it has become one of my habits in July to flip on the tube as I work and have the Tour there.  Skinny men with huge legs.  I would have never imagined.

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