Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

All Goes as Planned: Final Recap

Hello friends,

It may be fair to say that drugs saved baseball. After a strike-shortened season, and as the national pastime’s popularity was waning, three hitters – McGwire, Sosa and Griffey – spent much of the summer of 1998 belting home runs like no one had ever seen. Soon the relatively svelte Griffey dropped off the pace, and the Popeye-forearmed McGwire and Sosa – whom we now know were using steroids – took the nation for a thrilling ride; heck, even I got caught up in it, and in July. The back-and-forth competition, and then McGwire’s breaking the record provided a summer-long distraction, and the frequency and power with which they hit their homers captivated many of us. On the massively muscled (even I’m not gauche enough to add “hairy”) backs of two PED users rode baseball’s esteem, and soon many of us were baseball fans again.

When the truth came out about McGwire, Sosa, Clemens and many others, some sort of emotional statute of limitations had elapsed, and we held it only against them, not the sport; I never heard someone suggest that baseball is “dirty.” But I’ve heard that term applied to cycling many times, and recently. Perhaps ironically, EPO use came into public view that same summer, with l’Affaire Festina, so it may be that, at least for Americans, Lance Armstrong’s subsequent victories saved cycling – though that is likely also ironic. So I’ll suggest that this Tour, which many are calling the cleanest in years, saved cycling.

Not just because we went for 23 days with just one positive drug test (damn you, Kolobnev!), but because if PEDs saved baseball by making it more exciting, their lack made this Tour a delight to watch. Whether for a dearth of drugs or a variety of other reasons, this year’s winners relied on guts and guile, savvy and strategy, and as a result this was – I’ll say it again – one of the best Tours I can remember watching. Nothing will ever beat LeMond’s final-stage, comeback-capping-a-comeback, 8-second win in 1989, and 2003 is a personal favorite for the oh-my-gosh-can-you-believe-that-just-happened moments involving melting pavement, a grassy field, a musette bag and a time trial in the pouring rain. But for stage-in, stage-out captivation, I’ll remember 2011 for a long time. Garmin Cervelo’s hair’s-breadth TTT win, first-week-last-minute uphill attacks by GC contenders, Johnny Hoogerland, the Norwegian Power Couple of Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thor Hushovd, Voeckler’s remarkable run in Yellow, his teammate’s unlikely win at Alpe d’Huez, Schleck’s attack…Would you like me to go on?

And that’s without even mentioning Cadel Evans. He’s the first winner from Down Under, and thus tomorrow no one in Australia will go to work. He’s a worthy winner, worthy for his determination to grab seconds wherever he could starting with the very first stage; for his assiduous, often lonely vigilance through the Pyrenees and especially the Alps; for the classy way in which he thanked his entire team (including the guys who drive the buses) for supporting him throughout the Tour; and of course for taking the Yellow Jersey in the penultimate stage with a masterful time trial, nearly winning not only the Tour, but the stage itself. A couple of years ago he was a guy who couldn’t control his emotions, keep his comments tactful or take the big win, but ever since he won the World Championships in 2009, he’s seemed at ease, and confident, and he’s ridden with – one more time -- panache; his Tour win caps it all off.

After the big GC shakeup the time trial triggered, today’s stage went as scripted: on a gloriously sunny Parisian day, Cadel rode unscathed into over the Seine and across the finish line in Yellow; HTC shepherded Cavendish to yet another stage win – and his first Green Jersey; the Schlecks’ demeanor betrayed neither bitterness nor even frustration; and a throng of Norwegians flew their flags proudly at the first turn on the Champs Elysees, as their homeland celebrated two heroes and a remarkable three weeks, taking brief refuge from news accounts of one of the most tragic days in that nation’s history.


Picking the Maillot Jaune winner doesn’t assure victory in our game, but it doesn’t hurt, and choosing Evans was one of Annetta’s keys to victory. She too is a worthy winner (not that any of you wouldn’t be); she’s been playing this game for at least four years, and holds a true love for cycling and its traditions. Assuming my math is right (see attached) and that we don’t have any game-changing doping convictions in the next two weeks, she’ll bring home 25% of our pot, or $216.25. Phil hangs in for second place and $86, losing his position just how Andy lost his: in the final time trial. Julie, with Andy, Cadel and Thor on her team, nabs third, with $43; she and fourth-place Everett form one of our two power couples; the Carters are the other, with Liz’ sixth place putting her very close to her husband.

In ninth place, my mom Angela is the best-placed Fee; when she sent in her picks she wrote, “Please don’t laugh.”

Remaining is $519 that you donated to the Make A Wish Foundation. If you have been following but not playing but wish to make a donation, please go to www.racing4research.kintera.org/MikeFee. (The photos are not of me!)

My enthusiasm for cycling and for the Tour de France has ebbed and mostly flowed since I first noticed the event in the mid 80’s. Offering this game over the last few years has definitely boosted my appreciation for the Grande Boucle, and right now it’s near an all-time high, despite my team’s very lackluster performance, sitting in the bottom third and being the worst-scoring player with the last name “Fee.” My only fear is that next year might be a letdown! But I look forward to it nonetheless, as the Schlecks will be back; the French are surging; new nations are sending strong riders; Evans will surely return to defend his title, and there will thus be much to cheer. And, of course, we’ll run this game again, and most of you, I hope, will play again.

On behalf of my family, who puts up with me writing late in the evening during the month of July, and of the Make A Wish Foundation, thanks very much for playing. You’ll hear from me again in about eleven months.

A l’année prochaine –



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