Saturday, December 24, 2005

#2, in Madrid and Sevilla

Happy Christmas Eve!

My grandmother died today after long being in ill health. Sad.

i'm going to give my 2cents about cycling race #2, mostly so i have something to do to pass the time.

this story begins in Madrid, Spain and ends down on the Meditarranean coast near Almeria. that summer, 1990, i was in Spain on a 5 week study abroad program. my parents wouldn't let me go for a whole semester, so 5 weeks was good. we stayed in a pension across from a park, and down the hill from the university area, Moncloa i believe. the schedule consisted of class in the morning, with various activities and goofing off in the afternoon. many evenings we had pre-planned trips to take, and several times plays to attend since i was in a Spanish theater class. in those carefree afternoons we played tennis, swam, probably drank beer, roamed around Madrid, and I personally watched a fair amount of the Tour on live TV. remember that this was in the age when the Tour, i don't think, was shown at all in the US. at some point, due to Lemond's success ESPN started carrying a 30 minute highlight show, usually at 12.30 at night. i tried to tape it, but inevitably it was moved to 3.30 and i got 30 minutes of bowling.

anyway, i watched a fair amount of the Tour live at 2.00-4.00 or so, whatever time it finished in the afternoon in Europe. i apparently had watched enought that my professor, "Fred" (no, really), bitched about me wasting my time watching cycling instead of studying. But, Hey, i was practicing my Spanish listening to the coverage, and my Spanish culture, b/c, Hey, the Spanish liked their cycling, especially in the age of Perico Delgado and his '88 victory.

the stage i best remember was the one to Val Louron and climb to Luz Ardiden. it was on the stage that Lemond finally took the yellow jersey after Claudio Chiapucci had fought so hard to defend. on that final climb, the first rider to attack was the Spanish/Basque Marino Lejarretta. the announcers were going wild b/c the Spanish were on the move. later Lemond attacked to bridge to Lejarretta and the large personage of Miguel Indurain tagged on the back. those were the three final riders up the road. the tension became on of, first whether they would catch Lejarretta, which they did easily, and then how much time Lemond could gain. He towed Indurain up the mountain, supposedly one of the most difficult finishing slopes in Europe. never once did Indurain take a pull, given that Lemond's only interest was Time. Lemond has gotten some grief for not having won a stage that year, but you have to look at that stage and understand that Greg could've won, but his only concern was getting to the summit as fast as possible. i was sitting on the edge of my (pleather couch) seat the whole time, only to watch Big Mig come around Greg in the last 200m or so for the win. then it was the waiting game until Chiapucci came in several minutes down. Greg didn't take the jersey that day, but had to wait until the final time trial to knock off the last 40sec or so, and all this is a dark "lounge" in a colegio in Madrid.

the final time trial brings up the 2nd half of '90 TdF fun in Spain. that last weekend was our long weekend break so we- maybe 7 of us- made plans to go down the the Mediterraenan for a long weekend of Costa del Sol fun. we found cheap lodging in Almeria, which is in the very south near Malaga. the only real TdF memory was of walking down a little calle going downhill torwards the water. my friend Shawn and i asked a shopkeeper who was in front of their street about the result and they told us Lemond had taken the jersey by a large margin in the time trial. the '90 Tour was his! we whooped and hollered, a couple of obnoxious American kids celebrating the American victory rightin the midst of rustic Spain. A Great Day!

unbeknowst, several of our compatriots on the study trip had taken the train to visit Paris, so they celebrate the American victory in Paris. with the Lance run, this became common, but in '90 this was a rarer sight.

I'm glad the American presence has grown in European cycling, but I'll take a narrow, winding and shady Spanish callejuela and a dramatic victory result from an old black and white TV by my hero over LANCE and his 7 VICTORIES anyday.

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