Tom Ross: The Tour de Tom

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Editor's note: Tom Ross is on vacation. This column originally appeared in the July 25, 2004, edition of the Steamboat Today.

If you are anything like I am, you snuck off on a bicycle this week and pretended to be Lance Armstrong riding up L'Alpe d'Huez.

I should hasten to point out that in a town that is mad for bicycling, I am no cyclist. But I occasionally ride my old mountain bike out Twentymile Road during the lunch hour, and even commute to and from work on the Yampa River Core Trail several times a month.

I don't know precisely why the television coverage of this crazy three-week-long bike race on the Outdoor Life Network has sucked me in so completely. But I do know that it beats watching card games on ESPN.

Lance has a whole quiver of the latest Trek road bikes. My trusty steed is an old Gary Fisher mountain bike that doesn't have a rear suspension. In fact, it doesn't have a front suspension. But that's OK on the smooth surface of the Core Trail.

The route from home to work is so level, I can cover the entire distance without shifting out of the highest gear. There are no category-three climbs on the Yampa River Core Trail. But just like Lance, I have to maintain focus while spectators dart into my path at the last instant. Have you noticed the crazy lack of fan security they practice at the world's greatest bike race?

I know how cyclists on the "Tour de Lance" feel when crazy Germans sprint ahead of them waving their national flag.

If the world's other major sporting events were like the Tour de Lance, then spectators would be allowed to run out onto the field at the Super Bowl to snap photos and jump out of the way before Tom Brady ran them down.

Or, they'd be allowed to run across the 18th green at the U.S. Open wearing costumes meant to distract Phil Mickelson while he attempted to putt out.

If other major sporting events were like the Tour de Lance, spectators would wander around the oval at the Daytona 500 during time trials, so that they could paint slogans on the blacktop. If the World Series were held in France, Yankees fans with painted faces would stand along the third base line during the ninth inning and scream epithets while the Marlins rounded the base paths.

I'm tellin' ya, there's nothing quite like the Tour de Lance. And just the other morning, I got a taste of it.

I was on my way to work when I zipped through the underpass beneath the railroad tracks just before Fetcher Pond. I was pumping up the climb out of the tunnel and craning my neck so I could check out the muscle definition in my calves when I sensed a gaggle of admiring fans in my peripheral vision.

An elderly couple walking a nondescript little lap dog filled the path in front of me. Their eyes looked as big as 18th gear as I shouted out, "Bon matin, mon petit chous chous! Vous etes lapins chaud!"

Fortunately I have the finely tuned reactions of a veteran typist, and at the last possible moment I swerved my lithe Fisher hardtail onto the soft surface trail next to the concrete. For a moment I thought I might catch my handlebar in the lady's purse, the way Lance caught his handlebar in a spectator's schwag bag back in 2003.

However, the lady clutched the bag to her bosom as if she thought I was going to steal it, and I powered past them on the way to the bridge over Fish Creek. By the time I reached the botanic park, I was alone on a breakaway, and there was no way the peloton was going to catch me.

I thought I must be reaching speeds in excess of 30 mph, and visions of the Maillot Jaune and leggy French models waiting to give me an air kiss on the cheek danced in my mind.

Then I got busted by the city of Steamboat Springs.

I was powering down the trail adjacent to Howelsen Parkway when I spotted the city's portable, unmanned radar trailer parked ahead. I knew it was there to slow the speed of baseball dads in Suburbans with "Steamboat or Bust" soaped onto their windows. But I sensed an opportunity and picked up my pedal revolutions.

As I swooshed by the digital readout my jaw dropped.

"19 mph," was all it read.

I went flatter than Ivan Basso trying to hold off Lance on a time trial.

Perhaps in the future, I'll stick to what I do best: typing really fast.

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