Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A French Tour in 60 African Seconds

I'm watching the Tour de France bicycle race, on TV, in Ghana.  

Today's breakaway group - a small number of riders who have established themselves some minutes ahead of the peloton, the main body of riders - is nearing the top of the famous Col du Tourmalet.

I want to be riding in mountains like that.  Real ones of course, not the electronic beige ones of the official race ticker.  Though I have trouble, these days, simply keeping my pace up on an hour-long, relatively flat pedal.

These days, this is the best I get for hills.

The climb to Aburi, north of Accra.

As I watch the Tour I'm waiting for something to happen.  For some rider to attack.  For someone to take a corner too fast and end up in the bushes.  Any kind of drama.

The Tour unfolds so slowly in real time on TV... even on the crucial and race-deciding mountain stages.  But if you can wait long enough to catch the decisive moments - an unmatched acceleration, a brutal crash, a solo rider just staying ahead of the peloton in the last 500 meters to cross the day's finish line first - the wait can be worth it.

Last night I saw on Facebook this photo:

I think this is hilarious, and exactly the kind of satire needed against the prevailing knee-jerk disinformation of 'Africa's' backwardness.  Nothing but conflict and starving children?  Hardly.

There's an African rider in this year's Tour de France, actually.  White, of course, and from South Africa.  But hey - South Africa is still part of the continent last time I checked.  Go Africa.

I'm writing this sort of disconnected, stream-of-consciousness post partly because I'm distracted by keeping part of my attention on the bikers on TV.  And partly because, in the larger sense, I'm 'distracted' these days by my baby care duties.  My son is nearing half a year old, now, and my stay-at-home-dad status has got my blog-post frequency way down.  But I don't mind that too much.

I like it that my son is growing up in Africa, where every 60 seconds a minute passes.  Though unfortunately I won't be riding him on my bicycle any time soon, here.  Between the taxis that come much too close to my wheels and the open ditches waiting beside narrow city roads, I won't take the risk.

I can't wait to teach him to ride, though.  And show him the fun of satire.  Maybe I'll even get him to see a Tour de France some day, in person.

For now, some little guy named Voeckler is pedaling at breakneck speed down a French mountain after leaving all his competition behind on a long day of racing that included four very hard hills.  And an African-born rider is dragging the leader of the Tour up over the last climb of the day and back onto the wheel of his chief competitor, the African-born pedaler himself in second position overall in the race.

For me, I'll enjoy my next 60 seconds in Africa.


Ann Shannon said...

I always enjoy your insightful posts, Joe, no matter the frequency (or infrequency). Keep 'em, coming!


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