How to Enjoy the Tour

Allow me to take a moment away from all this sporadic blogging about running to report on another exciting genre of fitness—bicycling. Perhaps you’ve heard of it; perhaps you’ve even tried it. Well, consider this entry a bone thrown to all the duathletes and cross-trainers out there who’ve tried previous editions of Rad Racer and found it 50% wanting. You runners can do that weird hopping-in-place thing you do at red lights until further notice; bicycling news is on draught for today’s update.

This Saturday marks the first day of the Tour de France, an annual awareness campaign for the sport of professional bike racing. Like a lot of people who wore Star Trek uniforms to high school, I’ve never been particularly drawn to spectator sports and couldn’t name more than five NFL teams if pressed to do so at phaser-point. So while bikes have been my life for the last ten years, Le Tour has never really held my attention for longer than an episode of Next Generation. But like most human beings with feelings and emotions, I long to feel connected to my fellows through sports fandom and team spirit. And in a few instances, I have been. I watch the Olympics every four years; I’m constantly heartbroken by the KC Royals.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to get me into certain mainstream sports, and I’ve decided my enthusiasm rests on two crucial elements—the level of human drama and the “overcoming the odds” factor. Give me a solid underdog story (ahem. the Royals) or a little “triumph of the human spirit,” and you’ve got me. The Olympics traffics in this kind of emotional puppetry, and it’s both crushing and inspirational. But comic books are actually the best place for it. Start with an underdog, throw in a compelling “origin story”—murdered parents, a nuclear accident, underground government experiments—and I’ll be back every Wednesday to check out the latest.

With that in mind, what would it take to get me excited about the Tour de France this year? For starters, I’m now working an internship at Bicycling, so after creating online slideshows on everything from the history of mustaches at the TdF, to the assorted seasonal allergies that could affect this year’s competitors, I’m more than a little invested. I know all the front-runners’ strengths and weaknesses. I know who the Americans are, and what their bikes look like. I even know what they eat.

But until today, I didn’t have anyone to really pull for. Without the benefit of a lady-gay-Black-Asian-or-otherwise-underrepresented Tour participant, sifting through the identically spandexed candidates seemed impossible. And it’s likely a lot of them are doping, which gives that whole “triumph of the human spirit” thing an outdated, Pollyanna vibe. In light of the Lance Armstrong investigation, no one seems to be headed to France with clean hands or a clean bloodstream.

But I’m not ready to give up on heroes and origin stories just yet. So this year I’m going to watch the Tour de France, and I’m going to connect with the triumphs and struggles of one conquering champion. I invite you to join me, provided you’re not already emotionally betrothed to another.

I invite you to cast your Tour-viewing vote with David Zabriskie.

I first encountered this cycling delight while compiling a slideshow of Americans at the 2011 Tour. Casual research revealed several interesting facts about our friend Dave:

  • He’s a time trialist, which suits my tastes because I love wearing watches, tracking units of time and generally being early.
  • He’s a comic book nerd—when his house was broken into in 2009, burglars made off with $11,000 of Marvel sideshow statues.
  • Seriously, read that last bullet again.
  • According to his bio, he’s known “not only for his race results, but also for his multifaceted ventures and off-the-wall personality.” Apparently this includes conducting flash-interviews with other riders mid-race about whether they like Star Wars.
  • He’s the same age as me!
  • He’s been hit by cars the same number of times as me.
  • After being seriously injured by a car in 2003, he started a non-profit organization called Yield to Life to ease tensions between motorists and cyclists.
  • He has a blog.
  • This little gem from his bio: “Cycling safety is not the only issue Dave has combated. After struggling with his own chamois issues and writing popular main-taint-enance articles, Dave decided to fulfill a long standing dream to create the world’s best chamois cream. In 2008, he did just that when he launched DZNUTS – a premium chamois cream company making specially formulated chamois creams for men, and through popular demand has expanded to a woman’s line, DZNUTS Bliss.”

The defense rests. Zabriskie might not have battled half the cancer cells that Lance Armstrong has, but he’s triumphed over genital chafing and brought the world a great new pun-based lubricating product. I contend this man is a hero, wholly deserving of your love, sponsorship and DZNUTS patronage. If ever a wristband should appear to raise awareness to taint woes, I beseech you to consider its purchase. I don’t endorse lightly. I endorse with profound consideration and, most importantly, heart.

So, please. Watch the Tour this year, enjoy the Tour this year and root for DZNUTS! If you actually want to know important things about him like which team he races for, check it out here. But I think I’ve already given you everything you need to make your decision. If there’s someone cooler out there I should know about, then by all means, please fill me in.

There’s a strong possibility DZ races to avenge his murdered, billionaire parents, though.