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Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom Announces race.
Let me speak to you about dreams. Perhaps you are watching the Tour on TV. I hope you are.

What a beautiful dream, a grand spectacle, so rare and amazing in this age. What drama. These young men, heroes really, pitted against one another. Prepared with the dramas and hopes of their lives. You want reality TV? My God, nothing is better than this. Before our eyes dreams are granted, dreams are shattered.

For want of a front derailleur David Millar's career is compromised forever. Because his team mechanic wanted to save 91 grams. A poor decision. The 91-gram savings by leaving the front derailleur off his bike in the prologue could not have possibly won him the race, but it did loose it for him. As in life, sometimes poor decision making brings ruthless and irreversible ramifications. David Millar knows. Can you feel for him late at night when he faces this disaster? What if?

Stage one. As if scripted by a screenwriter it contained all the drama that is a tour stage. Everything was there. The heroes went out on their own. Bold and audacious.

These men know their chances are virtually zero. But still they play the dream, and they play it with all their heart, soul and effort. And they fail, withering in the predatory grasp of the sprinters. Again, ruthless. Zabel flats at the worst possible moment. In a mini-drama within the race, and a massive lesson in perseverance for those keen enough to notice, the man refuses to yield. Zabel is all class. He regains the group with the service of his teammates and forces his way through to the front. He does not accept defeat. A flat tire with 18 km. to go is plenty enough excuse for most people to surrender, but not Zabel. He is a Knight. He will not lie down on the field of contest. He fights to the finish, and finish he does- nearly winning the stage. Incredible. I tell you, it took my breath away.

The desperation of the tour at a stage finish is like a starving mob trying to get to the last grains of food. Safety is such a distant concern I doubt a single brain cell is devoted to it in the final 5 kilometers. It is all about the race. For about five men it is all about winning. Make no mistake as you watch this bicycle race. These men have no compunctions about dying for a victory. They will take any risk. Before your eyes you see men who have put in years of work and effort, disciplined, for most, in every single aspect of their lives for this one thing. And since their entire life is focused on that one thing, you know they will give anything to win. Anything.

The crash at the end. It was so predictable. You knew it was only a matter of where and when. Even the best riders in the world were so over extended. And you know what happens then. As it is, it destroyed the dreams of one of the most promising riders in the race. Tyler Hamilton broke his collarbone in the 30-rider crash. Armstrong went down too. You know it wasn't supposed to be this way for Hamilton, but the Tour is ruthless. It could have been Armstrong. Just like that. Do you see how fragile his hold on the race is?

And then there was the sprint. Alessandro Petacchi. I will brag here. I picked him with 5km to go. It wasn't that hard if you know what you are looking for. Petacchi's Fasa Bortolo cartel was surgical. From the Wescam mounted on the Antennae 2 helicopter you could see the conspiracy of speed and exploitation forming on the narrow streets at over 32 miles per hour. Fasa Bortolo ganged the front. They made the speed so dangerous and impossible no sane man would dare try to overtake. The ones that did fell. That is how a lead out works. And Petacchi? What can you say? His men must revere him as a God. This is the rise of a new star. Remember Cipollini? Abdujaparov? Kelly? The flamboyant sprinters. Welcome Alessandro Petacchi, he is the new man. His lieutenants guard him during the race like a thoroughbred. Then they waste themselves in ritual sacrifice to launch him at the line. And he delivers.

So in this first stage we lost a promising hero, Hamilton, to a crash. Armstrong has a close call in the same crash- as if to suggest "Hey guys, it isn't in the bag for three weeks and anything can happen". We see a dramatic breakaway and the inevitable catch within miles of the line. It makes you say, "How does that always happen?" Then there was Zabel, the German Knight, he does not accept defeat. The man nearly won with minimal support in the critical final 400 meters. Amazing. And of course, Petacchi. A win with surgical precision.

So that is how it works. A series of dreams- some granted some dashed. It is at once jubilant and tragic. Sometimes when I watch I feel like I may cry. Other times I feel renewed. But I never fail to be moved. And isn't that why it is so incredible?


© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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