It might have something to do with the fact that I am staying in a moated castle, but I think I’ve finally understood the true nature of the Tour de France. It is a three week long chivalric epic poem, in which various knights set off in vainglorious pursuit of honour and reward. The fact that they do this on bicycles is neither here nor there. The original velociped was designed to replace horses after all. So it kind of makes sense.

 

 

“When the lurid army entered the citadel of Nice, the hostilities began as soon as the signal flag fell and the tournament was declared open. Many fell on that terrible first day. Wout the Ungainly, Pavel the Unknown even Thibault the Frenchman whose men fell with him, and almost on top of him. Into the middle of the carnage, an unlikely Norseman charged: It was Alexander’s day and his alone (though many had believed in the prospects of Caleb the Tiny, from the Undiscovered Land).

 

The pride of France was restored on the second day of the saga. Julian the Twitchy, Master of Deceuninck and Destroyer of Hopes led a raid which counted among its number Lord Adam the Interchangeable, brother of Simon the Absent and Earl of Bury. Those two old foes exchanged blows, watched on Hirschi the Mystery Switzerman who was never seen again. His ghostly pale tunic, a web of sun and as white the snow topped peaks from whence he hailed.

 

And so the slog continued. On the third day of the contest, as scribes’ metaphors already started wearing thin, the wind blew fiercely, felling the biggest and the boldest. Bol the Underestimated of the Flat Lands, Bennett the Celtish and Giacomo the European, whose star-encrusted tunic shone briefly but brightly in combat. Through all these mighty oaks, bending in the gale, a little mouse did scamper clear. It was Caleb the Tiny from a Place that Had No Name!

 

The next day dawned with Julian the Bearded Drummer-boy still proudly clothed in gold. To the mountains, they bravely rode. And on the fabled road where once the great Merckx the Unspellable suffered his greatest indignity at the hands of a Spanish raider, a Balkan Baron by the name of Primož did mightily accelerate, his knobbly knees rotating upon his steed with unseemly speed, and prevailed atop the summit to savour victory, leaving the several challengers gasping in his wake.

 

So wearied were the knights by their endeavours, that the next morn they called a truce. Amid much chatter and ribald talk did they ride as befitted a schoolroom of silly children. For the pageant scribes and hired town criers of the epic, there was sod all to talk about all that long and arduous day. When dusk started to settle there was a skirmish after all, and Wout the Ridiculous planted his standard in the ground once more. But then, such drama! Julian the Plucky was stripped of his golden tunic! A flagon of drink passed his lips within sight of the citadel, a breach of honour so vile as to be unspeakable. And up stepped Lord Adam the Identical.

 

Rugged were the mountains, fierce was the sun! The warriors watched each other with nerves drawn and sinews ablaze. But no one did attack, for there was no need nor wriggle room on GC. Not even brave Sir Guillaume, whose Philosophy did keep the knights in great puzzlement and awe. Amid this frenzy of uneventfulness, did a marauder from the East seize an unlikely victory. Alexei was his name, and distant Astana was his home. His sponsor, aboard a liveried chariot emblazoned with the sun, Archduke Vinokourov the Asterisk exhorted his young charge home, and the glory was theirs. From a breakaway, but you know. Whatever.

 

Fiercely did the winds blow the next day of the tournament. And fiercely did Sir Peter, Duke of Sagan, the Green Knight of Antuiquity ride with his men, in pursuit of a slight and probably temporary reversal in the green jersey standings. All day they laboured hard, still knights were scattered all along the road from Castres, some lying in ditches, others weeping into the pitiless sky as ahead of them on the horizon their only hope of succour did disappear. And who would appear at the end to plant another flag? Why Wout the Totally Absurd, of course.

 

To the great, high mountains! And here, in such noble company, a humble shepherd did prevail. Nans the Googleable, a lowly worker knight, brown and blue in hue, did ride to glory, his tongue ablaze with joy. And on the mighty Peyresourde, Tadej the Pog Archer took flight and with one fell swoop reclaimed half the severed time he lost in combat just the day before in the winds of cross.

 

One week of fighting, eight days of awe. What more to come on the road to fair Paris?”

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