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Tour de France and part of Germany Robert Sheridan FawCawnahs bobsheridan@earthlink.net Saw some excellent TV coverage of the 18th stage of the biggest bicycle race in the world the other night, July 20.

They've rounded France and strained uphill through the Alps, as in mountains. Can you believe climbing mountains on a bike? My bike didn't like to go up the Victory Boulevard hill when I was a kid. I must have bad luck with bikes. The new one has the same lousy attitude.

The 18th stage ground out 143 miles through eastern France into der Black Forest of Germany. Two guys beating it out, in front of the pack, the shorter, more muscular, hot, yet controlled Salvatore Comesso of Italy being challenged by the tall, blonde, but cool, Alexander Vinokourov from Kazakhstan.

The rest of the pack was way in back, and these two were in a real duel, mano-a-mano, or pied-a-pied, take your pick.

V kept trying to get ahead of C, who was looking over his shoulder, almost taunting V to try, then he'd give a burst of leg-power and keep in front of V. V kept right on him, and C would suddenly move to the opposite side of the road.
V would shadow C's every move waiting for his chance to make a break. They were only inches apart, one behind the other, except when V would pull alongside, pumping strenuously.
Finally they got down to the last half-mile when they really poured it on, leg for leg, almost dead even. V's face finally showed the strain as he seemed to give everythig he had, but the confident Italian was trying even harder, head down and standing as he drove the peddles.

The two national heroes crossed the finish line in very near a dead heat but it was clear Italy beat Kazakhstan in this stage.

I'd never seen a bicycle duel like this before. Previous glances at Tour de France sports clips seemed like watching America's Cup races, i.e., paint drying.

This coverage gave you an insight into why the sport is so big in Europe, France especially, where miles of road are blocked off and lined with cheering onlookers waving hands, signs, etc.

As our correspondent in Germany, DBlivet, has pointed out, the Americano, Lance Armstrong, was in the early lead. Still is at latest report.

Anyone who can beat Comesso and Vinokourov is really doing something.

Gonna have to stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I'm going to take the bike with way too many gears out to give it some exercise on the world famous Saturday morning Tour de Embarcadero, from the new Giants Stadium to the Golden Gate Bridge, or maybe, to make things a little different, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Giants stadium.

I'll keep an eye peeled for the cheering crowds.

Wave if you see me.

Cheers help the wheels turn 'round.

-rs



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