happy bastille day!!
today my “spinning” post does not really concern wool—instead, i bring you le tour, which is often referred to (in france) as le grande bouclé. how cool is THAT?!
(and don’t think it isn’t lost on me that in my world, bouclé means fuzzy, bumpy, and tangly.)
as i mentioned previously, we look forward all year to the tour de france. i mean, we Get Ready for it—i gather up a nice knitting project that requires several weeks of steady work, david makes sure that his schedule revolves around taping each day’s stage (both the long and the short version, in case we can’t spend 3+ hours watching), and we both make sure we are done with work and anything else by around 11 pm so we can settle in for our daily viewing.
a lot of you may have heard that a number of riders were sent home before the race start this year because their names were associated with a doping scandal that is brewing in spain. they have not been accused or indicted of actually doping, but their teams agreed to have them sit out the tour because they appear on a “list” (i know—don’t even get me started). and, coincidentally, this group included two of the race favorites, as well as many awesome climbers. thus, the field of competitors for the mountain ascents, which is where the race is won or lost, has been effectively disseminated.
i’m not saying they didn’t do it—how would i know? but what i am asking is
- what’s up with the mysterious list?
- why can’t i find out very much about this story, except for reports that riders were sent home for being associate with a “list”?
- why isn’t anyone explaining to the public why being on the list, and NOT being accused of anything wrong, means that these riders have to sit out le tour?
- why is the public being led to believe that these riders have been caught doping, when that is not the case (at this moment)?
and most importantly,
- is it enough “evidence” to ruin the reputations and career goals of these riders, as well as the race? (some teams are talking about firing riders who have been dismissed from the race).
i always wonder about these kinds of purges in sports, or anywhere else (including the current anti-smoker campaigns, which insurance companies are now using to drive up pricing even further)—what’s next?? when all the dopers and smokers are gone, what will we go after next? will life—and bike racing—finally be fair? will cancer be gone? will we finally be happy to wake up each day, or should we all just relax and start now! (and please, for the record, that is NOT, in any way, an endorsement of smoking or doping)
as to the race that IS being held, well, it’s just weird this year! the field is “thin”, with gaping holes and glaring absences. i was really looking forward to watching ivan basso and jan ullrich duke it out this year. i love watching basso ride—no matter how long and painful the climb, there he is, smiling away (of course i guess that could be drugs . . .). i have to admit to a bit of a crush on the guy! he is trés adorablé! with a face like that, how could he be doing drugs??
and jan, well, jan has been very patient for the last 7 years and puts up amiably with a lot of guff from the press (of course, i guess THAT could be drugs, too . . .). he paid his dues, he got into great shape—THIS was his year! i wanted to see him ride, dammit!
i just wanna see the two of them race up the big hill! is that too much to ask??
so far, the mountain stages (they just got into the big hills of the pyrenees) have left me slightly less than excited; but there is much more to come, we are just getting started on the real race. the saving grace of the lack of competition this year, is that the final result hangs in the air as a big question mark—who WILL win the tour?
fortunately, the dismissals have not affected the sprinting field all that much, although alessandro petacchi remains sidelined from a smashed kneecap incurred during the giro in may (i know—ouch—that makes me wince every time i think it!).
i have, instead, been relishing the absolute trouncing of tom boonen that my favorite sprinter, robbie mcewen, hands out almost every day. he has absolutely no shame and i LOVE it!! can you believe that guy? he evaporates into the field about 1km from the finish, only to zip out of the fray like a bee right before the line, taking no prisoners! WOW! doncha know, i just wanna hug him? what a competitor!
so the flat stages with sprint finishes have actually been more than exciting and full of surprises.
we shall see what the next week brings.
and what does this all have to do with knitting? in a word, inspiration. er, or lack thereof.
last year, for instance, i steadily worked away on my 2400+ rows of lace edging for the four seasons shawl, all the while my hands sweating for lance to prove his unequivocal tour dominance for one final time.
this year, i had a good week of sprint finishes to light my fire and get the wedding shawl done for the deadline(s). now that we are into the lackadaisical mountain stages, i am foundering. i find myself fretfully picking up a sock here, or a sample knit there, and then switching to my skirt for a few rows. nothing really inspires me to hunker down and focus.
sidelined . . . i might have to start callin it alléz-jet! (petacchi’s nickname)
i know i said i would get right back to my skirt. and i have done a few rows, but it felt heavy in my hands and made me bored.
so i started another sock which i mentioned the other day i ws going to scrap. and look
i can’t even get motivated to rip it out! so i started another sock with my FAVORITE lorna’s laces sock yarn, in camoflauge colorway for david
and as you can see, i am just barreling along . . .
in fact, on several nights i had to stop watching the race early becasue it was putting me to sleep, and pick it up the next night to see the finishes, all the while dodging the news so i wouldn’t hear about the day’s winner!
then, once i posted the pictures of the wedding shawl and got so many emails about a pattern, i knew had to get right on top of that. so for the last several evenings i have worked late at the computer, getting the charts and pattern written. and doing a test knit
this is what i called a doll shawl from the new pattern. and it could be a doll shawl! but it will also make a really pretty scarf at 42″ wide. now, is that moth-ey or WHAT??!
it’s nice to be able to show it in the fingering wool, with the edges pinned-out as an alternative to the fuzzy one with the ruffled edges. all these options will be included in the pattern. i have one last section to write and one chart to do. debbie is doing a test knit (her first multi-patterned lace project), and leah has also offered to try it out!
i’m swimming in ideas and yarns for more lace projects—this arrived today from Briar Rose Fibers—a delicious new addition to her line of hand-dyed yarns. it’s laceweight alpaca, and i’m dreamin’ on it . . . thank you chris!
one project that has not suffeed from the tour malaise is the intrepid brown desk sock. in fact, around here, i think it is winning the king of the mountains competition!
EPILOGUE . . .
here is a thoughtful summary of some information that the general public may NOT know about the tour, and about bike racing (and many other sports) in general, from John Hoberman, author of A Pharmacy on Wheels – The Tour De France Doping Scandal, a book about the 1998 festina scandal which rocked that year’s tour.
[ . . .] long-distance cycling has been the most consistently drug-soaked sport of the twentieth century. Even prior to the establishment of the Tour in 1903, the six-day bicycle races of the 1890s were de facto experiments investigating the physiology of stress as well as the substances that might alleviate exhaustion. The advent of cycling as a mass recreational and competitive sport during the 1890s came at the end of a century that had seen many experiments designed to measure the effects of (sometimes fatal) stress on animals, and in this sense the six-day riders were continuing the work of experimental physiologists who were interested in finding out just how much abuse the animal or human organsm could take. Stress, trauma, and death — the extreme outcomes of sportive exertion — had been studied by many physiologists before doctors began to wonder about the medical consequences of extreme athletic effort. Today the emotional distance that separates the sporting public from the physiological ordeals of its heroes confirms that the high-performance athlete is widely understood to be an experimental subject whose sufferings are a natural part of the drama of sport. (3)
The history of modern doping begins with the cycling craze of the 1890s. Here, for example, is a description of what went on during the six-day races that lasted from Monday morning to Saturday night: ” The riders’ black coffee was “boosted” with extra caffeine and peppermint, and as the race progressed the mixture was spiked with increasing doses of cocaine and strychnine. Brandy was also frequently added to cups of tea. Following the sprint sequences of the race, nitroglycerine capsules were often given to the cyclists to ease breathing difficulties. The individual 6-day races were eventually replaced by two-man races, but the doping continued unabated. Since drugs such as heroin or cocaine were widely taken in these tournaments without supervision, it was perhaps likely that fatalities would occur.” (4) It is, therefore, not surprising that when the pioneering French sports physician Philippe Tissié performed the first scientific doping experiments in 1894, his test subject was a racing cyclist whose performances could be timed and who could be primed with measured doses of alcohol or any other potential stimulant. (5)
This is the early phase of the historical background against which this year’s Tour scandal must be understood. As one unblinkered observer put it at the height of the furor: “For as long as the Tour has existed, since 1903, its participants have been doping themselves. No dope, no hope. The Tour, in fact, is only possible because — not despite the fact — there is doping. For 60 years this was allowed. For the past 30 years it has been officially prohibited. Yet the fact remains: great cyclists have been doping themselves, then as now.”