|It’s Stage 18 from Embrun to Alpe d’Huez and I’m safely ensconced in our beautiful chalet watching the race on French TV with a baguette in one hand and a Heinekin in the other. A bunch of us have ridden down and back up L’Alpe to get a flavor of the mania and now we’re hanging out, waiting for the peloton to arrive.
The room is crowded and I end up chatting with this old guy that I don’t recognize. He’s an English bloke and about the same age as my parents. I can tell right off that he’s a cyclist but there’s something different about the way we’re discussing the Tour. Then it hits me, he’s actually raced the tour! It turns out he’s Colin Lewis, two-time British national champion who rode the 1967 and 1968 Tour’s de France. He was actually Tom Simpson’s roommate in 1967, the year Tom died on Mt. Ventoux.
Wow. All of a sudden, the Tour is real to me in a completely new way. Colin tried to explain what the Tour meant to him and how he comes back year after year to be a part of it all again. He explained what it was like when Tom died, how hard that was for him and the rest of the team. He told me about how he made a pact with his friend that they would help each other finish the Tour no matter what and how his friend told him before he died that finishing the tour with him was one of the greatest achievements of his life. Colin told me how he sees the Tour as a pattern for all of life, how it’s all there – triumph, tragedy, suffering and glory.
Lower down on the Alpe, Sastre attacked and Cadel could not follow. Colin and I discussed what the strategy might be and Colin predicted, “We’re watching the winning move – this is a brilliant strategy!”, much to the dismay of the Aussies who were rooting for Cadel.
The boys we’re almost to our chalet and it was time to go outside to watch it live. There I was, watching the Tour with a legend.