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Jul. 20, 2013
Tour de France - Stage 19 - Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand Bornand
Blame an attractive high school French teacher and early exposure to the films of Francois Truffaut for Matt Walsh's francophile tendencies. Then later came bike racing and watching the grandest race of all, the Tour de France. So as a freelance writer, there’s pretty much no place he’d rather be than in France on the race routes of Le Tour. It’s always an adventure that goes full-gas.

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Three distinct memories from this major day in the Alps. First, when you drive the race route and go over five mountain summits, you begin to understand the magnitude of what these riders face day after day.

Tour de France Stage 19

Lemme tell ya, it’s exhausting in a rental car and the climbs -- and the descents -- in the Alps seem to go on forever. For a Tour rider, it’s unrelenting physical hardship and the descents are so fast and technical that I don’t think you can relax for a second. I come away even more astonished but what it takes to be a professional bike racer and you can multiple that by one hundred in a race like Le Tour.

The second memory I take away from today is an unscripted one. I stood about 100 meters past the finish line in Le Grand Bornand when Movistar’s Rui Costa won his second stage. A scrum of media vultures descended on him and he disappeared from view, buried by cameramen and photographers and twenty five microphones.

Tour de France Stage 19

However, moments later he rode back toward the awards stage for the winner's presentation. Still on his bike, he pushed several people out of his way and rode to the edge of the far barrier and embraced a guy on the other side. I don’t know if it was his brother or a cousin or perhaps the husband of his sister, all I know is the guy was crying, tears streaming down his face. Costa embraced him twice if not three times and that was a moment where I saw how much a Tour de France stage win means. They both knew the sacrifice, the suffering and the rarity of the triumph. That's not something you probably saw on the TV coverage but it was a genuine moment.

Third, hmmm, I’m starting to get a little emotional myself. Chasing the Tour for three weeks is a challenge and it does wear you down physically and mentally. But I also know this: the race is addictive and as much as I’d like to be home, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want this to end. The Tour is so grand and astounding that even all the logistical hardships fall away and fade compared to those unforgettable moments on Ventoux or Alpe d’Huez or Saint Malo or Nice or even the town of Megeve where I’m staying tonight. It's an honor to be a part of the 100th Tour, if only in a small way.

Tour de France Stage 19

Even though the drive today was long and over many a mountain pass, I tried to savor it. Time grows short and Paris is around the corner.
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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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