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Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007 04:04 pm

Cycling Bugs

The Tour de France had nothing on the Tour de Yorkville

Untitled Document It’s Tour de France time, but we’re not interested here, because no Americans are in the hunt — but I’m looking for a new sport to watch, because football, baseball, and basketball no longer fill up all my free time. Last Tuesday I came dangerously close to reading a book. I dismissed NASCAR and soccer for no good reasons other than that I didn’t play either one when I was young. So, after football and baseball and basketball, I’ve nothing left but cycling. When I was 9, I spent a summer as a professional cyclist. Nonetheless, a quick review of the cycling rules is in order. Perhaps as they’ve changed some since “back in the day,” the Tour de France rules will do. The Rules, page 1. A disclaimer. The rules are not official until you have them translated into French and they are “handsomely bound.”
The Rules, pages 2-50. Proper jersey color(s) and jersey regulations. Jerseys cover the color chart from yellow to polka-dot, and if you’re out of jersey style at any time you may be slapped once with a soft white glove and made to suffer a medley of “haberdashery” insults. The Rules, pages 51-55. Feeding rules. “You can only feed from the 50km distance marker up to the distance marker indicating ‘end of feeding.’ See appendix for hard-bread exceptions — and proper language for accusing Americans of taking dope. The Rules, page 56. The actual scoring system. Lowest overall accumulated time (not first to the finish line) wins. Scoring seems fair enough; rules easily understood — until you actually read ’em. Scoring. The race is run in stages. In flat stages the winner receives 35 points, the guy finishing 25th gets 1 point, and riders 2-24 are awarded some points. In medium mountain stages the winner gets 25 points, the guy finishing 20th gets 1 point, and those finishing 2-19 get something. In high mountain stages the winner gets 20 points, the guy finishing 15th gets 1 point, and folks 2-14 get some points. Mountain-stage riders may be given hors categorie points, which are “different.”
In individual time trials or prologues, which may or may not be stages, the first three people to pass a line on a road get 6 points, or 4 points, or 2 points. A prologue can be injected into the race anytime the officials want one. Finally, the officials can declare a winner, even though “riders are still racing at the time and their points still count” — and that clearly explains why, after Lance Armstrong fell behind by 1,001 miles in the race two years ago with only 1,000 miles yet to go, everyone conceded that no one could possibly catch him and that the race, for all intents, was over. Suggestion: The French need to change the Tour de France a bit, to make the contest more American. Perhaps they should adopt the Tour de Yorkville rules. The Tour de Yorkville Rules: When. On hot days, when there was nothing else to do, in 1952. Where. Down the hard road, seven miles, from our town to the grain elevator in Yorkville, where they had the known world’s coldest soda pop, kept extra-cold in a horse trough full of block ice. Riders. “Snorts” Sullivan, “Frog” O’Malley, “Bugs” Eisenberg, Danny O’Brien, and me. We considered ourselves professional because we raced for money — last to the trough had to buy the pop for the winner. It wasn’t chump change, either — a bottle of pop cost a nickel in ’52. In today’s money, that’s $25,400. Scoring. First to the trough wins. We also had a prologue. Prologue le Chicken. Same pre-race philosophy as the Tour de France prologue in that, while waiting for Danny O’Brien — ’cause he was always late — two riders go head-on full-throttle at each other and the first one who turns away is chicken &*$#! . . . or French. After the prologue, there were only two rules.
Rule le Stick. You may ram a stick into the spokes of an opponent’s bike during the race. Rule le Bugs Eisenberg (optional). It was not prudent to poke le stick into Bugs’ spokes unless it was a blisterin’-hot day and you didn’t have the nickel and you really wanted a cold pop more than life itself. It was a short-run reward for long-run pain — because Bugs would weasel up behind you, maybe two hours after the race — and bash vous with le stick twice the size of the one you jammed into his spokes. The end of the Tour de Yorkville: When Frog forgot to let go of le stick after jamming it in Danny’s spokes, and Frog broke la arm, and our mothers found out that we’d been racing on the highway, and everyone went “nowhere on a bike” for a month. The end of the Tour de France: Not a clue. I don’t understand the rules.
Contact Doug Bybee Sr. at dougbybee@sbcglobal.net.
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