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This year is my 25th Tour de France. Officially, this earns me no special distinction. There's a medal honoring those who have participated in 20 Tours and a silver plate for those that have managed to endure 30 grandes boucles, as the Tour is often called. But for me, the quarter century mark holds particular significance, if only as a reminder that I am getting old. It my own silver anniversary.

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along the roadside, as organizers offered tastes of local dishes and local drinks to members of the Tour de France family. And just about every journalist actually drove along the Tour de France route.

The Tour was for me, the great French road trip, and each year there was another road movie to write. There were frequent picnic stops Nike Down Jacket Green

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Year in and year out fans continue to flood the roadside. Over the decades I have seen no discernable difference in their numbers. No matter who is winning or what scandal is brewing, the fans are faithful.

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elements can appear obscured, but I know from experience, that if I look hard enough, they still can be found in abundance.

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In my first interview with Jean Marie Leblanc in 1993, the legendary race director lamented of the of the Tour, the supersized nature of the race. Aware of the potential dividends generated by the increased media and marketing interests around the world, he was also preoccupied by the hazards of such growth. He was worried about the logistical complexities of this ever growing machine. And he was worried about the race ability to maintain its integrity with the people largely responsible for the making the Tour what it is today fans.

Today, organized picnics are a rarity as the free flow of local wines means risks for increasingly security minded race organizers. And there are just plain fewer people accredited to drive the Tour route. Some are discouraged for security reasons, while others choose to save time by driving directly to the finish. Personally I continue to drive the route, perhaps out of habit, but also because I simply prefer to see things that are not broadcast on television.

But I keep coming back because, well, I guess even if it is less intoxicating, there is still enough of the magic to go around.

25 Years at the Tour de France With James Startt

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Today the Tour has lost some of its charm. The once magical Barnum of bicycle racing is now a well oiled machine that travels around the country in lockstep perfection. There is less room for the inherent folly that made the race magical.

Undoubtedly the three common denominators to the Tour success over the decades are the fans, the riders themselves, and the race utterly unique pastoral background.

I covered my first Tour de France in 1990 and started reporting on the race full time when I moved to France in 1992. I essentially presided Nike Sportswear Rally Women's Fleece Pants over cycling Lost Generation: While the situation has improved, for years many cyclists careers were compromised by the ubiquitous presence of performance enhancing drugs.

And lastly the Tour de France remains a true Tour de la France. Wander as it will from its own borders, the race remains free from the confines of a stadium.

But while talk of drug use has never subsided, it has far from overshadowed my own experience at the Tour. No, what impressed me most when I first arrived at the race was the camaraderie and the overall mood of celebration.

Kilometer 92 was the meeting place for the daily feast. Everyone covering the race seemed to blast ahead once the race started, in order to have sufficient time to generously savor the local specialties before picking up the race again.

So I will begin this 25th Tour de France in search of many of the race magical ingredients, great racing by top riders on a stage second to none. Sometimes these Nike Leggings Mesh Panels

we look to the future of the sport. Fair enough. But in terms of pure numbers, it is clear that I have covered more Tours in the past than I will cover in the future. I cannot help but take a look back.

And the riders, too, have remained essentially unchanged. Sure, today they cloistered in team buses instead of sitting on the hoods of their team cars, and press officers limit their availability. But once I actually sit down with one of the cyclists, I continue to be impressed by his humility. Cycling, it seems, is just too brutal of a sport to allow for unbridled arrogance.

Bicycle racing these days, with its complicated past, is ever insistent that Nike Polo Golf

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