Obsessions: J'Aime le Tour de France

The Tour wouldn't be the same without Phil and Paul; I think Bobke's drinking a beer behind themYou might have noticed that the Griddle was a bit quiet last week—I was actually on vacation at the shore with my family. And, though it wasn't intentional, the trip perfectly coincided with the start of the most magical time of the year: the Tour de France.

Yes, while my loved ones were hitting the beach early or getting in a quick workout before lunch, I was camped out on the couch with Paul (Sherwen) and Phil (Liggett), gearing up for three weeks of watching men in spandex traverse the French countryside. I even set my alarm to make sure I was up in time to hear the pre-race predictions (the announcers compete for their own "Yellow Jersey"; things get sassy). This is a serious obsession.

Since 2008, I have watched almost every single minute of the Tour. The people in my life (with the exception of an ex who initiated me into this strange cult) think I'm insane. In their minds, I might as well be watching paint dry. But, what they don't understand is that the Tour is more than a bike race—it's one big three-week soap opera narrated by two jovial middle-aged Brits who enjoy the occasional paddle boat ride. They know nothing of the rivalry between Luxembourg's two cycling dynasties (the Kirchens and the Schlecks), the preponderance of wonderfully silly nicknames (Contador: The Pedaling Flea, Thor Hushovd: The God of Thunder, Cancellara: Spartacus) or the Americans in the race not named Lance Armstrong (Christian Vande Velde, knocked out early due to a crash, is my personal favorite).

I sometimes wonder if I'd derive the same pleasure if I didn't enjoy riding bikes so much myself. Plus, I've climbed 20 miles uphill before, so I can feel a modicum of their pain. With Lance virtually eliminated after a tough Sunday in the Alps, it will be interesting to see how many Americans stay tuned. I know I will.