What a strange sport, cycling.
More than any sport, it contains multiple stories and multiple champions, wheel to wheel on narrow mountain roads.
The Tour ended Sunday where it always ends, in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
When the survivors struggled up the Alpe d’Huez on Saturday, either Phil Liggett or Paul Sherwen, both English, noted on NBCSN that from the peak of that mountaintop the riders could see the Eiffel Tower. Whichever one it was, he was being poetic, but what a symbol for this singular event.
I remember the penultimate race in 2004, a time trial out east in Besancon, that made Lance Armstrong champion for the sixth straight year. As soon as work was done, I jumped into the car with James Startt and Sam Abt, two Americans in Paris. James started his engine and gunned onto the Autoroute. I close my eyes for a few minutes and woke up and saw a strange phenomenon looming out the back window. It was the Eiffel Tower, all lit up on a summer evening. James had found a time warp. We were in Paris.
The same thing happened Sunday in rainy France, when the peloton skidded its way into Paris on the ritual final day. Every finisher was a champion of the human will. That’s why people stand in the rain or sun and cheer.
Saturday’s true finish up the Alpe d’Huez had three champions, all properly celebrated by Liggett and Sherwen. .
There was a Frenchman, Thibaud Pinot, barreling ahead on the final climb, to win the stage, a victory for the host country, living on the memory of past glories. (Like England in soccer.)
Then there was a Colombian, Nairo Quintana, showing panache, the favored character trait of the Tour, by trying in vain to win the Tour with a blast up the Alpe.
And there was the actual winner, Chris Froome of Great Britain, who gained from a great support system and his own dogged riding, to win another Tour.
It is a strange sport. My friend Alan Rubin, soccer keeper and mentor, added a comment on this site recently, wishing he knew more about the sport. I always felt the same way -- and I was covering it, or at least writing columns, often about the apothecary wing of cycling.
The best I could tell Alan is that the Tour is a mix of the Daytona 500, the New York Marathon, the roller derby, and the old single-wing formation in American football, when everybody pulled to lead the ball-carrier.
My advice would be to read the collected works of Daniel Coyle, David Walsh, John Wilcockson, Juliet Macur, Sam Abt and James Startt.
You’ve got almost 49 weeks.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.