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Fitness Monday is a weekly series about fitness, health, getting in shape, etc. This week I'm writing about my regular July obsession, the Tour de France.

But first, if you're reading this, you're at least somewhat interested in the topic. Please consider hosting this diary. Anyone can host - there's a different person every week. Go to the Gmail account, name is FitnessMonday, pw "exercise", and sign up for a Monday, any Monday. Especially people who live in or have traveled to Pittsburgh - with Netroots Nation coming up, it would be really great to have a diary about where attendees can exercise - are there walking trails near the hotels? Anything fitness related going on that people might want to try to squeeze in? Any fitness-related topic can be discussed, this series really needs your participation, please sign up to host.

But whether you would write a NN-related diary or not, please sign up for a Monday to host, this series needs you.

The Tour de France is a three-week bike race all around France, including three mountain ranges. That's _ranges_ , not mountains. The most famous aspect of the race is the yellow jersey, which is worn during the race by the overall leader, and at the end by the winner. He is also handed stuffed lions - the title sponsor is Credit Lyonnaise - which are tossed to the crowd, or auctioned for charity. There are three other jerseys: the polka dot jersey, worn by the "king of the mountains"; the green jersey worn by the winner of the sprint contest; and the white jersey worn by the best young rider. There are races within the race for these jerseys, with points given for the first to reach certain mountains, and with sprints set up within stages. And "Tour de France" doesn't mean the race is completely within France. Every year, parts of the race venture into neighboring countries. This year, Monaco & Andorra have been visited, Spain is usually on the schedule. Last year, they started in London, and the Tour has visited the Benelux countries as well.

For people who like books, I ran across this book while researching an earlier version of this diary Tour de France for Dummies. The author, Phil Liggett, is one of my favorite commentators, with Paul Sherwin. Both are former professional cyclists, and add colorful commentary to the coverage. Liggett is such a legend in cycling, he has a book of "found poetry": Dancing on the Pedals: The Found Poetry of Phil Liggett, the Voice of Cycling. I find watching the Tour to be inspirational for my exercise regime (while at the same time disruptive, since I really just want to sit in front of the TV & watch it). Also, you can sign up for Chris Carmichael's newsletter (he's Lance's trainer) and get a "do the Tour at home" training plan: Chris Carmichael's site

The TdF is not the only bike race in the world. There are three races, known as the Grand Tours and includes the Tour of Italy and  Tour of Spain. There are other races like the Tour Down Under, and concurrent with the TdF, there's the Tour of Austria. There are also races in the U. S. like the Tour of Georgia and the Tour of California.  But if you say "the Tour" to a cyclist, it is generally understood to mean the TdF. Today is a rest day, but it is a good opportunity to catch up if you haven't been following. This year is a great race, it has been fabulous watching the athletes. Ok, and I must admit, cute boys in spandex. But there have been some great races, exciting finishes, and some pretty gnarly crashes. I don't think anyone has dropped out due to injury - even Mick Rogers is still riding, though he cracked a disk. This is not unusual - riders have done the Tour with injuries. And, yes, I'm completely ignoring controversies like doping. It is depressing, complicated, bound to start arguments..... I'd rather not go there. And Lance Armstrong has been tested over 40 times since announcing his comeback, including 3 times in a 24-hour period during this Tour. There is a rider in this year who has had some positive tests, even this year, but he was allowed in, and he isn't a contender for the podium. I was extremely sad to read that Tyler Hamilton tested positive earlier this year and has been given an effective lifetime ban, as has Alexander Vinokurov. Heavy sigh. You see why I say it is depressing.

Where to see it, read about it, etc
I read the liveblog at Bicycling.com, since I can't have audio or video at work -- and there are message boards there where you can discuss the Tour or other issues related to cycling. There's also the website of Versus, the channel that carries the Tour in the U.S. And if you're on Twitter, several cycling pros are, too - find one (Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers, Team Astana or several others - but I can't find either Columbia or Garmin on Twitter, & I "friended" Columbia on Facebook, and they never post) and follow them, or check out who they're following to find other riders. I love cycling, the athleticism & the strategizing. Ok, yes, and the cute boys. But if you haven't been watching the Tour, I highly recommend giving it a shot.

So - how about you? Got any favorite books? Any sporting obsessions? I won't be able to comment a lot, it is super busy at work & my team is down to only 3 of us doing what 5 used to do. But please, talk amongst yourselves. And please, please, please sign up to host. Especially next week, and especially if you know something about Pittsburgh.

Originally posted to anotherdemocrat on Mon Jul 13, 2009 at 08:06 AM PDT.

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