Punishing days at an all-out pace. Severe climbs and diving descents testing riders’ stamina and courage. Sharp corners with who-knows-what lying invisible just around the bend. Massive pile-ups claiming too many victims.
The Tour de France just wrapped up its three-week odyssey around one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The Alps, the Pyrenees, the coastal area of Brittany and, of course, the Champs Elysees in Paris, all played host to the 105th edition of the greatest sporting event mankind has yet to conjure.
I watched every night and savored every minute. Riders had good days and bad days as they competed over 2,000 miles of varying terrain. About 200 started, but only one was able to ride off with the coveted yellow jersey as ultimate survivor.
I’ve been a cycling fan since 1988 and have seen a lot of racers come and go, my favorite being Greg Lemond, the only American winner of the Tour de France. (Lemond won three times while drug cheat Lance Armstrong was later stripped of his seven wins.) Each edition of the most famous cycling race is a heroic test of endurance, with riders having to overcome their doubts and pain, as well as the mountains and rough roads on their way to Paris. And, for them and the TV viewer, one never knows when pure mayhem will strike.
While watching this year’s Tour and then flipping to news broadcasts that so commonly focus on the daily travails and faux pas of President Donald Trump, I was reminded of another cycling race that took place here in America in the early 1990s: the Tour de Trump. No joke. There was such a thing.
Trump, then a real estate mogul and casino magnate, sponsored what was actually an awesome bike race that drew Lemond and the best racers in the world. It’s always been hard to draw European teams to American races, but Trump did it, mostly with a big wad of cash for the eventual winner.
The Tour de Trump meandered through New England and the Mid-Atlantic and wrapped up in New Jersey with a time trial on the Atlantic City boardwalk. I went to watch the peloton roll through my uncle’s town in Massachusetts. I even have a “Tour de Trump” hat signed by Lemond to prove I was there.
The Tour de Trump is just a footnote in professional cycling’s past, but, in a figurative sense, all Americans are witnessing the political reincarnation of the Tour de Trump. Trump has everyone focused on him. And love him or hate him, he’s taking us on a wild ride.
For the most part I like Trump. Yes, I’m worried about his ties to Russia and the Mueller report, if it ever comes out. Yes, I’m concerned about the separation of families at the border and the length of time it’s taking to reunite them. Yes, I’m worried about Trump constantly blaming the “fake” news media. There are things about Trump that we don’t want to see emulated on a grand scale in this country. I acknowledge that.
But there’s a lot of good, as well. Even his alleged negatives have a silver lining for those willing to listen. As with every man or woman who’s ever been born, there’s dark and light to Trump’s personality and actions.
Like a bicycling stage race, there are good days and bad days for Trump and Americans who care about his presidency. There are days when Trump says something so stupid you feel you can’t go on endorsing him. As supporters, we feel Trump himself is throwing oil on the road, as if he’s sabotaging the conservative cause. Some conservatives have given up riding for him, letting Trump ride off on his own, come what may.
But, just as in a Grand Tour like the Tour de France, there are great days alongside the bad days. On good days, the Tour peloton rides as one, racers inches apart as they swoop around corners and through traffic circles heading cohesively toward their goal. Trump and his supporters have days like this. The hopeful summit with North Korea was a recent one. Choosing a solid Supreme Court nominee was another. I am proud to call Trump my president on those days.
After 19 months of Trump’s presidency, supporters and critics need to realize there will be constant ups and downs with this president. He’s not all bad; he’s not all good. The Tour de Trump is proving challenging for us all, but hopefully the ride will be worth it.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.