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This year, I said, was going to be different.

I wasn't going to spend hours of my July watching doped-up ectomorphs riding around France on bicycles worth more than my house. I was fed up with it all, not just the doping, which is endemic in any sport, but the idea that bike racing is somehow akin to bike riding, when the two are vastly different animals.

I also have made a sort of commitment to myself to become more producer and less consumer when it comes to my recreation time, which basically means that when I'm free of deadlines, I want to be doing something, rather than watching something.

More on cycling: Cycling news from around the state | Your cycling photos | Create a map for your next cycling trip | Tim Campbell's blog | Never Quite Enough blog | Michele Rides Again blog

I was doing good, too. A long weekend in the vacation mecca of Fargo, N.D., almost made me forget that the Tour de France started Saturday. Then the Tweet came in, about the bus caught at the finish line.

Wait ... what?

Turns out one of the team buses, which precede the riders along the course, rammed into the finish line banner, which despite being produced in France, was surprisingly resilient. The bus was stuck.

The famous race announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen went ballistic as a committee of police and Tour officials stood around, wondering what to do. The bus driver hid his face in his hands.

Meanwhile nearly 200 riders were jockeying for position in the peloton, barreling down a narrow Corsican road at 35 mph. Suddenly a group of riders crashed to the ground, and most of the sprinters who were favored to win the race were down and out. They stood up in their shredded Lycra kits, disentangling thousands of dollars of space-age carbon fiber.

It was awesome.

I watch a lot of sporting events on television. Football, in particular, is a favorite. But that sport is so controlled, so scripted, that someone dancing in an end zone or wearing a different colored sock makes headlines.

Professional cycling has gotten a bad rap over the last few years, and those who don't really understand the sport seem to revel in its woes.

But what seems to get lost in all of that is that every professional sport is dirty and drug-soaked. Look at a lineman. A decade ago, most were much, much smaller. Hmm. Still we set aside the notion that players are lifting weights more and watch.

So the drugs are no reason not to watch the TDF. But the reasons to watch cycling, for me, at least are so compelling I just can't look away. There is speed, scenery, bright colors and British accents. There is blood and bruising and heroics and villains.

You never know what's going to happen. One moment riders are whirring along, the next a team car hits one and sends the guy into a barbed wire fence. Stuff like that doesn't happen in basketball.

Tour de France, it's a soap opera on skinny wheels, and I just can't look away.

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