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Inspired by Tracy Lee Karner’s post about baseball and story:

As a writer, why I watch the Tour de France every year:

* Characters. These guys are characters in every sense of the word! To a certain degree, they have to have some ego in order to be successful. You don’t become the best in the world by thinking you are crap. You have to believe you are the best. Ego makes for some great characters. The most entertaining part of these characters is when they bitch at each other. It’s always someone else’s fault when there’s a problem!

* Sometimes the most interesting story is not at the front, but the back. Today I watched an American favorite, Andrew Talansky, fall far off the back. All the riders were minutes ahead of him. The camera followed him. Then, he pulled off the side of the road. That’s a bad sign in the Tour: it usually means the rider has given up. No one would blame Talansky for giving up. His back was in excruciating pain. He was far out of contention; he would never win this Tour or get into the top 10. His race director spoke to him. Talansky wiped his eyes. After a few minutes (the clock continues to tick away), Talansky does not get into his team car, but back onto his bike. Now he’s not just 8 minutes behind, but 15 minutes behind. He has more than 40 km to go, over some challenging pre-Alps climbs. He has made the decision to not rule himself out. If he doesn’t make the time limit, then so be it; it wasn’t his decision.

* Tension. At the starting line, all of the cyclists have a chance to win the stage. Who will win? How will he win? What kind of strategies will be employed? What kind of obstacles (mountains, crashes, unfair play by other riders) will stand in the way?

* Extraordinary effort. In many ways, these are ordinary men. They put their cycling shorts on one leg at a time. But in the world of bike racing, they are extraordinary. Their skills are worthy of admiration. They are doing something, that to the rest of us, looks unbelievable. (Yes, I know this is a sport plagued by doping. But even without cheating, these men still have cycling talents that put them in an elite class. For example, I could not dope and suddenly be able to do the Tour de France). A character in a story who has some kind of unbelievable talent or skill suddenly becomes more interesting.

What would you add to this list?

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