I was idly watching the Tour de France over the weekend with the sound off, as one does, when I saw a strange sight: a little dog scampering on the road. The road that is the racecourse. The racecourse that seems to have a dozen pileups every year, each growing more shocking as I get older and imagine what falling off a bike in the Tour de France must really feel like. (Because it looks gruesome.)
Here’s my play-by-play:
The little white dog runs out after four riders had just passed, and he’s alone out there for a few moments, and he’s up for a good time, prancing on the street and wagging his tail to someone on the side of the road, who appears to be his owner.
After calling to the dog, that owner tries to physically retrieve the dog. Gamely. He makes it halfway across the street. And then. And then.
The pack rounds the bend.
On the TV, more than 100 speeding bikes suddenly sweep into view, right on top of the dog and the man, both of whom turn to glace at the horde and seem to freeze for a split second, cartoon-style. Then they bolt back to their respective sides. The lead rider misses the dog by inches. Had he gone down, everyone would have gone down.
It would have been a massive crash, no doubt.
Dogs have a history with the tour. In 2007, German cyclist Marcus Burghardt collided with a dog who was totally oblivious to the presence of the race. (We’re not going to show it because the dog gets absolutely clobbered, but he seems to emerge okay.) There was also the time in 2000 when a horse jumped his fence and raced alongside the cyclists, giving the riders his best for miles.
This year’s incident occurred on the second day of the race. On the first day, a giant team bus broke down right on the finish line, right underneath the banner, minutes before the riders approached.
It’s going to be a weird tour. French people: Leave your dogs at home.