Monday, July 27, 2009

Tour de Fleece Wraps Up

Well, the astonishing Tour de France bike race is over, and with it this year's Tour de Fleece ends as well. What a feat of athleticism that is, to race thousands of miles over three weeks, over mountain and flat, all over France and spilling into neighboring countries. All propelled only by legpower, and fueled by implacable will. And I imagine, by some pretty hearty evening meals.

Best of all, Lance Armstrong returned this year to the competition, and I was spellbound. I dreamed of the absolute fairy tale, seeing him once again on the podium in first place. But after three years of retirement, a late decision to compete, a broken collarbone, and the happy distraction of a brand-new baby, and at an age among the oldest of any of the competitors, he performed an astounding feat to return straight to the top ranks, where he finished in third. With the competitive fire in his heart, he adds immeasurably to the excitement of the race. For me, no doubt, this was the most exciting Tour to watch in years.

Maybe that accounts for why my Tour de Fleece output this year fell a little short of my goal. I was cheering Lance on, celebrating when he rode well, quaking when he fell behind, and only casually doing my own peddling and drafting. I spent more time pulling for Lance than peddling my wheel.

But I didn't do too badly. I'm a better and faster spinner than I was last year. I am able to just let go and trust my rhythm and end up with pretty good results. Here's what I ended up with for Tour de Fleece 2009.

About three hundred yards of soft, soft worsted weight merino and alpaca in three coordinated colors. It might make a nice vertically striped scarf, but I'm thinking of another possibility or two as well. Regardless, it's a travel memento that reminds me each time I see it, of exploring the yarn shop in a delightful town in New Zealand.

Two plies of the planned three for a sock yarn in Lisa Souza's hand-dyed Blue-Faced Leicester fiber. Since the Tour proper has ended, I guess you could say I'm a day late and a ply short. That's OK; I'm thoroughly enjoying this wool. This was my first time spinning Blue-Faced Leicester. I've heard spinners rave about it, and I think I'll have to join the chorus. It's really nice to handle. This particular fiber was utterly immaculate, with practically nothing in the way of little grassy bits to pick out. And in such pretty, deep blues.

I guess really when you come down to it, I did well in this year's Tour de Fleece compared to last. If I added up the yardage spun, I'm sure I did more than last year -- that sock yarn is probably in the range of 400 or 500 yards per ply. I'm certain the quality and consistency of the spinning is better. And, this time, I escaped without injury. Last year's tendinitis in my drafting hand kept me from the spinning wheel for about a month after the race. So all in all, it was a pretty successful Tour this year, for me.

And besides, Lance has announced he'll be leading a new team next year. Woo-hoo! Live Strong, indeed.

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