The 2011 Tour de France began on Saturday. As ever at this time of year, my thoughts turn toward my friend Tracy. Tracy died more than a decade ago now, struck down long before her time by a particularly nasty stomach cancer, but she has not been forgotten. I first met her when we started work together on the same graduate scheme back in 1997. Our paths crossed pretty regularly, but we really bonded when we found ourselves on the same residential course and we watched the Tour de France highlights together in my room every evening.
Lance Armstrong was yet to win the race, and the 1998 race was dominated instead by the brilliant, tragic Marco Pantani.
C. was on the same course. Much to Tracy’s amusement (and my surprise), when we were asked to select a “buddy” for the week, C. literally leapt across the table to pair up with me – I was blissfully ignorant of her motivations for this, but nine months later, we were an item. Although she was now undergoing chemotherapy and had been forced to move back home with her parents, nobody was more delighted by the news than Tracy.
We attended her 31st birthday party in her parent’s garden that summer, and bounced on the bouncy castle and ate angel cakes and generally had a lovely afternoon with Tracy modelling the “Yoda” t-shirt I’d given her and proudly showing us her new wig. Lance Armstrong won his first Tour that year, but it was the last one that Tracy ever saw, and she died on the evening of November 4th that year.
Tracy was full of energy and laughter and loved hiking and climbing. She was barely 31 years old and should have had her whole life to look forward to. Life can be so fucking unfair.
Miss you Tracy. I can’t watch the cycling without remembering you.