A few weeks ago I was standing on the front porch here watching a tornado form about one mile due west. The funnel came out of the swirling mass of dark green cloud and started to streeeetch its way toward the ground with an impossible sinister black point, like the spike of an ancient goathead. That'll get the blood pumpin'. Just as soon as I convinced everyone including Paul the Cat that it was time to huddle in the basement, however, the funnel petered out and disappeared back up into the storm, making me look somewhat like a dork. That's the way it goes sometimes. And some other times, that mutha tornado hits the ground, leaves a trail of destruction and hurls witches, dogs and Chevys miles away from their original locations.

A few hours before the start of the Tour de France, I can't help but feel that there is a sort of tornado brewing. With the return of a shrewdly trained Lance Armstrong to the race he once owned, and riding on a weird team with no fewer than four G.C. contenders, there looms the potential for a juicy intra-squad rivalry recalling yet surpassing the Lemond-HInault joust of old. Drama. Recent statements by LA, race favorite Contador and team director Bruyneel have only added to the confusion and intrigue. Only one thing is certain. The race will be mired in controversy, and all the contenders will be creepily doped up and transfused, and race officials will have to change the winner three or four times after it's all over in laughable and desperate attempts to preserve the illusion of a clean race. And it will be awesome.

That's right, the crazy Tour starts in the morning. It's probably on right now. Check it out and see if the tornado hits the ground or dissipates. We may have a clearer picture of how this plays out after the opening time trial in Monaco. Or not.

Here is the TOUR DE FRANCE TV SCHEDULE ON VERSUS NETWORK. In general the live freakshow gets rolling at 5:30 am for the Left Coast and 8:30 am in the East; a shortened version repeats all day, with expanded coverage in the evenings. I'll be watching in the basement under a pile of matresses.