Monday August 10th, 2009

1. Alabama-Auburn In the magazine I've described Duke and North Carolina in basketball as "the one rivalry all other rivalries secretly wish to be." But I don't stand by that comment quite as stoutly as I would if I'd seen the Tigers play the Tide, a feud I've been curious about ever since spotting my first AVOID THE RUSH -- HATE AUBURN EARLY bumper sticker.

2. Elf Steden Tocht

This speedskating jamboree -- literally, "Eleven Town Tour" when translated -- is organized in a scramble as soon as the canals in Holland's Friesland province freeze over. It's open to all Dutchmen and Dutchwomen willing to strap on their skates, and is usually won by some utterly unknown tulip farmer who has been training diligently in solitude for years. (Forget about actually being there, I'd be pleased even to learn that the Elf Steden Tocht is taking place. Because of climate change, the race has gone off only once in the past 23 years.)

3. The Maui Invitational

I've done the Great Alaska Shootout and Oahu's Rainbow Classic, but I still need to punch my ticket for this non-Lower 48 holiday classic, where D-I basketball powers cycle through Lahaina to begin the college season. Big-name coaches relaxed and approachable in aloha shirts: Not just a sight to see, but also an interviewing opportunity to take advantage of.

4. Paris-Roubaix

The king of the one-day classics on the pro cycling circuit, the race goes over cobblestones and hills in the raw early spring of northern Europe. Fans line the route to partake in the mud-splattered mess and witness the bone-shattering crashes. Seeing a video of it as a teenager, American cyclist Joe Parkin has said, reminded him of every World War II movie he'd ever seen, and moved him to sign with a pro team in Belgium. I'd want to see it to know why others want to see it.

5. The Oregon Relays

I don't really know track, but Eugene is ground zero for the sport in the U.S., and this is the Ducks' gemstone event. There's nothing -- seeing a pattern here? -- quite like watching others watch an event in which they're deeply invested.

My Favorite: The French Open.

For the city. For the time of year. For the ochre of the clay and the teal of court-level signage. For the mesmerizing length of the rallies. And for the way the Eiffel Tower pokes just above the tops of the trees.

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