It was probably Wednesday or Thursday of last week when I realised that it was nearly the end of June, which meant one thing: the Tour de France was about to start.
I got excited.
I got happy.
I got a little upset because I’d only just started to get back to a normal human’s sleeping pattern, but now that the Tour was back, that was going to be thrown through the window.
Still, the Tour was on.
I wish that I could watch cycling all year round. It’s not that I don’t want to; trust me, I do. Every time that Phil Liggett or Paul Sherwen mention the Paris – Roubaix or the Giro d’Italia I regret not having been able to watch them.
Sadly, for the most part, all of cycling’s attention is on the Tour de France each year, and every other big event sort of gets sidelined by the networks.
In fact, let’s be honest. Here in Australia, we’re lucky to get the Tour de France, one of the biggest sporting events of the year. It has been relegated to SBS, one of the “other” free-to-air channels that we have, and the one that focuses on international current affairs and news.
But I love the Tour de France. I don’t mind the three or four hours of sitting watching men in tight lycra riding. Why? Well, maybe it’s because I can appreciate just how impressive they are, physically, athletically; but also because of the payoff at the end of a stage. Whether it’s a mountain climb or a sprint finish, there is always something happening.
Tonight was the best example. It was Stage 5, from Carhaix to Cap Fréhel, and it was a bloody roller-coaster of a finish. Take a look at the stage profile shown below and you’ll get an idea what I’m talking about, and for sprinters who usually like a nice long flat before they have to go well beyond their own personal red-lines to push themselves over the line first, a hilly finish like this is a bitch.
That’s why when Mark Cavendish won the stage, it was worth the previous hours’ worth sitting there, watching as time after time riders crashed and fell under the slow and sometimes torturous pace that was being set.
“Proper hard” Cavendish described the finish, but he was also extremely clear about how important the other 8 men on his team had been to his winning the stage. In fact, in most instances, when interviewed, the sprinters – who are big, gregarious and larger than life – are often the first to point to their teammates and remind the world how, without their teammates, they would be utterly useless.
Don’t like sport that much? I’d almost be willing to guarantee that you may end up liking watching the Tour de France, especially if what you do like is France. Listening to Liggett and Sherwen commentate a somewhat static sport like cycling might sound boring to you, but it’s really not. These two guys know cycling back to front, and after covering the Tour for so long, they know France pretty well too, and give you a beautiful cycling tour of the country, the history of the regions, and architectural commentary that I just love listening to. It’s really quite amazing.
All of this is what makes, for me, the Tour de France the greatest sporting event in the world. I’m always a little sporadic at this time of year; in describing why I love the Tour so much, and in sleeping, waking, working, etc. Sufficed it be said, I’ll be up late tonight watching Stage 6 of the Tour de France, no matter what I have on tomorrow. Or the next day.
Photo Courtesy Tour de France.
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