It’s every cyclist’s (and wannabee’s) favourite 3 weeks of the year again…Le Tour is back in full swing and we are all trying our best to be in the breakaway group on London’s cycle superhighways and wondering why the person on a Boris bike (sorry, Santander cycle) behind you isn’t responding to when you flick your elbow to get them to take the lead (just me then?)
Today is the first rest day (and by rest day, I mean they will just go out and do a casual 1-2 hour ride rather than say, 5 or 6 hours) and we have already have TONNES of drama. From Cavendish becoming the 2nd highest stage winner of all time, to Steve Cumming’s second solo breakaway win in as many years (WHY is he not in the Olympic team?), to Froome’s mental descending technique (that did the job) and the loss of Contador yesterday, it’s been a rollercoaster thus far. THREE BRITS IN JERSEYS!
So, without much further ado, here are some reasons why I love it…
- How easy it is to go and watch! I’ve been brought up taking little excursions to random locations in France where you can literally turn up at the side of the road and see them all go past…which is a brilliant (and free) introduction to cycling as you can just sense the speed. Obviously, the more popular locations such as the big climbs such as Alpe D’Huez have people turning up days in advance, but if you know there is a stage near you, you can pretty much always find somewhere to watch it. Key tip – take a radio or stand next to someone who has one to keep up with what is happening.
- The commentary. Watching it live is often up there with TMS in that commentators like to go a bit off topic…chateaus being top of the list of distractions. The ITV commentary team has changed up a bit though, which means probably less chateaus but more actual insight into what the peloton is going to do (thanks David Millar)
- The cliches. Seriously, if you pay attention to the Tour for any period of time, you quickly learn which rider does what, and key commentary terms to describe them. You can then start doing impressions (Chris Froome looking at stems is probably one of my favourite Tumblrs) and talking knowledgeably about Contador ‘dancing on the pedals’.
- The characters. I’m not just talking about the riders, but the people who come to watch. In particular, the man below. Didi is a long term fan favourite at both the Tour and the Giro d’Italia since 1993 and even has his own Wikipedia page.
- The welcome from any town/village/hamlet/field that the riders pass through. There have been some amazing spectacles at the side of the road and artwork in fields. “Tour de France field art” is a legit Google search term.
- The DRAMA! See my point above. People fall off, favourites give up, people attack when others have mechanicals, it rains, it hails, it’s sunny, there are cobbles, spectators get punched in the face, people do drugs, people cycle across fields, people crash into telegraph poles and break their favourite sunglasses…this happens
- The speed of technical changes. If, whenever I got a puncture, someone could just get me a new wheel and change it in 10 seconds, it would be great. I tried to put a wheel back on without turning the bike upside down the other day and it was the most frustrating thing in the world! (I add to this that I would really like a support car to follow me on any bike ride from now on because it would save me a whooooole lot of trouble)
- The ability of the riders to ride on through pretty much anything. There are some hard crashes in the Tour. There is a lot of skin lost. Yet people manage to get back up, continue on and have their wounds cleaned by a doctor hanging out of the team car WHILST STILL CYCLING. Take that footballers. People GET THROWN INTO BARBED WIRE BECAUSE OF BAD DRIVING.
- The speed and distance. The speed is something you truly appreciate when you see it in person, because on TV they actually look kind of casual. I did Mt Ventoux a few years ago and it was absolutely exhausting and I only did the 21km climb…they are starting in Montpellier and finishing at the top of Ventoux, a total of 185km. Mental. They probably won’t stop for chips and sweets at the top either. Imagine averaging 30mph whilst being within an elbow distance of over a hundred people…or hitting 122kph on a downhill…actually, is that even possible?
- My final reason for loving the Tour is how much my family love it…This is what we have done (list non exhaustive…)
- Made Top Trumps cards (the categories were dubious, as were the answers, but the pictures were great and we should probably trademark them)
- Nicknamed a lot of riders
- Had the ITV coverage theme song as ring tones
- Sung the theme song multiple times
- Made up our own TdF song
- Done impressions of the majority of cyclists whilst riding
- Held intermediate sprints in the middle of our rides
- Played TdF drinking games
- Got upset when we’ve seen the result before the highlights show
- Been to watch it in numerous places
- Caught water bottles from riders
- Read literally every cycling autobiography
- Seen the caravane on the autoroute going the opposite way around France
- Cycled the wrong way around a XC MTB trail to get caught in torrential rain, hide in a cow shed and give up trying to get to our viewing location and stop to eat chips instead…
- …to then go and watch the time trial the next day
So, closet cycling fans….what do you love about it? Any weird TdF traditions in your family?