Why You Should Try Out The Tour

6 Jul

How would you like to watch a TV show which is part action, part thriller, part cooking and part travel show?  In fact, the only thing that’s missing from this extravaganza is romance. Well, such a TV show does exist, it’s called the Tour de France. And it’s a lot more than a TV show. It’s really one of the world’s most gruelling sporting events. I was first introduced to ‘The Tour’ by my husband about three years ago. I was a complete sceptic at first. Watching a 180km cycling race on TV would be about as exciting as watching grass grow, right? Wrong. Wrongity, wrong, wrong. I love it. For the complete novices out there, ‘the tour’ is a three week cycling race around France. Each day, they ride about 180km, called ‘a stage’. A few years back, the Tour suffered from being known as a doping festival. But I think (perhaps naively) that’s changing. Here are a few reasons you need to watch it.

1) The landscape. It’s stunning. In many ways, ‘Le Tour’ is like a three week travel show on France. The route passes through some of the country’s most picturesque countryside. Thanks to kamikaze helicopter work (with some seriously low, tree-clipping, flying) the footage of the Tour is in-cred-ible. From the spectacular Pyrenees, to the quaint countryside villages, it’s all glorious – lots of 12th century castles, chateaus, canals, fields of sunflowers, and two hundred year old farm houses. You’ll want to book a holiday.
2) Gabriel Gate. The chef with the most delicious french accent presents a segment every night on the gastronomy of the region through which the Tour is passing. Think lush footage of oozing cheeses and market stalls groaning with breads, shiny fruit and veg, and a meat-lovers paradise of charcuterie. Last night, he showed us how to make a cake (a specialty of the Brittany region) made from croissant pastry. Yum!

3) Cadel Evans. He’s an Aussie. And he’s been within a hair’s breadth of winning this event once before. Last year, his chances were wiped out by a broken elbow (ouch – he kept riding) but this year he’s looking the goods – so far.

4) The danger. Cycling is a bloody dangerous business. And that’s just on Sydney’s roads. Well, you can dial up the danger factor one hundred fold when it comes to the Tour. Cyclists reach speeds up to 90km/hr on the downhill runs, with shear cliffs and no traffic barriers to prevent them from going over the sides. And cyclists certainly have done that. Crashes involving 10-plus cyclists are regular and broken bones commonplace. Yes, there have even been deaths. But – fingers crossed – hopefully not this year.
5) The strategy. The Tour is ridiculously complex. There are points for winning stages, points for winning sprints within stages, and climbs within stages – and add to that, the complexity of it being both a teams, and an individual event. After three years of watching, I still don’t really get it all – and that’s the beauty of it – there’s always some new aspect of strategising to learn about.
6) The team versus the individual. Most sports can be clearly categorised – it’s either a team sport or an individual sport, yes? Not so the Tour. The only way to win, as an individual, is with the help of your team. And there are some pretty big egos in those teams. Team members have to help each other, but they’re also in competition against each other. Catch 22.
7) Phil Liggett. He is the voice of cycling. Hear it, and you will visualise spokes and spinning wheels. I love his voice. It puts me to sleep, which is no bad thing, given the Tour coverage starts at 10pm most nights on SBS. I flick it on, set the TV to timer, watch a bit, and then drift off to sleep with lullaby of Phil’s lilting and gentle tones.
8) The cyclists. You’ve got to admire them. What they do is the equivalent of running a marathon every day for three weeks. They are the definition of elite athlete. Their endurance is ridiculous. Their pain thresholds astounding. I think it’s been said that to be a great Tour cyclist, you’ve got to enjoy pain. These guys eat it for breakfast.

9) The spectators. Health and safety rules aren’t important in France. As a result, spectators are allowed within touching range of the cyclists. They can jump in front of the riders (they do), run along side of them (they do), yell in their faces (they do), and blow ear splitting horns at them (they do). There’s one particularly famous on-looker, El Diablo (the devil) who turns up every year dressed in a red devil’s costume and jumps up and down with a trident. Who knows why. Spectators are regularly the cause of pile-ups because they just get too damn close. They’re insane. It’s fabulous.



One Response to “Why You Should Try Out The Tour”

  1. Anonymous July 6, 2011 at 3:52 am #

    i thought Gabriel Gate was something you pass on the way up to heaven…?

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