Tour de France – a diehard fan speaks
In just a few short days (maybe a few long days is more apt), the 2014 Tour de France 2014 champion will ride down the Champs-Élysées and take his well deserved crown. The French crowds will take to the streets of Paris in their thousands, jubilant at the completion of yet another Tour. All the while, many Australians will lay slumbering in their beds, oblivious to the spectacular circus taking place. So here’s to the night owls in lycra. The fanatics clad in yellow, green, polka dots or white. The diehards who sit up to the early hours of the morning, coffee in one hand, energy gels in the other. I stand with you in solidarity, my brothers and sisters, for I too am a Tour de France tragic.
If you have never watched the Tour de France – and I mean really watched it– you won’t understand. You cannot simply watch a few minutes of footage and expect to grasp the magic of a race that has captured hearts and minds for more than a century.
No, my friends. If you truly want to understand le Tour you must watch every single stage. All 21 of them. Only then will you be able to appreciate the tactics, teamwork and the very specific role each rider must play within his team. It is also reasonable to expect that after 21 days of commentary you will know maillot jaune is NOT pronounced ‘Mellow Johnny’.
Some of us watch it for the crashes, which are, admittedly, spectacular. Others watch for the scenery – the chateaus, castles, mountains and fields of sunflowers. Many of us watch because the Tour de France is the ultimate endurance sport: One single bicycle race over 3,664 kilometres (in 2014, the route changes every year), combining chess-like strategy, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears. It’s like Survivor on wheels.
The Tour is transfixing to watch when you understand it. The race manages to be both chaotic and beautifully choreographed at the same time, and the excitement of the chase pack closing in on the leaders is addictive.
Books for the Tour de France fan!
- Le Tour 100: The Definitive Guide to the Tour de France
- Tour de France Guide
- The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour De France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs
Guest blogger Johanna has been a Co-op Member since 1997. She is a runner and a writer, and is planning on sleeping for two weeks solid following her endurance spectating of Wimbledon, Tour de France and the Commonwealth Games.