Before I met my husband, I’d never heard of the Tour de France. Now it’s a tradition every summer to tune in to the hottest cycling event in the world. Not yet a fan? Here are my Top 10 Reasons for you to give it a shot. Remember this list is from a non-die hard cyclist.
10. The Team Names
What other sport has cool team names like Liquigas (pronounced Leaky Gas) or Rabobank (which for about a year I though was pronounced Rob-a-bank)? The names are so much fun to say.
9. The Team Cars
The team cars leave even the best pit crews in the dust. C’mon, they do their work while following their cyclists on the road. Watching the team cars mesh with their team is like a work of art. They pass food and water to their bikers while on the move. Team directors communicate with the team, often in several languages, from the car.
And the cars look like a rolling parts store, carrying wheels, chains, pumps and more. I know my husband would love a car like that following him on his rides, especially when he blew a tire last weekend three miles into his ride.
8. Bob Roll
While Bob might not be the world’s best cycling commentator, he is colorful. Yes, he does make my teeth grit every time he mangles the event name by pronouncing it “Tour-D-France.” But he makes up for that little quirk with all the other entertainment he provides. A former American cyclist, Bobke provides some interesting insight.
Personally, I love the non-commentary things he does best — his commercials and his promotions for the Tour and Versus. My husband’s a big fan and I’ve even bought him Bob Roll’s guide to the Tour.
7. The Liggettisms
Phil Liggett, one of the announcers, has some of the best lines ever. These lines are called Liggettisms. Where he comes up with some of the phrases to describe the competitors performances still leaves me flabbergasted.
My husband has two favorite. My poor children will probably hear these phrases every time they compete in a sport. Here they are: “He reached down into his suitcase of courage” and “He must’ve been wearing a cloak of invisibility because he came out of nowhere.” Obviously, Phil’s a Harry Potter fan.
6. The Fans
The fans are fanatical. C’mon many of them camp out for a week ahead to get a prime spot on a mountain stage. Others bike the route themselves. But there’s no doubt of their of their dedication when the cyclists come flying by. They line up for miles, they cheer, they wave flags, they make signs, they dress up, they even streak. Some fans, themselves, are famous like the legendary DiDi the Devil.
They run along the routes cheering on their favorite riders. They get so up close and personal that the fans are often the cause of some of the wrecks. But that doesn’t deter the thousands upon thousands that make the annual pilgrimage to the Tour. My husband wants to join this elite group for his 40th birthday.
5. The Course
The Tour has a little bit of something for everyone on its route. It has the flat stretches for your sprinters. It has the team time trial that really showcases a team’s ability to work together. It has the individual time trial that let’s each rider lay it on the line. And it has the mountains . . . aaahh the mountains, by far the best part of the Tour. It takes real stamina to climb a mountain that is so high it is not even rated. But the climb is just half the battle. It takes talent to navigate on the descent too. Personally I love to watch the switchbacks. They really take skill to maneuver at the speeds these guys are traveling.
4. The Crashes
The Tour has more crashes that Nascar. But when a competitor crashes here, it takes a toll on the body. As if riding hundreds of miles in the July heat for 20 days isn’t enough of a challenge, several riders also ride broken and bandaged. Where else can you see someone finish the Tour with a broken collarbone like Tyler Hamilton did a few years ago. Now that takes guts!
3. The Scenery
What other sport has backdrops like the Tour de France? The view is gorgeous everywhere on the route. You have the wonderful scenic views from the mountain tops, the quaint little towns and the gorgeous castles along the way. You get a full tour of France and never have to leave your living room. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see it for myself in person. What’s better is that each year you see something a little different because the route changes from year to year.
And nothing beats seeing the peloton cruising down the Champs-Elysees in Paris on the final day. Talk about a city of love — love of cycling that is.
2. The Drama
The Tour has more drama than Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears together. First there was the anticipation as an American who had already won a battle against cancer set an unthinkable record by winning the title that is the pride of France seven years in a row.
But the excitement didn’t end when Lance Armstrong left. Last year, the field of the Tour was trimmed at the last minute when a doping ring was uncovered that included many Tour regulars. Last year’s title is still contested, as is the drug-testing policies of the Tour, as American Floyd Landis battles doping charges.
Yesterday Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov was expelled for doping after being cheered to his second stage win in Stage 15 despite several crashes during the Tour. Today, the current yellow jersey holder and today’s stage winner, Michael Rasmussen, was fired by his team Rabobank for missing team drug tests earlier this summer and lying about his whereabouts during those tests.
1. The Uniforms
Very fit men in tight bike shorts. Need I say more? And if the view from behind doesn’t do it for you ladies, there are always those legs. And for those of you that prefer views more of the female persuasion, there are those pretty ladies handing out jerseys and flowers at the podium.