Sarah Braker, communications manager
This year there are two excuses to celebrate on July 4: Independence Day and the start of the Tour de France. You may think that it’s best to spend the warm days of summer out on your own bike, but there are plenty of excuses to sit inside and watch the pros ride instead. Whether you’re a newbie who has never watched before or a long lost fan who’s gotten frustrated by the doping scandals, here are six reasons to make the Tour de France your must-see TV of the summer.
Because everyone else is
The Tour de France is one of the most-watched sporting events in the world. It combines everything that is great about sports. It brings together teamwork and individual accomplishments and highlights speed as well as stamina. There are the favored athletes and surprise contenders you didn’t see coming. Add in epic chases, unpredictable weather conditions and photo finishes and you’ve got all the components of a fantastic athletic event. Plus, there are no rain delays, no injury timeouts and no silly halftime shows. Millions of people can’t be wrong.
Past, present, future
The Tour de France has been around since 1903 and this year will be the 102nd edition of the event. It’s pretty special to participate, even as a fan, in something with so much history, even if some of that history is negative. While the essence of the event remains the same, it’s also exciting to watch it evolve as bicycle technology improves every year. Another example of how the event continues to change is the inclusion of women. Last year was the inaugural year of La Course, the first time women competed alongside the men’s Tour in recent history. The single-stage event will take place again this year, on July 26.
More than play by play
Some love them, others prefer to listen to the race called by French or Dutch commentators, but for now, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen are still the men behind the mics for U.S. Tour fans. One benefit (besides getting the race action explained in English) is that Phil and Paul have decades of experience as announcers for the Tour de France. They intersperse info about the riders with details about the terrain and facts about previous Tours. Add in some comical one-liners and they’re sure to keep things interesting, especially during some of the longer stages.
Root, root, root for the…
The Tour provides multiple ways to be a fan. You can choose to cheer on a team with strong ties to your home country or you can root for an individual rider regardless of team affiliation. You can cheer for the team that rides the same brand of bike that you ride, or for the rider with the best name. You can hop on the bandwagon of the front-runner, or pick the long shot. There’s also the option to cheer for the team with the best jersey logos, such as the smiling bike on the Trek Factory Racing team jerseys (hint, hint).
Competition within the competition
Winning the Tour is the ultimate accomplishment, but it’s exciting to watch the riders battle for the special jerseys throughout the race. Most people know about the yellow jersey for the overall leader, but there’s also the green jersey for points leader, the polka dot jersey for best climber and the white jersey for best young rider. With other sporting events you have to wait until the end for awards to be handed out, but during the Tour these jerseys continue to change hands throughout the event.
Watching the Tour is a reasonable alternative if you can’t make it to Europe this summer. You get picturesque views of the French countryside, aerial tours of two different mountain ranges and front row seats on the cobblestones of the Champs-?lys?es. Pick up a few croissants from your neighborhood cafe, don a beret and learn about some of the lesser-known historic sights of Europe during the Tour’s down time. You’ll save thousands of dollars while still getting the immersion in French culture that only this event can provide. Vive le Tour!