I have to say that the first time I saw 150 or so guys riding bikes for 200km over the span of a 3-4 hour telecast I thought Holy Shit, this has to be the most boring thing on TV! But then this was back in the days when I (hardly ever) went to uni and stayed up til 3 or 4 watching late night TV til my eyes watered. So between home shopping, parliament question time and the boring bikers of b-b…Bordeaux! I let my sporting bone do the choosing. It just so happened that I lucked into seeing Cadel Evans (an Aussie and therefore somebody to go for) riding painfully slow up a mountain while others chased. He ended up coming 3rd in the stage and the next night I tuned in to watch him keep pace with mountain legend Lance Thompson and win a stage! Now it takes some investment and this was enough to keep me watching til the end of the tour, Evans finished 5th overall and after watching about 20 hours of something over a week or so I had learned a lot about the sport. The SBS guys are great at commentating. They stay excited even though the action plays out like a slow burning drama, they know the back stories of pretty much every rider and they explain exactly who the important riders are and what their strategies appear to be. To love the tour you have to have a general idea about the storyline of the riders and the tour itself and past tours and their form for the season and then let the magical theatre of true reality TV – sport – play out. Watching the mountain stages is definitely the most exciting part. To see someone ‘crack’ is sad as they are halfway up a 20km climb and then the guys riding with them race off and it turns out the leader of the race can’t keep up and loses 5 minutes over the next hour. On the flat stage the peloton (the group of main riders) is about 100+ strong, everyone is in there; on the mountain this shrinks to 50, then 40, then 20, then 10. 5 title contenders riding together with select teammates dedicated to destroying their own bodies to further the cause of the main rider. Behind them are a sorry string of title pretenders and cracked helpers grouping together to will eachother over the final few k’s of a climb. over an hour behind them is the ‘autobus’ of non mountain climbers – the sprinters and team men who can’t climb a mountain with the puma like effortlessness of Alberto Contador….And…umm, breakaways! Breakaways are just a few riders who race off early and spend the day riding in a group of about 5-10 all vying for a chance at one day of glory by winning a stage in the Tour de Fance. They almost always get caught with less than 5km to go. It's sad to watch but gives pure underdog entertainment. Yellow jerseys, Green jerseys, white and polka dot jerseys, national champion jerseys and Cadel Evans wearing the world champion rainbow jersey, you gotta love the Tour!
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