I first became aware of the Tour de France in 2004 when I was on a
mission to learn everything I could about cycling in preparation
for opening a bike shop.
When I learned that at that time there were 5 cyclists who had won it 5 times I named and decorated each of the 5 rooms of the Earth Rider Hotel after each of them. During the tour season I showed the race continuously on the TV in the bike shop. Interest has waned among some since then, possibly due to the publicity around doping and for us in the United States, lack of American contenders. But on the eve of the 2019 Tour, I remain a fan for the following reasons:
• It is the world’s greatest cycling event - There are many bike races and 3 grand tours, but the Tour is widely considered the most prestigious, most difficult, a gathering of the elite of the sport. To be an avid cyclist and not follow the Tour is like being a baseball fan and not being interested in the World Series.
• It is unpredictable – In a world of data analytics the common plot lines, the Tour, like most sporting events, always surprises. Anything can happen with the weather, physical condition of the riders on any given day, equipment, and group dynamics.
• It is inspirational – Every one of the 176 riders wants to win, has been a fan all their lives, has trained for years, and if the wheels align, they are in the right place at the right time and prevail as winner of a stage, it changes their lives. Follow your dreams. Never give up.
• It is both an individual and team sport - There is one winner of the Tour de France, but he comes to the event with an eight-person team and support staff indispensable for securing a win. The techniques used are a model for corporate teams and families to achieve their goals.
• The scenery – The sweeping panorama shots of the plush France countryside, castles thousands of years old, and quaint towns shown on the television are breath taking.
• The fans – As an international event since 1903, there is a tradition of supporters crowding along the race route having fun cheering the riders. I was on the Champs-Elysées two years ago for the final stage, crossing a live viewing of the colorful Tour de France off my bucket list. Unforgettable.
• Opportunity to learn trivia – The Tour is rich in history and tradition and by listening to the telecast, podcasts and reading internet posts you learn fascinating facts. Did you know that race radios during a time trial are one way, race director to rider, but during the other stages they are two way? There is a limit on sock height? This year is the 50th anniversary of the Yellow Jersey? Inquiring minds want to know more.
Fall in love with the Tour de France yourself by tuning in July 7-29 on NBC, cable channel 174 or online via the NBC Sports Gold pass.
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories