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.
The 2021 Tour has begun and 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 and 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 184 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 forever. For a rider, a stage win in the Tour de France is not just a highlight of the bike race, the season, or year, but the highlight of a CAREER. The rider stories of how they got to the Tour de France and their dreams can be emotional to listen to and their message of "follow your dreams" and "never give up" just might rub off on you.
• 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 route is different every year, so you get to see different parts of France every year. The only constant location is the final stage in Paris. The commentators often point out historic structures so you get a little history lesson along the way. Also local communities erect huge, unique art displays that pay a tribute to cycling that you won't see anywhere else.
• 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 four 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? What do the different jerseys mean? Inquiring minds want to know more.
Fall in love with the Tour de France yourself by tuning every day from Sat. June 26 to Sun. July 18 on NBC Sport Network (cable channel 174) or streaming on Peacock. I also recommend The Move podcast, and coverage online at Velo News. To watch it live most stages begin at 7am EST, although some start at 6am EST but it is just as enjoyable to watch a replay or stream throughout the day. After a few days you just might get hooked and fall into a rhythm, and then when it is over 21 days later, if you are like me, you'll be in withdrawal, missing all the excitement and looking forward until this time next year.
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