Judging by the amount of traffic to our new Cycling Central website it seems the Tour de ranceanticipation from SBS viewers is greater than ever before.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

The wait is over - the Tour de France is here for another year!

Judging by the amount of traffic to our new Cycling Central website it seems the anticipation from SBS viewers is greater than ever before.

How can that be?

Staying
up late for 21 days watching every stage of the world's biggest bike
race from the comfort of one's lounge room has become very appealing
during the month of July.

If you're a bike rider who braves the
early-morning training sessions and winter chill, staying up late
watching the telly is the perfect excuse to avoid the irritating wake-up
call.

In fact many people have told me it's in July when they
prefer to dust off the wind-trainer and sit in front of the idiot box
whilst watching the Tour, at the same time pretending to be in the
peloton rubbing shoulders with some of the sport's big names.

Others
have expressed how they simply watch the exquisite French Television
coverage and try to spot locations they might plan to visit their next
European vacation.

That is the appeal of the Tour de France - as I've said many times before - it's much, much more than bike race.

Of
all the viewers who watch Le Tour around the world, those who tune into
SBS are the most resilient given the time-zones at which we live.
It goes without saying that our audience is dedicated to the cycling cause.

Having
sat through many weeks of watching events such as the Tour of Flanders,
Paris-Roubaix and the Giro d'Italia in the lead-up to the Tour, I must
say it's not easy staying awake through the early hours.

The six-member SBS
team about to engage in another dose of Tour fever is fortunate to be
in the position of being on location under the European summer sun.

Many
people have often asked what have been my most memorable Tour de France
moments in the 15 years I have covered the event as a journalist and
host of the SBS coverage.

Well, I must admit many of Lance Armstrong's mountain conquests bring back many wonderful memories.

But it's the presence of the increasing number of Australians which thrill me no-end.

How
ironic is it that heroes such as Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Michael
Rogers, Allan Davis and Baden Cooke (to name a few) were household
names in Europe before their sporting prowess was recognised back home.

On a personal level I have to say it was after stage 2 at the 2003 Tour which I seem to remember vividly.

It
was the day when Brad McGee wore the leader's jersey for the third day
in a row having won the Paris prologue 48 hours earlier. But this was
also the day when Cooke collected his one-and-only Tour stage win in
dramatic style, while McEwen led the sprinter's category.

What we
saw were three Australians dominating the podium - McGee in yellow,
Cookie in white (as best young rider) and Robbie in green.

I was like a kid in a candy story, my head spinning as I didn't know who to chase down to interview first.

As we look ahead to this year's Tour I must say Alberto Contador is certainly the man to beat.

Whether
you're a fan or not of the Spaniard given his doping trials and
tribulations of the last nine months, I'm sure you'll agree his talent
on two wheels is unsurpassed.

The question I'm continuously asking is does he have more to lose if he competes. If so does he really care?

Above all, I wonder whether Bertie can back his Giro victory of six weeks ago with another Grand Tour success?

It's comforting to read he's talking down his chances.

In
this modern era of professional cycling I feel it's almost impossible
to complete a successful double, but I'm constantly being reminded
Contador is a different breed.

Regardless, I genuinely feel Cadel Evans has everything working in his favour to become the first Australian to win the Tour.

I
believe he has the physicality, the mentality and the men around him at
BMC Racing to do the job and deliver him to the finish line on the
Champs Elysees.

I believe Cadel's "eight lieutenants" were recruited for Tour selection at BMC as far back as six months ago.

Cadel
started the Euro season with victories at Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de
Romandie. By finishing second to Bradley Wiggins at the Criterium du
Dauphine earlier this month, I feel he has saved himself with plenty in
reserve to go all the way in France.

I'm convinced the 2011 Tour will be one to remember.

Here's hoping Australian sporting history is created on French roads.

Cadel, we're with you all the way!