So the Tour de France is just another bike race?
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Well that may be so, but why does this three-week endurance test continue to capture the imagination of an Australian audience?

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We at SBS like to think we've done our part in changing the viewing habits of how international sport should be covered.

Why else would more than a million sit up into the wee small hours for each of the last four stages of the 2011 Tour de France, when we witnessed the arrival of an Australian sporting legend in Cadel Evans?

Top up the espresso machine, stock up on fire wood and inject yourself with a nightly dose of extra caffeine, because the world's greatest spectacle is here again and we cannot wait.

The 2012 edition promises so much more for dedicated SBS viewers of the world's most loved cycle race.

If the historic events surrounding last year's coverage brought tingles down the spines as tears swelled the eyes of those who watched Cadel's heroic triumph, then we're in for pretty much the same this time around.

The arrival of Orica-GreenEDGE, the first Australian UCI World Tour team, means we also have our own heroes to hang our hats on for success.

In fact Australians have the potential to dominate the podium in all three major jersey competitions.

Picture this: the Tour comes to a halt in Paris on 22 July. Cadel wears the yellow jersey as overall winner, Matt Goss tops the points competition and wins the green jersey while the polka-dot jersey for the King of the Mountain is awarded to Matt Lloyd.

Am I dreaming? Is it a bridge too far, pie in the sky stuff?

My Aussie bias shines like a beacon doesn't it? But it's a scenario that is definitely feasible and underlines Australia's depth of talent in the sport.

British rider Bradley Wiggins is seen as the rider most likely to challenge Cadel in his quest to win back-to-back Tours.

How ironic it is that Sky's No.1 will rely on the support of two faithful Aussie lieutenants in Richie Porte and Michael Rogers if he's to stand on the top step on the Champs Elysees.

But as we've said many times, the Tour is more than a bike race and the feedback SBS viewers have given us suggests the pushing of pedals is almost secondary to anything else.

Throw in the history, culture, magnificent scenery and gastronomical delights that France has to offer and you can understand why the three-week spectacle taps in on a wider market.

But this forum is all about the sport and as SBS enters its 22nd year of Tour de France coverage the commitment continues to increase.

Apart from the live stages, you'll see extended morning highlights and online features have been stepped up for you viewing pleasure, with an improved Tour Tracker, also available on iPhones, iPads and Android devices, and the brand new Tour de France Social Hub.

But for now, let's return to the scene where Cadel won the Tour almost single-handedly when dragging up the peloton to eat back the time lost as Andy Schleck won atop the Galibier on Stage 18.

And what about that time trial, when the yellow jersey was decided, and then Tina Arena's belting out of the Advance Australia Fair which could be heard across Paris?

There's an ongoing argument that there are many other races that rival Le Tour in a cycling sense.

That certainly may be the case but what other event taps into an audience which attracts all ages gripped by the theatre that the Tour de France presents for three weeks?

It's unlike any other bike race or sporting event, and viewers can be assured that it will stay on SBS screens for at least until the network's current rights deal expires in 2017.

Vive Le Tour. We know you'll enjoy the ride with us once again.