• There's a lot more than just racing that make each Tour so memorable (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
One of my favourite things about the Tour de France is watching and listening as fans all around the country unleash their excitement for bike racing; its highs and lows, its characters, the landscapes, and, above all, what events like this remind us about being human.
Cycling Central
11 Jul 2017 - 11:59 AM  UPDATED 12 Jul 2017 - 12:33 PM

Armchair Annie is one such fan. She’s followed the Tour closely since the 90s and every year she provides a running commentary to her inner circle via email and (once she learned to text) SMS.

For me, Armchair Annie, and her excited summaries, typifies one of the Tour’s biggest group of fans. She’s not your average, skinny, white, Lycra-clad male. She’s certainly not a MAMIL. She’s in her 60s, approaching retirement, and, in the search for purposeful activity beyond her incredible professional achievements, she has recently taken up sport for the first time in her life. But that’s another story.

Curious to hear her perspective on the first week of the Tour, I reached out to Armchair Annie for her Rest Day Recap. Annie always reminds me of what the Tour represents to so many others: that person in your office who becomes a cycling fan once a year, those people at the local café who get excited when an Australian is doing well, those friends and relatives who quickly become hooked because of the field art and the landscapes.

“I've been looking forward to Stage 9,” came the message in my inbox. “Hard to get the interest up the past week as I've been missing the Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin commentary. Robbie McEwan and Matthew Keenan are trying hard but where are the wonderful descriptions of the history and culture of the towns that make you want to go there yourself, the huge knowledge of every rider's achievements and especially Phil Liggett having something nice to say about every single rider????”

"Missing Phil and Paul too," came the reply from Annie's older sister, "But guess they have to move on and attract new audiences. I think I'm like my Mac computer - a relic and there is a groundswell of youth behind me!"

This will certainly be one of the big conversation points about the 2017 Tour de France, but what about the riders?

“Stage 9 was always going to be a highlight of this year's tour and I was sitting there cheering on Richie Porte,” Annie continued.

“He'd been attacking courageously and like a true Tour rider he'd held up the GC group after Aru went on the attack during Froome's mechanical - (I wouldn't want to be Aru for anything with the wrath of Froome and the others coming down on him - doesn't he know better than to attack when the leader has a mechanical???).

“Then came the sickening sight of Richie's crash - I held my breath and willed him to be OK. A huge relief to see him able to move his head and even more so later when I heard it was fractures that would be able to heal. It puts it all back into perspective. Thank goodness he's all right."

Thank goodness indeed. Missing out on the chance to finish a bike race is one thing, but we are all so glad to know that he’ll recover from this one too.

As for the others:

“With poor old Valverde, Cav and Sagan out early on, Contador and Quintana appearing to struggle and now Porte out, it's a different field of riders for Froome and others - Froome looked shaken too over Richie. I think they're good friends so maybe he can ride for the two of them......”

What we know after nine stages of the 2017 Tour de France
After an epic and eventful nine stages of the Tour de France the race has revealed several telling conclusions, writes Jane Aubrey.

The 2017 Tour de France has certainly started with a bang. With a rest day to pack in some recovery, and another two weeks of racing come, it’s not just the fight for the podium in Paris I’m looking forward to, but conversations like these: on friendship, on achievement and on the human side of racing.

As people get more and more into the sport, there’s a tendency to become overly focussed on time gaps, tactics and the general classification. This is why comments like these, from people like Annie, are not only one of my favourite parts of the Tour, but why, along with so many others, I fell in love with cycling in the first place.


You can watch every stage LIVE and exclusive on SBS. Find out more about how to watch.