It’s the one international cycling event everyone can name (sorry Vuelta a España), but the Tour de France doesn’t get quite as much love as it deserves. Even if you’re allergic to Stackhats and get a migraine from pedalling up a slight incline, there are legitimate reasons to watch this amazing event, which has been thrilling two-wheel aficionados since 1903. Here are five of them (reasons to watch, not aficionados).
The landscapes are incredible
You might have heard, once or twice, that Europe has a few fairly attractive bits of land that aren’t too hard on the eye. From Nice to the Champs-Élysées, the 2020 Tour de France covers 3470km over 23 days (just two are rest days) – and almost all of it is gorgeous. A trip to western Europe this year may not be an option, but watching the world’s greatest bike race is a fairly decent replacement. Lay in some wine, cheese and long bread, and it’s an excellent way to see what France has to offer from your loungeroom.
And they’re shot beautifully
Of course, you could Google “French countryside” and get the same result without all those pushbikes in the way, right? Well, that’s where you’re wrong. The camera operators working the Tour de France shift are possessed of some of the most gifted eyes in sport. It’s one of the only global events that you can straight-facedly claim is a work of art – especially given the sheer number of perspectives available, from helicopters, cars and motorbikes along the route.
There’s nothing monotonous here
If you’re still coming to terms with the 23 days we mentioned above, consider it a bonus rather than a malus. Every day brings something new, whether that’s a different terrain, a quick change in weather conditions or simply a new area of France to eyeball. This change of scenery obviously alters the tenor of the race, too – cycling up a steep incline in the pouring rain is a very different situation to pedalling through sunlit fields of yellow flowers, so you can enjoy the novelty of shifting strategies.
Learning the strategy is actually very interesting
At first blush, it seems pretty straightforward – pedal as fast as you can without getting so puffed that everyone overtakes you at the end. But there’s a lot more to the Tour de France. For starters, it’s a team race with nine cyclists per team. There are also a lot of different coloured vests they can win in different categories. So there’s a good mix of teamwork and personal ambition on display, as each cyclist aims to be the best at the same time as helping out their team.
It can be wildly unpredictable
There are two reasons most of us watch sporting events – the first is to enjoy the spectacle of athletes at the top of their game vying for victory under gruelling conditions, pushing themselves to the limit in a triumph of the human spirit. The other is that occasionally people stack it.
Obviously, no one wants to see anyone get hurt. But there's a danger to this kind of racing - anything can happen at any time. It's all part of the thrill...
Watch the Tour de France from August 29 - September 20, nightly on SBS. TV start times vary, but coverage of most stages kicks off from 8:30pm or 9:30pm AEST.
Catch up on the overnight action with hour-long highlights most mornings at 7am and again at 5pm on SBS TV . A replay will be available on SBS On Demand shortly after each stage, and on SBS TV most days from 11am.
For more detail on how to watch, go here.
Head to Cycling Central for the latest Tour de France 2020 news, video highlights and more.