Just like you don’t have to be a serial killer to enjoy Nordic noir, you don’t have to play a sport to be interested in watching it on TV. But if there’s one event pretty much everyone should be able to connect with it’s the Tour de France. After all, we’ve all ridden a bike at some point. Few of us would be able to say, “Yeah, I could do that,” in relation to the 23-day event, but at the very least, we all know how hard it can be to pedal uphill.
That said, the annual Tour de France is more than just a bunch of men riding bikes throughout the month of July competing for a jaunty yellow top. The gruelling road race showcases extreme determination and athletic skill in an event where not everyone who starts will finish. Don’t care about that? Well, there’s plenty of pretty French countryside to look at, too. Here are some more reasons why you should be tuning in this year.
Sporting events don’t get much bigger
Twenty-two teams, 198 riders, 21 stages, around 3500 kilometres from Düsseldorf in Germany to the Champs-Élysées in Paris via Belgium and Luxembourg. The Tour de France isn’t messing around. The world’s largest annual sporting event, it involves thousands of people (support teams, police and security, media, film crew, etc.), who follow the riders along the route. Ten to 12 million people are estimated to have watched the 2015 race in person, while billions follow it at home.
It’s not just one long race
You know those car races where drivers just go round and round the same track all day, occasionally livening things up with a pit stop? Yeah, the Tour de France is nothing like that. Each of the 21 stages is unique – some are flat and some feature a climb to a summit finish; some are (relatively) short and some are over 200km long; some pass through tiny villages and others visit big cities. And different riders are going to excel on different types of terrain.
The route is a visual feast
By the end of the Tour de France, you’ll feel like you’ve also completed a tour of regional France. As the peloton (that’s a fancy word meaning the main pack) zoom through one town after another, you’ll be treated to views of picturesque countryside and travel along winding roads through spectacular mountainous terrain. Fields of sunflowers and poppies, windmills, rivers, farmland, livestock, cobblestones and elaborate field art will keep you interested if you start to find the riding monotonous.
The hardcore fans are, well, hardcore
Guess if you’re going to camp out for hours to watch the riders whiz by, you may as well do it dressed as a superhero or a giant banana, right? Fans from all corners of the globe line the roadside, with as much colourful spandex to be seen alongside the course as there is sported by the competitors.
People get kind of carried away on social media
No surprise, there. But the Tour de France is made for second screen viewing. Whether you want official news, rider updates, fan chatter or just more cows, start following now so you’re good to go when the race kicks off. Here are a few recommendations from last year’s Tour.
What else are you going to do in July?
It’s cold, it gets dark early and some of you will have given up alcohol for Dry July. The Tour de France gives you something to look forward to for almost the entire month.
Watch the Tour de France from July 1 - 23, nightly on SBS. TV start times vary, but most stages kick off from 8:30pm.
Catch up on the overnight action with hour-long highlights each morning at 7am and again at 5pm on SBS. There will also be stage replays from 1pm on SBS and 3pm on SBS VICELAND.
For more detail on how to watch, go here.
Head to Cycling Central for the latest Tour de France 2017 news, video highlights and more.