Every year I watch the Tour de France. Pro cycling is the only sport I follow these days, and le Tour is the big event of the year. It’s the only sport I share an interest for with my mom. I’ve tried many times to explain why I find it so fascinating and I’ll try again here.
The history of the race is long and involved. It only stopped for war, and when war was over it picked tight back up again with limited infrastructure and barley any equipment. That’s not true today of course, the teams have budgets in the hundreds of millions each year and the support system for the 9 riders of each team in a grand tour is pretty large. There are bus drivers for the team busses, there are masseurs, doctors and physiotherapists. There’s a professional team of cooks often with an executive chef that has done his or her time in top restaurants (the riders eat and drink around 8000 kcal a day during the race). There are team managers, equipment managers and mechanics.
My mom and I were in London a few years back following the start of the tour. I didn’t manage to do much more than stay in the fanpark although I was having a good period, but my mom was following the riders down from the start in York and she really had a blast. I got a fabulous sunburn on my face as well this day. Don’t forget sunblock when you spend a whole day outside.
What I find so fascinating about the sport is the mixture of highly trained sportsmen (and women), the long long races, the fantastic vistas of wherever they are (France usually brings it to 11) and the gentlemen’s agreements that still exists in a professional sport that is over a 100 years old. The personalities of the racers, some you like, some you don’t. The team managers and owners making a spectacle. Sitting with your hearth in your throat when the big and the small crashes happens. Hoping no one gets seriously hurt. It’s not exactly relaxing but I love it anyway.
By the way, if you happen to watch TV the final day, the pro women’s team gets to race and finish with a sprint on the Champs Elysee a couple of hours before the men come in. They are savage!