Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why the Tour de France is Such A Big Deal

Tour de France, Utrecht, Netherlands

On July 4th the 102nd running of the world’s largest sporting event begins in Utrecht, Netherlands. This is the beginning of a three week, totally grueling cycling event watched on TV by 3.5 billion people in 188 countries! 92 television networks and 2000 journalists will cover the race in all its frenetic spectacular! Tiny villages and big cities spruce up with colorful flowers and banners for their brief moment on TV.  My 95-year-old mom watches it every year because she loves seeing the beauty of France. There is a reason why France is the world’s most popular tourist destination!

Tour de France, Germany, Holland, Italy

12,000,000 spectators will line the roads during the race. On some mountain routes fans camp out for days to secure their favorite spot! On these routes you will find groups from Germany, Holland, Belgium, Spain and Italy, drinking and eating, having a blast before the racers come by. It IS a party!

Teejay van Garderen, Tour de France

Teejay van Garderen, now living in Aspen, Colorado, is our best U.S. rider to have a shot at the podium. My fingers are crossed!

Dick Gentry, Tour de France, Annecy, France

I’ve watched the Tour de France in person on three occasions, and it is really a huge thrill! The picture shows me in Annecy France during a time trial of the TDF. Next to me is Didi Senft, the infamous “Devil” who is a fixture at the Tour.

Tour de France

If you are new to watching the tour you may find the announcers, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, almost talking in a foreign language. You will hear “Breakaway” when a rider or group is by themselves in the lead. The “Peloton” is the French word for group. “HC” or hors categorie, is the description for a mountain summit which is “beyond classification.”  A “Domestique” is a worker bee on a team.  A “Rouleur” is a rider who is steady and consistent. The list goes on.

Alpe d'Huez, Tour de France

The penultimate stage 20, the day before the finish in Paris will be crazy exciting. On Saturday, July 25, the tired and beat up riders will go over the “HC”, Col de la Croix-de-Fer, and then going up the 21 switchbacks of the iconic, Alpe d’Huez! Brutal, nuts, beyond tiring and fabulous for spectators! I’ve ridden up the famous Alpe three different times. Yes, it is really hard! This is where legends are born and heroes are made!

P.S. Cycling has had its share of doping problems, like many sports today, but I still find it immensely inspiring!

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