Let me preface this by saying I am not a sports fan.

See zat tower in ze background? It has overlooked zis charming village for centuries… Oh look, men in Lycra! Pic: AP.

When it comes to the throwing, passing or kicking of a ball, I’m legs akimbo. There is nothing more unnatural-looking than me running, or doing any sort of coordinated activity. I’m also oblivious to sports played by other people. I couldn’t tell you which team ranks the highest on which ladder, or even what the ladder is.

But when it comes to the Tour De France, I am hooked. And here’s why:

The Tour de France is so much more than just a bike race. You wouldn’t think watching a pack of fairly unlikeable characters pedaling around the départments and arondissements of France would be all that interesting. But Le Tour is a lesson in history, geography and fine cuisine, with some rolling footage of guys pedaling up hills for good measure.

Thanks to Le Tour, I’ve become one of the most interesting smarty pants wankers at the dinner table. I know about obscure chateaux they won’t take you to on a bus tour of the Loire Valley. I know that sunflowers tilt their smiley yellow faces to chase the sun all day. I know it’s impolite to toast someone without sipping from your glass, and that you can only lower your glass after three people have sipped.

Which brings me to the food. Oh the food! Every Tour De France, French chef, Gabriel Gaté, is entrusted with the responsibility of travelling around the countryside, sampling traditional cuisine from around the provinces and broadcasting it to the masses. It’s a hard job but somebody’s got to do it.

Gaté‘s presentation and style ensures that even unadventurous Aussies are secret foodies by Tour’s end. Gaté is a one man Michelin Guide to food. Gaté makes you want to go to France and sample the dishes. He makes you want to know more about the food. Far from elitist, he brings the viewer into the experience. I’m actually salivating while I write this, just recounting his TV segments.

That’s the thing about Le Tour. It’s all about presentation. And when it comes to presentation, nobody does it better than that commentary duo, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.

I could listen to Phil and Paul talk cycling for hours – so soothing are their tones. But it’s not just those bedroom voices that do it for me. As a former cyclist and journalist, Sherwen has ridden with and covered most of the cyclists that have come through Le Tour in recent years, and he has their histories burned into his memory. With every controversy or spill, he is there, ready and armed with a history of rider tantrums or doping scandals.

The two of them can recount the cyclists’ every achievement back from their earliest days in cycling. No rider is free from their epic memory. They also know an awful lot about all the regions of France and their politics going back to the Middle Ages. They’ll recount Marie Antoinette’s travels across the country, and monarchical conflicts across time. By the end of the tour you’ll be the France wikipedia page.

The Tour De France commentary is different from most because it’s a three week race. You can’t narrate it the way you would a horse race or a rugby match. There can be times where there isn’t much action for hours on end. Occasionally someone will fall down, chuck a tantrum or gets accused of doping – and when that happens you’re in your element - but in between that, it’s just a bunch of guys cycling past yet another vineyard.

You’ve got to supplement that with something interesting that makes people want to keep watching.

And Liggett does it so well. So well, in fact, that I worry what will happen to the popularity of the Tour De France once he retires.

God forbid SBS ever have an All-Aussie commentators lineup. Matthew Keenan does a good job warming the chair for Sherwen and Liggett, but let’s leave it there.

I love the Tour De France. It‘s a perfect example of how sport should be done. It transcends mere athletic achievement. It makes you understand why it is important, and why it should be valued.

If it can attract a sucker like me to tune in until the early hours of the morning for three weeks of every year, that’s saying something.

Most commented

81 comments

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    • Baloo says:

      12:14pm | 16/07/12

      Not a very honorable sport when tacks are thrown onto the road to sabotage other racers, and nothing is done about it.

    • hermano says:

      12:23pm | 16/07/12

      Suggesting that the tacks were thrown by anyone involved in the race is plainly stupid.

    • Baloo says:

      01:18pm | 16/07/12

      Why’s that?

    • hermano says:

      02:30pm | 16/07/12

      Because of the dangers involved. 
      Read a bit about pro cycling, Grand Tours in particular, then get back to me.

    • Daniel says:

      02:50pm | 16/07/12

      Because Baloo when the tacks where thrown on the road the lead group were far enough ahead that the main group were never going to catch them.
      And when the main group noticed all the flat tyres they all (except for that french bloke) slowed down to let the others catch up so they wern’t disadvantaged…. Sounds pretty honorable to me.
      I think you’ll find that the tacks were thrown by some random D&%khead.

    • Baloo says:

      03:14pm | 16/07/12

      @ hermano
      “Read a bit about pro cycling, Grand Tours in particular, then get back to me.”

      No.

      @Daniel
      Thanks for clearing it up, unfortunately this is a sport I never really trusted so I jump to conclusions when I hear stories such as the tacks.

    • Bill says:

      12:18pm | 16/07/12

      Claire - get with the man from Barwon Heads and forget about french food.

      It’s all fattening anyway.

    • NikRaf says:

      12:44pm | 16/07/12

      and farttening too

    • Schmavo says:

      01:05pm | 16/07/12

      I’ve always found Le Tour de France a bit weird. Here’s an opportunity for one guy each year to say he can ride faster than some other guys each year. What an accomplishment. They must be so proud!

    • M says:

      01:19pm | 16/07/12

      How is it any different to any other myriad of sports you care to name?

    • marley says:

      01:19pm | 16/07/12

      I take it you won’t be watching the Olympics, then?

    • Dan says:

      04:09pm | 16/07/12

      You do got a point, why do we care about the Olympics? None of the athletes compete for anyone other than themself. Are we that nationalistic or are we just stupid?

    • Barney says:

      05:13pm | 16/07/12

      Yes , just as silly as someone running around in circles , swimming up and down pools etc , personally I would rather eat nails,
      could it possibly be about money do you think .

    • Gregg says:

      06:58pm | 16/07/12

      There’s a lot more than just one bloke being able to ride faster than others, they all being in teams and then there’s endurance, quite a bit of strategy re covering competitors and chasing break aways etc.

      And of course we’d all be capable of riding close to a couple of hundred kilometres a day in about five hours wouldn’t we?, even with a couple of rest days and time trial days thrown in.

    • Rod says:

      07:55pm | 16/07/12

      I’ve always found that commenting on the Punch was a bit weird. Here’s an opportunity for one guy to say some absolutely ridiculous comments. What an accomplishment. They must be so proud!

    • Anubis says:

      01:16pm | 16/07/12

      Well judging by the number of comments it would appear that most of the Punch readers think the same thing about cycling races - an utter waste of time, money and effort.

    • James says:

      01:28pm | 16/07/12

      You have a typo in this story…

    • Jimbo says:

      02:53pm | 16/07/12

      Shwe doesn’t not!

    • Susan says:

      01:47pm | 16/07/12

      Is that French technically correct?

      I love the Tour and have been an avid viewer for years, however, there are times where I think that aspects of the race are a bit…well… ‘wasted’.

      So, two hours in..the peloton is zipping away… there’s a break away group hammering for points… but half the time the peloton actually do nothing in terms of winning until the last half hour or less.  So, sometimes ironically I think…we should halve this race and get to the interesting part more quickly.

      I also think the last day an entire waste of time really.  It’s NOT a race. No-one races - with rare exceptions - on the last day so I hate it being described as a race.  Everyone has decided who has won so they are really just riding the last day into Paris and having a nice day out.

      Claire, your post mainly speaks to the ‘event’ rather than the race.  I love the chateaux and the visuals we get of the countryside and the great efforts locals make to create intriguing homages to their produce in fields etc.  I like Phil Liggett a great deal and Gabriel is pretty cool, but, Gabriel is only only for about 15min of a 4 hour broadcast.  I WISH we saw more of the race beginning albeit what I said about halving the race.

      Interestingly I complimented Phil in a recent post and someone else said they hated him.  I think him great.

      I miss some of the names this year..Andy Schleck certainly and I regret Fabian Cancellara needing to go albeit the imminent birth of his second child.

      Jens Voigt is a really funny charming person and I wish we saw more of him in Aussie.  I am sure he will retire soon :( and I hope to hear him as a commentator on some races.  His dry wit would add a great dimension I’m sure.

      I admire the rider’s resilience, perseverance and the generally fine team efforts.  When they fly down those mountains with sheer drops at the side, my heart is in my mouth.  I wouldn’t have the courage to simply go into the moment and sustain it.

    • Baz says:

      05:21pm | 16/07/12

      The last day a waste of time, pffft, whatever. It is great you have taken a liking to the tour and maybe even cycling in general however to help I would recommend you sit down with a racing cyclist friend or enthusiaste and have them explain what goes on and why in the last stage.

    • Baz says:

      05:21pm | 16/07/12

      The last day a waste of time, pffft, whatever. It is great you have taken a liking to the tour and maybe even cycling in general however to help I would recommend you sit down with a racing cyclist friend or enthusiast and have them explain what goes on and why in the last stage.

    • Susan says:

      06:07pm | 16/07/12

      @Baz…Why didn’t you bother to explain it here?  In my post I said I accept some ARE racing but the majority aren’t.  You think that wildly off the mark?  I’m not a huge advocate of WIKI but without spending time on searching:

      “The overall Tour placings are typically settled before the final stage so the racing is often for the glory of finishing the Tour and, at times, to settle the points classification.

      Traditionally, the stage starts with champagne served by the race leader’s team, on the road photo-opportunities and joking around. As the riders approach Paris, the racing heats up as the sprinters and their teams begin the real racing of the day. When the riders reach central Paris, they enter the Champs-Élysées riding up the Rue de Rivoli, on to the Place de la Concorde and then swing right on to the Champs-Élysées itself. The riders ride now a total of 8 laps (up towards the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Élysées, round les Tuileries and the Louvre and across the Place de la Concorde back to the Champs-Élysées). In past Tours, the riders would complete ten laps before the Tour was over.”

      And the piece goes on to explain that on certain last days the points or general classification has been decided.  But it’s not always the case is it.

      I find it strange that the critic doesn’t offer anything but suggests they hold a great deal of knowledge. Once again, why not offer it?

      I wasn’t watching in the 70’s and 80’s so I didn’t see those specific days. I would concede 2001/03 but I still allowed for that in my original post.

      So, I really wasn’t wrong. ” With exceptions (my word ‘rare’ was probably off and I’m turning my assertion around) no-one races” and that is pretty much the case.  Unless you’re going to get supremely nit picky.

    • Gregg says:

      07:06pm | 16/07/12

      After nearly three weeks I reckon we can be accepting enough to let them enjoy themselves for a bit on the last day Susan and if they were showing the full days racing on any day, you might just be wondering a bit more how come it was all left to the end for things to happen.

      Andy has a fractured pelvis which apparently is not healing too well and I was somewhat amazed just how good a climber he is given the skinny less muscular legs he has, maybe all the effort putting too much strain on the pelvis!

    • Susan says:

      08:49pm | 16/07/12

      @Gregg….sure…it’s just not exciting TV though. smile  I usually watch for a while and enjoy them smiling and chatting and then I disappear until the end and the last laps.  Yes, a shame about Andy and if its not healing well that’s not a good sign.  His father was a cyclist but Frank is more muscular and that’s for sure.  Let’s just hope no-one in the spectator crowd does anything stupid in the future.  One can hope anyway. smile

    • Susan says:

      08:54pm | 16/07/12

      By the way guys, I DO know that there are a lot of tactics, a lot of movement up and down the peloton, that the length of the race and the changes in road condition, gradient etc are all collectively pushing them and that time is required to sort out the (sorry) ‘men from the boys’.  I understand the points, I understand the breakaways and those from the peloton etc etc.  I’m not thick on the subtleties here. I am speaking about the event from a viewing perspective.

    • Yum Cha says:

      07:02am | 17/07/12

      So after watching it for three weeks, why not turn the tv off and not watch the last stage, if you think it is such a waste of time.  It’s not a waste of time to the riders.  Finishing the Tour is probably the most significant feat most will achieve in their cycling career, and that last day is a great opportunity to just relax a bit and actually enjoy the ride, and reflect on what they’ve done.  Trouble with The Punch is there are too many posers on here sharing their over-inflated opinion and pretending to be intellectual giants.  Sad, really.

    • Susan says:

      12:08pm | 17/07/12

      @YumCha.. I expressed a simple opinion…and I have responded to everyone that has commented.  Why go to the put-down place at all?
      Are you a pro-cyclist who feels offended or something?  The vast majority of us are amateurs here no matter what topic we talk about.  This is a blog.  You put shite on intellect but you are actually seem to be requiring some ‘perfect world’ posts.  I have explained that i DO understand the importance of the last day, but I simply expressed a personal response. 

      Given your posts, how DARE I, as an amateur, watch the race at all.  It should be reserved for all you perfect people who are pro-cyclists or who intimately know pro-cycling.

      No-one is ‘posing’ - except perhaps you who imply that you know it all and it’s not ok that I express how much this race excites me but the last day - for me - is always a little flat.  Sheesh..You guys must be really formidable if someone seriously pisses you off. 

      Words like ‘poser’ are thrown around on this forum because those people feel like venting a little spleen.  Perhaps the boss or your co-worker is annoying you but you can’t say something so you head to the Punch, locate someone who you feel annoys you..and you take a shot.  That is just weak and you offer nothing substantive.

      Perhaps if I had simply posted - “I love the race but could some of your really knowledgeable pro-cyclists out there working in your office (cos that’s where pro-cyclists usually are a this time of year) explain it to me” then you could have weighed in and given me your fabulous core knowledge.  Or, you would have taken a shot and told me to research it.

      smile

      Indeed, sad really.

    • Yum Cha says:

      12:49pm | 17/07/12

      Wow Susan, you really have a lot of spare time on your hands.  Either that, or you just like the sound of your own ‘online’ voice.  My boss is me, so my time is my time.  If I was your boss, and you were writing this dribble during work time, I’d ‘Rufus you right out of here’ (to borrow a line from the movie Never Been Kissed).  And yes, you could have researched it yourself.  It works for me.  No, I’m not a pro rider, but I do ride myself or with friends.  I simply took the time to think about why the last day is reserved for a bit of camaraderie and festivity for the riders.

    • Susan says:

      01:45pm | 17/07/12

      @YumCha   Calm down tiger.  You spend a fair amount of time on Punch (unless someone else uses the same nic).  You don’t need to worry about me and my working life, it’s all good.

    • Susan says:

      05:03pm | 17/07/12

      @YumCha..for the record, I regret getting into a debate with you and it ending the way it did.

      I just felt there was way too much carry on over a simple comment that I wound up explaining and explaining.  I should have just ignored the persistent personal digs and then some acting innocent and put-upon when I called them on it.

      Claire copped a load of flack for her post from some quarters and it’s easy to be a reverse snob and carry on about her not being knowledgeable enough etc. but people have to start somewhere.  Let’s enjoy the Tour as spectators which we all are and let’s discover the delights of the sport as we may.

    • Howie says:

      01:54pm | 16/07/12

      I love watching the Tour every year. What most people probably don’t realise is that that these cyclists are professional athletes that actually race for a whole season and not just one race for the year.

      A massive amount of training and preparation is required to try and gain peak fitness at the right time and the tactics and strategy throughout all races is something not easily understood to those that don’t want to understand it.

      The tour de France is a massive tourism advertisement for the whole country as well. The castles and geographical points are quite interesting in between crazy mountain stages that require superhuman abilities to ride up.

      But i guess sometimes it’s easier to write something off as “stupid” and “boring” if you don’t want to know about it.

    • Susan says:

      02:07pm | 16/07/12

      The weird thing is..last time I looked at the French tourism site is was a shocker.  I couldn’t believe how badly it was set up and so I can only assume that they really need to do very little to market ‘France’.

    • mtb says:

      10:29pm | 16/07/12

      @Susan…which French tourism site? I think you will find each Region, Department and often each little town have their own tourism websites, and I have found them to be fantastic. But really, they do not have to do very much to bring in the visitors….the countryside/food/wine/culture/history all sell themselves.

      Having lived in France for nearly 3 years, I really would not want to live anywhere else. Great, affordable, fresh food; great sunshine in summer, awesome skiing in winter; fabulous and cheap wine all year around; fantastic history and culture; friendly and sociable society; and le Tour….love it all!

    • Susan says:

      11:33am | 17/07/12

      hi @mtb. It was the ‘French Tourist Office’ site.  ‘France Tourism’ is far better.  But I would agree France doesn’t need to sell itself smile

      I would love to live in the south of France for a while.  If someone could get me onto a plane.

      I know shows are not always representative but have you ever seen a Year in Provence?  I wonder how close it is to showing some nice reality.

      People here have spoken of the Parisians being cool.  Perhaps so but two of my family were recently in Paris and one had a special birthday and so they were given a special few days at a well known Paris hotel.  I contacted the GM and thanked him for offering them such a lovely time and I was so very thrilled with the response.  The hotel GM offered them a luxury limousine to take them out to dinner plus desserts and dessert wine were left with a personal note in their room.  It was wonderfully pampered and they were treated like royalty.

      They drove down through France but they did say the traffic in Lyon was a nightmare.  It was one of those moments where you feel like doing that movie scene and getting out of your car and walking away.  Driving through larger Paris cities was something they didn’t like at all…but the rest was great.

    • MC says:

      02:00pm | 16/07/12

      I’m with you Claire, forget the haters. One day I will see it in person as I munch on the regional delicacies whilst standing next to my campervan. Viva le tour!

    • Susan says:

      02:05pm | 16/07/12

      Yes, I’ve been thinking similarly.  We see far more on TV but as strong fans it would be good to go just once and drive every day and find a great location and watch them flash past.

    • John Stuart Mill says:

      02:07pm | 16/07/12

      My wife says they should all wear white shorts. I’ve told her they’re padded, but she says they should all wear white anyway.

    • Susan says:

      02:12pm | 16/07/12

      Why?  I presume your wife knows their uniforms have to be approved plus they need to reflect sponsor colours etc.

    • hermano says:

      02:33pm | 16/07/12

      Susan: John SM’s wife just wants to have a perve.

    • Susan says:

      03:07pm | 16/07/12

      @hermano.  Ohhhh.. I sure am innocent.  smile  You can’t see anything anyway!  Go for track and field Mrs SM.

    • Just saying says:

      02:12pm | 16/07/12

      Clare

      Paul and Phil gets all their info on France, etc from the Tour organizers.
      They may know the characters but their cycling knowledge is not that great - they make a lot of mistakes when they talk tactics, causes for an accident, gears, etc. Matt Keenan is a much better cycling commentator and many Tour fans can wait for the day Paul and Phil retire….

    • PJs Ronin says:

      02:31pm | 16/07/12

      From Wikipedia:
      “Between 1972 and 1993, Liggett was technical director of the Milk Race. His involvement with organizing cycle racing events led to his becoming vice-president of the Association Internationale Organisateurs des Courses Cycliste. In 1973, age 30, Liggett became the youngest ever UCI international commissaire.[citation needed]
      Liggett has been president of the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC), Britain’s national cyclists’ organization.[6]
      In 2009, he was inducted into the British Cycling Hall of Fame.[7]”

      Not bad for someone who’s “cycling knowledge is not that great”.

    • Darren says:

      02:51pm | 16/07/12

      +1. Really, Phil and Paul are terrible commentators. Their anglo-centric bias does nothing for highlighting the talents of non-English speaking riders.

      This years TdF’s greatest sin is that it has been boring. The race was all but over after the first TT. I’m looking forward to the return of Contador. He hasn’t done anything the rest of them aren’t doing to ‘prepare’. He does make a race exciting to watch, if he was racing this year we wouldn’t see a ‘train’ of Sky riders at the top of each mountain.

    • Susan says:

      03:27pm | 16/07/12

      Seems some folks use a few names around here.  Ok…so…I read claims that he makes mistakes…examples??  I have heard him trip and then correct but I really regard him well.  But it just seems sweeping comments are made and I’d welcome a solid example or three please.  I’ve also never heard the bias being alleged either although I would concede that they are commentating for particular audiences and trying to satisfying - I presume - that audience interest.  But they have spoken very well of several international riders this tour so I can’t see that bias myself.

      I do hear the occasional - and this is a toughy - sentiment of hope re Cadel.  If they didn’t offer positives they would be canned but if they offer too much positive they’ll be considered unrealistic.

      For me, Phil is a great ambassador for the sport and I enjoy him but if you don’t that’s as valid (of course).  But I have to wonder if reasons are being collected for disliking him that have no real validity. 

      I do agree Darren that this year’s Tour does feel a bit flat.  The year Contador won and that chain incident of Andy Schleck’s was the best imo across the past few years.

      The number of solo sprints etc this year don’t help viewer interest either of course.

      I guess that sort of thing separates the real fans out though.  We might disagree about Phil but it seems all of us generally enjoy and support the race.

    • thatmosis says:

      02:13pm | 16/07/12

      Me, I like the drug cheats and there are those every year. As for the race its about as exciting as watching grass grow during the winter.

    • iansand says:

      02:14pm | 16/07/12

      One good thing about the Tour is the way that spectator crowd shots comprehensively shatter any French pretensions to sartorial superiority.

    • marley says:

      02:24pm | 16/07/12

      I don’t think any of the spectators are French.  I think most of them are Brits and Germans, displaying the relative sartorial attributes of those two countries.  The French are off in the local bistro enjoying a glass of wine and watching it all on TV.

    • iansand says:

      02:45pm | 16/07/12

      Of one thing we can be certain - they are not true Scotsmen.

    • chuck says:

      02:21pm | 16/07/12

      Tacks on the road - something from Chitty chitty bang bang. I guess the locals could plant land mines to get back control of their neighbourhoods if it was le tour de Syria/Lebanon/Afghanistan/Sudan/Yemen etc and imagine the Lycra variants.

    • M says:

      02:29pm | 16/07/12

      I like watching it because I love to see cyclists out-run a harley davidson.

    • Arnold Layne says:

      02:29pm | 16/07/12

      The lack of depth in the genuine General Classification challengers this year is hurting the Tour in some respects, but it’s still compelling for the most part.  The stage on Saturday night was gripping.  I agree with Claire though that the add-ons make it about so much more than just the race.  If it attracts casual participants because of that stuff, then so what?  I

    • Knemon says:

      02:37pm | 16/07/12

      Gabriel Gaté did a crayfish meal the other night that made me want to crawl into my TV… divine, I’m drooling just thinking about it, oh, and I love Le Tour. The commentary and scenery are awesome, especially Paul Sherwen, Phil Liggett is starting to make a few mistakes, comes with age I suppose, but I still love listening to him. I’ve jumped on the Peter Sagan bandwagon, he will win the GC within two or three years. Cheers and best of luck Cadel, he’s going to need it.

    • Susan says:

      03:51pm | 16/07/12

      I’ve only had it twice in my life….but lobster thermidor was the first major restaurant meal I ever had.  I was taken by a very thoughtful boyfriend who had to work an extra shift to afford it.  (A long time ago))

      Yes, Gabriel’s looked delicious.  With a light salad and some chilled wine….bon appetit indeed!

      I admire him remaining so slim in the face of the fare available to him.  Family were in Rome not long ago and they found a wonderful cheese shop.  They said they could have browsed for ages.  I miss those types of specialty shops where the store owner lives and breathes knowledge.

    • Knemon says:

      04:19pm | 16/07/12

      “lobster thermidor”

      Thank you Susan, I’d been trying to find the recipe without luck, now I just have to work out how to afford the lobster!

      Bon appétit wink

    • Knemon says:

      04:51pm | 16/07/12

      Thanks for that Susan. Cheers.

    • Josh says:

      05:11pm | 17/07/12

      Love the race…

      But GG I do not get. He goes to some wooded village with river, visits the charcuterie, tries the sausage, then some fine looking restaurant with cassoulet, and then off to the vineyard for some oxblood coloured red, but then the recipe is some flipping trout stuffed with lemon. He then “saves” it by saying the water-life is “another specialty of the area”.

      I’m calling bull on that. He’s cooking whatever he likes, and may well be taking the p.

    • Fangster says:

      03:43pm | 16/07/12

      It’s hilarious how fetishised the Tour is in Australia.

      Really, really funny.

      Why do Australians get so know-it-all and pompous about a cycle race that most of Europe can’t be bothered to watch? I spent 10 years in Europe and the Tour was barely mentioned.

      A greater case of cultural cringe I’ve yet to see.

      But that’s like cycling in Australia full stop. Australians have turned the cheapest form of wheeled transport known to mankind into a middle class dollar arms race for the post-golf demographic.

      Nothing like the word ‘France’ to get a certain, bland socially conservative kind of anglo-Australian all misty-eyed and desperately try hard.

      My old housemate was French, watching the way Australians used to constantly defer to him actually changed the way I viewed this country, especially when you hear what the French actually think of Australians.

    • Dan says:

      04:02pm | 16/07/12

      I don’t know Fangster, I guess we are all losers who are culturally inferior to well travelled global heroes like yourself and your French mate. Just a couple of points though - arguably it is a case of even greater cultural cringe to be worried that we like a European bike race in Australia that the cool Europeans don’t like, than to like a bike race in Europe regardless of what the Europeans like.

      Even though the group you associated with in Europe didn’t think much of it, someone is watching it - check sponsorship dollars.

      But even assuming your hipster mates knew everything and spoke for the whole continent of Europe, one possibility for difference is that we appreciate the scenery more because it is so different to our own. Europeans see it every day and don’t care… but then again I’m not a University aged snob trying to put down the country that gave me my chances in life, because I’ve always been told by Mum and my teachers that I’m special.

    • Susan says:

      04:10pm | 16/07/12

      Gee..no wonder you chose the word Fangster.  Talk about a presumptuous downer of a post.  Doesn’t matter if the French think we’re twats.  We’re not watching ‘the French’.

      No matter what the reason - if people get interested in a sport they are often more likely to exercise.  That should be enough to draw a positive.

      Looking forward to your posts about the Olympics.  To borrow a well-used phrase…they should be Gold! wink

    • Knemon says:

      04:11pm | 16/07/12

      “especially when you hear what the French actually think of Australians”

      Do tell.

      Why does it worry you so much if other people take an interest in something that you obviously dislike, why even bother commenting?

      A return to Europe would do you well.

    • marley says:

      04:27pm | 16/07/12

      Odd, I lived in Europe for a few years myself - and the Tour was covered assiduously on Eurosport and in the news in the two countries I lived in and all the ones I visited.  So, for that matter, were the Giro and the Vuelta, but the Tour was the king, so to speak.

      As for Australians being polite and the French treating that behaviour with contempt, well, let me guess, your friend was a Parisian, right?  They treat anyone from outside their own arrondissement with contempt.  It’s not a trait I find endearing, myself.  It’s a pity you seem to have adopted it.

    • Susan says:

      04:42pm | 16/07/12

      Reported by journalist Jennifer Ciapala re 2011 figures:

      The spectators

      12-15 million—The number of spectators expected to watch this year’s Tour. Roughly 80% will be French.

      Seems the French are rather interested in the Tour.  I could have said La Tour but that could be construed as annoying and culturally covetous. wink

    • Rod says:

      07:51pm | 16/07/12

      Did you live with other troglodytes in Europe? Having lived in France for a few years now, Le Tour is an event held in high regard by the French and other Europeans. As for what the french think about Australians, I have been treated far worse by fellow Australians in Australia than by any french person. But I suppose since you admitted that your whole view about the country was changed by your experience with one person, then I suppose, if you did have a rude experience from a single french person, then i guess you would be the kind of person who would think the whole country was like that. Hmm, i knew an Australian who was a real arsehole, guess that makes all Australians arseholes?

    • Hater says:

      03:56pm | 16/07/12

      horrible article tarnishing the sport

    • Damien says:

      04:00pm | 16/07/12

      I think people just love it because it makes them feel cultured. And all the power too them, if you like it you like it. I don’t mind it but I only watch it for the scenery, because bike racing is something I could watch out the front of my house on a saturday morning, except those blokes are old or fat.

    • Steve says:

      05:43pm | 16/07/12

      You’ve completely missed the point of the sport, but glad you like it.  For those familiar with it, it is called chess on wheels because of the amount of tactics involved.  It has a huge following because cycling is such an accessible sport and mode of transport.  Viva Le Tour.

    • Al B says:

      06:39pm | 16/07/12

      I disagree on the poms…those two are nice for nostalgics, id rather keenan and sherwin though its a better balance. The other ones brain is turning to mush im convinced! I guess its hard to talk for hours on end but still. Keenan holds my interest more as a cycling fan.

    • stephen says:

      07:12pm | 16/07/12

      Let me preface this by saying Claire, you don’t look like a sport’s nut, but it sounds like you are hooked on colour, cause that’s what France is all famous for ... the pastels.
      But as Professor Sumner Miller might once have said, turn off the light, the darkness appears, minus all colour.
      When Richard Virenque, the French climber who after about 6 Tours was the King of the Mountains and no-one could get within cooee, was busted for drug use, he was convicted, kicked out of, I think the 2001 Tour and told never to come back, he did, won some races, and eventually retired a National Hero ... in France, and in all probability, was on steroids or EPO or some such cocktail for the whole of his career.
      Now France is magnifique in so many ways : a beautiful country with a tremendous cultural legacy, and I’m sure every divorcee from Ascot would just love to go there, meet a moustached and ageless gent with an afghan - no, not a herder, that’s a dog - and retires to Marseilles to write cookbooks and personal diaries just for the peasants - that us - back home.
      It’s a great country for the aging Romantic who hasn’t done anything, for, if one were to look closely at any country, one would have to see how the inhabitants relate, not only to the land and to each other, but to strangers, (some, too, from a faraway land) and determine how important is such a Culture to the welfare of Mankind, generally speaking, because the French manner, in my opinion, is in need of an overhaul ... and quick smart.

      As for Virenque, if only Lance Armstrong, (who the French particularly dislike and most probably are pressuring the ICU, who in turn are sitting on the Americam anti-doping Agencies) could be so lucky.

    • Gregg says:

      07:15pm | 16/07/12

      It can be a little addictive Claire and only problem this year is that with the Sky team so strong, it would seem Wiggins would have to have an accident and break a collar bone or whatever not to be assured of winning.

      You have to give it to Wiggins in that he has speed as well as being a good climber and endurance does not seem to be an issue for him.

    • James says:

      07:47pm | 16/07/12

      Clearly author has no idea about cycling yet writes an article about it, anyone can do that!

      Most comments are bollocks from nerds who have no idea about sport either.. keyboard heros with no lives

    • Susan says:

      08:58pm | 16/07/12

      Cycling Central is that-a-way.  It always bemuses me when people post taking a shot at all other posters for having no lives.  What is your excuse for taking the time to read everything and post?  Just so you can hock up at the end?

    • Jezebel says:

      08:45pm | 16/07/12

      I agree James.  “I don’t really get sport”.. yawn. 
      not a sports fan = cannot venture from own headspace to enjoy communal thrills and appreciate physical abilities of others.  Self-important bore.
      Go for a run, rubber lady

    • ross p coltrane says:

      08:59pm | 16/07/12

      yep, what james said.

      article translation: stinky bogans like sport therefore i do not because i am an intelligent cultured woman but i’ll make an exception for tour de france because bikes r kool and its in vogue among fixsters so here i am writing about that! go me.

      next…

    • Josh says:

      05:16pm | 17/07/12

      Maybe, the author has certainly picked a sport the “stinky bogans” hate with a passion.

    • youdy beaudy says:

      06:36am | 17/07/12

      Well for a race that some on here lamblast as being nothing spectacular i would say that it has been going for a long time now so one would think that it has been successful. The problem for me is that it is shown on SBS at a very late and early morning time. I sit up but it doesn’t end until 2am. Nice views from the helicopter of the french countryside. Beautiful country and the people seem happy with it.

      I think it is very dangerous and requires much skill especially avoiding avid fans on the small roads in the mountains. Also these days they have carbon fiber bikes, strong and light with many gears to climb the mountains etc. But imagine what it was like in the old days when they rode bikes with fixed wheel pedaling. How they got up the mountains with fixed wheels makes me wonder. I think they might have had to push sometimes. Certainly one would have to be very fit to endure what the bike riders have to go through. A true test of endurance to be sure.

    • kate says:

      08:33am | 17/07/12

      “The problem for me is that it is shown on SBS at a very late and early morning time”

      Yes it really is very inconsiderate of them, isn’t it?  You’d think they’d have the courtesy to start the race at 4 oc’lock in the morning, or 11pm, or whatever, so as not to inconvenience Australian viewers.

      /sarcasm

    • youdy beaudy says:

      10:50am | 17/07/12

      @Kate, Well what you wrote didn’t quite make any sense to me. You could have written something better than that. Yes, i know that the time zones are different, daytime there, night time here. Oh deary me, katie, what are they going to do with your attempt at sarcasm and your biting wit.?!.

    • Anjuli says:

      10:52am | 17/07/12

      I am amazed they can cycle in such formation in the Peleton , my legs just ache just watching these guys ,in my opinion they are the supreme athlete. When hurtling themselves on the descents they must be flying, on those very narrow tyres. It is those stupid spectators I wish would just stay home,they put riders in a very dangerous position ,as for putting tacks on the road how mean have you to be to do that.They should close the parts to spectators where they can get up close and personal with the cyclists .

    • Susan says:

      12:42pm | 17/07/12

      Noticed those spectators who sometimes stand on narrow concrete strips above a sheer drop??  They must have been born around mountain areas.  I couldn’t stand there. I would lie down clinging to the surface. smile

    • Simon says:

      01:02pm | 17/07/12

      I know that the Tour has amassed almost something of a cult following in this country and am interested in knowing what people enjoy about the sport.

      All this article demonstrates is the author’s appreciation of the pretty flowers and the fine wines.  As for the sport itself, you like the commentator’s “soothing tones”.  Fascinating.  Hopefully someone else at the Punch can write a worthwhile article about the appeal of the Tour itself, rather than the gloss and the scenery.

 

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