Le Tour de France is a beautiful dance
One of my favourite quotes from the movie Anchorman is the following line from Ron Burgundy:
“I won’t be able to make it fellas. Veronica and I are trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging. It might be a soft j. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.”
Every time I read that I nearly fall off my chair laughing. The point is, in Ron Burgundy’s world, jogging sounds like a complete waste of time.
This is the attitude I’d always taken to the Tour De France – it’s a total waste of time. It combined three of my least favourite things to watch on TV: cycling, the countryside, and Gabriel Gate.
I never got into Le Tour, nor did I ever intend to. I didn’t understand the rules or the tactics, and I really couldn’t be bothered to find out. That all changed in 2009.
Some good friends of mine decided to adopt me as a running project. They were convinced there was a runner inside of me just longing to be set free.
Well, never one to turn down a challenge (actually I turn them down more frequently than the Olsen Twins turn down food, but that’s beside the point), I decided to start running.
Why am I talking about running when I’m meant to be talking about Le Tour? Well, many of the friends who got me into running are also triathletes. They love the idea of getting up at the crack of dawn and running, cycling and swimming for an extended period of time.
This also means they all LOVE Le Tour. For them, it represents not only the pinnacle of cycling, but the pinnacle of sport. So for three weeks a year, they stay up super late watching a bunch of skinny men in lycra ride their bicycles across France.
The night I embraced Le Tour was in mid-2009. I was hanging out at my mate Todd’s place, and the Ashes were on – my favourite sporting event of all time.
However, the first mountain stage of the 2009 Tour was also on that night. And since Todd and his mates are avid Le Tour fans, the Ashes was only allowed to be watched during the ad breaks of the cycling. To me, this was a form of cruel and unusual punishment which should be outlawed under the Geneva Convention.
Interestingly, watching Le Tour with a bunch of cycling fanatics who could explain the rules, techniques, main characters and tactics stirred something within me. Suddenly, and totally improbably, I somehow… got into Le Tour.
I mean really into it.
No longer was it just a bunch of lame cyclists competing in a really lame race. I suddenly realised it’s a bunch of super fit elite athletes competing in possibly the most gruelling event on the planet.
These days I’m massively into the Tour for the following reasons:
1. It’s enthralling viewing. When you combine some of the most spectacular locations in Europe (now that my folks have bought a house over there, the scenery has become about six trillion times more interesting), with really specific team tactics and watching guys go flat out over a 25 km climb that would take me several years to complete, is remarkable viewing.
2. It’s exciting. I know there are cynics out there who can’t possibly fathom how watching people ride bikes through France could be exciting, but hear me out.
Sometimes one rider can be pushed out of a group of riders and fall back to the group behind. Then that rider harnesses his inner Rocky Balboa and fights back. Sometimes, if they’re awesome (like Lance Armstrong in 2009), they manage to, on their own, catch up with the group ahead to keep themselves in the game.
At first this sounds a little lame, but after talking with these cycling friends of mine, apparently it’s really hard to do. As soon as you lose the slipstream of the bike in front of you you’re gone. So fighting back without any help from surrounding riders is really tough, and watching it happen is pretty great viewing.
And that’s not to mention the sprint finishes. Some of these races go right down to the wire, and watching cyclists who’ve just travelled 200km suddenly go up a gear and sprint at an incredible pace is fantastic.
3: My friends are into it – don’t discount how important this is to making sports exciting. Think of how much more awesome it is when you’re watching sports with your mates. I think the enjoyment factor goes up by at least 27 per cent.
Now, I’m excuseless. No longer is the most gruelling sporting event on the planet something I’m happy to ignore. In fact, over the next few weeks, I’ll likely lose a lot of precious sleeping hours staying up late watching a bunch of white guys cycle for an extended period of time.
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