Le Tour isn’t sport, it’s a great lifestyle show
Lying in front of the first stage of the Tour De France in a semi-catatonic state on Saturday night I found myself wondering why I was watching this thing. I love Le Tour de France more every year, but why?
Having just come from watching Germany’s spectacular destruction of Argentina in the World Cup, it was clear I wasn’t watching these guys in lycra and creepy sperm shaped helmets like I had been watching the soccer. It was sport but didn’t feel like sport. In fact it wasn’t even called the first stage, like a book or an opera, Le Tour has a prologue.
When Gabriel Gate appeared on the screen in his tour cooking segment with some Dutch dessert it dawned on me how this telecast was actually being consumed: it was in fact a really good lifestyle show.
The sensation of watching Le Tour on SBS is like cycling themed compound of cooking, history, travel, architecture and design. Watching the Tour coverage is comforting lifestyle tv in action - like going for a relaxing bike ride with Antique Roadshow.
Before I get hundreds of angry comments from cycling fans let me just say I realise that road racing, and especially the tour, isn’t for wimps. In fact it is very hardcore.
I know that pound for pound they’re the fittest athletes in the world and that they wake up in the middle of the night and have to do 5 kilometres on their exercise bikes so their hearts don’t stop beating (all the weird drugs they take probably don’t help this cause).
But here’s the thing: the cycling itself is pretty dull. It’s utterly mesmerising, but except for the odd sprint to the line it’s rarely exciting.
The way Le Tour is presented to us is means that cycling is not the point, and that’s the genius of the SBS coverage.
It’s about the crazy baron who built the Norman castle over the next hill, it’s about the cheese from this village that and is sold with maggots in it, it’s about the fact that in 1917 the Tour came through this valley was mistaken for a French cycling corps and wiped out by the retreating Germans (made that last one up).
There is a cooking show in the middle of the coverage. Just to put this into context I’d like to see Channel Seven try and interrupt Geelong v St. Kilda for Dipper’s tips on how to prepare the ultimate stuffed eggplants.
At other points the programming will take us on a charming tour of the Medieval architecture of the local Cathedral which the race is going past today. I don’t recall ever having my telecast of Wests Tigers v Parramatta interrupted for an architectural retrospective of Campbelltown Stadium.
For all the talk of how big the cycling is in Europe, I tend to think a lot of the fans that turn up to watch this thing have a similar attitude to the audience SBS appears to be catering to.
Have a look at these “fans”, the majority of which could only be defined as such very the loosely. They have turned up and are cheering, but seem decidedly more focused on their roadside piss-up. Yesterday somebody’s dog ran out and caused a pile-up and an old woman in a wheel chair was left on the road.
Before anyone points out that in Belgium these guys are treated like movie stars, I say to them: have you ever seen a Belgian movie? Firstly they do exist, and secondly, they’re crap (that’s saying a lot coming from an Australian). Given the other national past times of this part of Europe appear to be banning the burqa and expanding European governance, a genuine love of road cycling doesn’t surprise me.
No doubt the success of Australian Cadel Evans in recent years has helped grow the popularity of the actual leader board part of the tour in this country. Something for which I also blame for the proliferation of overweight middle aged men in lycra and stupid shoes clogging up roads and coffee shops on a Saturday morning.
But really the overall success of the Tour is its ability pull at you visually in a way that no other sport really can.
Watching the hypnotic snake of the peloton curve through a valley drenched in the light of a French summer, you can’t help but think from the late night of the Australian winter “it would be great to be there right now.” That may not be sport, but it’s worth watching.
Don’t miss: Get The Punch in your inbox every day
Get The Punch on Facebook
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…