The Prophet solos in the mountains wearing the Yellow Jersey.

Vive Le Tour

Vive Le Tour

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Maybe it’s the narcissist in me or maybe I never really learned how to share properly, but I prefer my birthday over Christmas. My birthday is the one day of the year where everything is about me. No feigning interest in other people’s gifts, no getting distracted by any greater meaning. Just me and my loot, as it was meant to be. Speaking of loot, getting older may mean the lure of presents is less strong than it was as a child – because I buy most of the stuff I want anyway – but with age comes into sharp focus the pleasure in not having to answer to anyone else, even if for only a day. Being king for 1/365th of the year, it’s undeniably glorious.

Christmas, on the other hand, isn’t supposed to be about anyone. Its about peace and love and hope and a bunch of other stuff that isn’t going to bring you any closer to Rule #12 Compliance or trimming enough grams off your steed to offset the numerous post-ride recovery ales that get consumed after even the shortest of rides. World Peace is lovely, but I’d prefer to set a new personal record on Haleakala without changing my lifestyle or needing to make any personal sacrifices, thank you very much. But Christmas does have one massive thing going for it: you spend the whole month thinking about it, outfitting your house with festive paraphernalia and slaughtering a perfectly healthy pine tree in order to briefly pitch it in a bucket in your living room. We call this process “Getting Into the Holiday Spirit”. In other words, my birthday may well be more spectacular in its purity, but there is no denying the excitement of spending an entire month being consumed by an event.

When it comes to Grand Tours, I liken the excitement of the Giro to my birthday, the Tour to Christmas, and the Vuelta to a coworker’s birthday. The Giro is raw; a race where everything happens without a script. The geography of the country makes it nearly impossible to link too many flat stages together in series like the Tour does, and the lower prestige of the event means the field tends to, on balance, yield a more open and exciting race. And, I’ll be the first to admit, loving the Giro above the others gives the irrational indulgence of feeling that I’m in on a secret, that I’m sufficiently cultured to look past the shiny exterior, kind of like preferring mutts to pure-breeds.

The Tour, on the other hand, has all the trappings of its shiny exterior, even if it still boasts the substance to merit its popularity. But too many Tours have been too predictable. Indurain was a fantastic rider but an unimaginative one. Then after a short series of one-off winners, we dove headlong into Pharmstrong‘s string of strangled Tours. Not so much the doping, mind you, but the style in which he controlled the races gave us some fleeting excitement until Stage 10 when all interest was wiped from the event with a first-uphill-finish-wiping of the floors. If I’d been the one pushing the pedals, I’d have done it exactly the same way for as long as I could get away with it (minus the degree in pharmacology), but it makes for unexciting spectating. The following uninspiring wins haven’t helped to liven things up much, culminating with the Spider’s number-watching. Again, I have to say that if I was the one staking my career and life on it I’d endeavor to make the margins as big as possible as early as possible. But I’m not racing; I’m here to be entertained, damnit.

Nevertheless, the Tour is the only event of our great sport that peaks the interest of those even outside the sport; its the only time of the year when I get a fresh batch of people to bore with in-depth explanations of the different jerseys, why stage winners aren’t normally winning the Tour as well, and why it’s much more sophisticated a sport than just mashing away at a set of pedals. (My dear Grandmother, Merckx rest her soul, one day remarked that Cycling seemed easier than tennis because you get to sit down the whole time.) The news outlets will comment on the racing (and, infuriatingly, the doping if they are given even the slightest excuse). Then there’s the Live, afternoon, evening, and Prime-Time coverage of the race. All in High Definition. No pixelated streams which always seem to freeze up with 500m to go. Just pure, unadulterated coverage of bicycle racing on our biggest stage.

The Giro may well be the purist’s Grand Tour, but there is nothing like the Tour. And, like a college student on a weekend bender, I’m not giving any thought to the massive coverage-hangover I’m bound to suffer when its all over.

Vive Le Tour, it’s going to be a hell of a month. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// La Vie Velominatus // Racing // Tradition

  1. @Owen

    Cut out the cable this year in favor of Hulu Plus for TV shows. Problem with this is that cycling isn’t on Hulu and the VMH isn’t interested in getting up and watching grainy feeds in the office. Anyone have advice on getting the Tour (and others) from the networks? Do they let you watch the stage at any time of the day or is it all live?

    Owen, steephill.tv is the way to go. Live feeds at the bottom of the main page. You might need to try a few of the Euro Sport ones to get a good one that will come through, but it’s live and free. Going full screen seems to stop the pop up ads too. Enjoy!

  2. With all this new technology and bike cams enlivening the spectacle of cycling racing, I’d like to propose an addition for tomorrow’s stage: a camera in Wiggins’s living room, so we can get a real time response as he watches Froome struggle on the cobbles.

  3. @eightzero

    @frank

    @Owen

    Cut out the cable this year in favor of Hulu Plus for TV shows. Problem with this is that cycling isn’t on Hulu and the VMH isn’t interested in getting up and watching grainy feeds in the office. Anyone have advice on getting the Tour (and others) from the networks? Do they let you watch the stage at any time of the day or is it all live?

    If you’re in the states, the NBC TDF Live App is fantastic and worth every penny, even if you have Cable already.

    The NBC TDF Live App has replays and will connect via AirPlay?

    Yup, at least the iOS version does. The full stage replays actually start a few hours before the TV coverage. It also downgrades the feed if you’re on the wireless network so you can still watch it. On a high bandwidth connection it’s HD. Like I said, well worth the cash even if you have cable.

  4. The VMH and I used to get cable only for the month of July.  This year we’ve decided to go the on demand route, but we dare not cancel the cable until after the TdF.  Our PVR died last weekend, so I ended up missing the first couple stages.  Up and running again today, hallelujah.

  5. @wiscot Yeah Steephill is how I generally watch races that aren’t on TV, and I’m super sure to shut the popups very carefully, lest I go to lotsofviruses.ru or someplace. The issue is really that the VMH doesn’t like getting up early, much less to watch a grainy pirate feed in Dutch, in an office chair. I usually watch the Sporza feeds over Eurosport because they have almost no commercials.

    I think the solution is going to be to get the Google play thing and stream the NBC sports subscription from the computer to the TV, for the races they offer, and learn Dutch for the rest.

  6. In terms of the original posting, when I first started my current job I told my boss that I would be late for most of July, since the stages don’t finish until 8:30 or 9 AM local time. Holiday, indeed.

  7. Well one good thing about being a cycling fan: don’t have to worry about people blabbing about who won the day’s stage until I get home and can watch it myself. Of course having to resort to nascar analogies to explain the racing to non fans is painful.

  8. @Owen

    @wiscot Yeah Steephill is how I generally watch races that aren’t on TV, and I’m super sure to shut the popups very carefully, lest I go to lotsofviruses.ru or someplace. The issue is really that the VMH doesn’t like getting up early, much less to watch a grainy pirate feed in Dutch, in an office chair. I usually watch the Sporza feeds over Eurosport because they have almost no commercials.

    I think the solution is going to be to get the Google play thing and stream the NBC sports subscription from the computer to the TV, for the races they offer, and learn Dutch for the rest.

    Long live Steephill!  Man, what a treasure for those of us too poor to visit the race in person or even to pay for the on demand stuff.

  9. @therealpeel

    @Owen

    @wiscot Yeah Steephill is how I generally watch races that aren’t on TV, and I’m super sure to shut the popups very carefully, lest I go to lotsofviruses.ru or someplace. The issue is really that the VMH doesn’t like getting up early, much less to watch a grainy pirate feed in Dutch, in an office chair. I usually watch the Sporza feeds over Eurosport because they have almost no commercials.

    I think the solution is going to be to get the Google play thing and stream the NBC sports subscription from the computer to the TV, for the races they offer, and learn Dutch for the rest.

    Long live Steephill! Man, what a treasure for those of us too poor to visit the race in person or even to pay for the on demand stuff.

    Budgetatus spectatorus, c’est moi.

  10. @Ccos There’s a guy on the floor above me who watches the stages every day because he gets up that early anyway. I always have to be careful and preface our interactions with I have/have not watched today’s stage yet.

  11. @piwakawaka

    I get asked all month, ‘are you watching the Tour?’ WTF do you think Sherlock? Of course I’m watching the Tour, but did you see this years Dauphine?

    How bout this year’s tour de Suisse? ? THAT was an exciting race.

  12. how sexy are the lotto steeds? goddamn. 

  13. @Owen

    @Ccos There’s a guy on the floor above me who watches the stages every day because he gets up that early anyway. I always have to be careful and preface our interactions with I have/have not watched today’s stage yet.

    this might help…

    http://rouleur.cc/shop/clothing/todays-stage-t-shirt-tour?cur=GBP

  14. @mpalazzi92 I love the look, but the folks at Ritchey can’t be exactly psyched…

    http://ritcheylogic.com/frames/cross/swiss-cross-frame.html

  15. @Mikael Liddy Seen that colour scheme some time ago…

    Found here

  16. @mpalazzi92

    as sexy as this?

  17. try again

  18. Ha, slaughtering a pine tree! That’s funny damn stuff, Frank. We have always cut our own and once the month is over, my father turns them into a walking stick, hewing down the trunk with his set of draw knives, passed down from his father. Makes me feel a bit better about the slaughter…

    I reluctantly admitted to the VMH just the other day that I wasn’t that excited abou the Tour this year. I think I’m worn out after the Classics and the Giro, not really sure why. I’ll follow, of course, but I’m just as happy to save the viewing time for daily rides.

    Oh, and at least things just got more exciting – the Spider is gone! The announcer had just said, “He’s easy to pick out of the pack, just look for the elbows…I don’t mean skinned elbows either, I mean his riding style.” Insult to injury.

  19. “When it comes to Grand Tours, I liken the excitement of the Giro to my birthday, the Tour to Christmas, and the Vuelta to a coworker’s birthday.”

    Frank, you nailed it with this analogy and thankfully, sometimes those coworker’s birthday parties are pretty amazing.

  20. @mpalazzi92

    I took it as a Belgian nod to ol’ Freddie. That Lotto kit is über Rule Compliant, bee tee dubs.

  21. @Ccos

    “When it comes to Grand Tours, I liken the excitement of the Giro to my birthday, the Tour to Christmas, and the Vuelta to a coworker’s birthday.”

    Frank, you nailed it with this analogy and thankfully, sometimes those coworker’s birthday parties are pretty amazing.

    …but most of the time they’re just an excuse to stop working for a few minutes.

  22. @ped That is damn sexy. Though I liked the first one better, with the seat post and skinnier fork.

  23. great pun on “piqued”

  24. Its Thursday and I am in withdrawal.

  25. @jim05tj wait….what?!?  Its only Wednesday!?!  Crap!!!

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