It's Tour de France Time
The Tour de France started Saturday. So did my three-week bike race watching binge.
I'll attempt to plan my weekends around live race broadcasts from NBC Sports, which means since I live on the East Coast, I'll wake before the rest of the family to catch the start of each daily stage race and scheme for couch time in front of the tube until the racers cross the finish line about noon. I look forward to again hearing Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen call the action, the perfect soundtrack to my viewing.
During the week, I'll catch whatever action I can on the network's iPad app (like this one for Travel Channel) and I'll clog the DVR with recordings of each day's action so I can watch in the evening. Apologies in advance to my young daughter, who doubtlessly will notice an increased cadence to my bedtime story reading.
For this cyclist, the Tour is the greatest of sporting events. Yeah, the sport's entanglement with performance-enhancing drugs has been well documented in news headlines for years, but the sporting drama that unfolds against the stunning backdrop of French landscapes can't be matched, in my opinion.
Will Britain's Chris Froome win his third yellow jersey and second in a row? Or will the small climber from Columbia, Nairo Quintana, realize what many think is his destiny to claim the overall general classification victory (overall fastest time). Will American Tejay van Garderen put a complete Tour together? Can the Manx missile, Mark Cavendish, dominate the sprints as he used to? Will the green jersey for most points again go to world champion Peter Sagan from Slovakia? The storylines are many.
For years I've dreamed of traveling to France on a cycling vacation to take in the rich panoramas that until now I've only seen through the lens of a camera in a media helicopter.
Here's how I'd plan my perfect trip (appropriate fan "apparel" packed, of course): Rent an RV and stuff it full of family and bikes, ride to a spot along the race course where I can cheer on the riders as they stream through (I won't get as close as this guy!), then catch the finish at a local pub and enjoy as much of the local fare as possible. It would be the thrill of a lifetime to watch the riders climb Mont Ventoux. I'll be sure to document the event for posterity the right way.
A friend and fellow cyclist traveled to see the 2005 Tour. He decided to go during the week the race visited the Pyrenees mountains, and he concentrated on finding viewing spots during the middle of each stage's course as they often are less crowded than the start and finish locations. Sounds like good advice to me.
Here's my layman's prediction for the overall general classification podium: Froome wins with Quintana again a close second.
My hope is that van Garderen will finish third...and I'll be cheering hardest for him.