For non-cycling fans, the Tour de France is probably the only bike race they’ll watch. After all, it’s the biggest race in the cycling world. For those in France, it would be an experience of a lifetime to watch it in person to feel the atmosphere.
But if you’re at home, here’s why you should turn up the TV and watch it.
- The biggest annual sporting event
- No two days are the same
- See the stunning French landscapes from air
- See all the best professional cyclists
- The best and in-form cyclists in one race
- Display of the best cycling tech
- There are many races within a race
- Complicated strategies spice things up
- It’s unpredictable
- It’s a team sport
The biggest annual sporting event
The Tour de France is the biggest annual sporting event on TV, with 3.5 billion views in 2018. The 2018 soccer World Cup (3.6 billion views) and the 2008 Beijing Olympics were bigger (4.7 billion views), but they occur every four years. It’s also estimated that 12 million people lined up along the route to catch the race in person.
No two days are the same
With 21 stages, you can be sure that no two days are identical or similar.
Many factors in play, such as weather conditions, type of terrain, team tactics, crashes, injuries, and mechanical problems, add to the excitement and make it unpredictable.
Even though the stages are long, between three to five hours on average, anything can happen at any time.
There are no dull days at the Tour de France.
See the stunning French landscapes from air
The Tour de France is much more than a cycling race. It’s an opportunity for the organizers to showcase France’s beautiful landscapes to the world. In recent years, the Tour de France also crossed borders to Belgium (2012, 2019), Germany (2017), Holland (2015), and UK (2014) for its Grande Depart (first stage).
Each day, the landscape changes from the lavender fields in Provence to the stunning French Alps and Pyrenees, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and everything in between.
This is achieved through well thought and planned cinematography by the broadcasters. Cameras are everywhere on helicopters; motorbikes spread across the peloton, car dashcams, and onboard cameras on bicycles.
All these provide fans with exciting angles to watch the race, and the cinematography is truly a work of art.
See all the best professional cyclists
The Tour de France is where the most prominent cycling personalities and superstars are.
In 2021, we have all the road World Champions for the past ten years dating back to Mark Cavendish, three former Tour de France winners (Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali), the current defending champion, Tadej Pogacar, various other Grand Tour winners (Nairo Quintana, Richard Carapaz, Alejandro Valverde, Primoz Roglic, Simon Yates, Tao Geoghegan Hart) and various national Road Race champions, all in the same race,
It’s the race where the best is.
More reading : Who Has the Most Tour de France Appearances?
The best and in-form cyclists in one race
In the professional cycling world, the Tour de France is the race of the year.
It’s the opportunity for fans to see the best cyclists in their peak form racing for 21 days. While there are hundreds of professional cycling teams worldwide, only 23 will participate.
19 of them are automatically invited as they’re part of the World Tour, and four are invited based on the organizer’s discretion. Each team will bring its eight best riders to the Tour de France.
For many cyclists, a stage win at the Tour de France can define their career. An overall win will bring them stardom.
More reading : How Many Rides Participate in the Tour de France?
Display of the best cycling tech
The Tour de France is where all the latest cycling gear and tech are showcased to the world.
Most new gear and tech are launched a few weeks prior at the Criterium Dauphine, a warm-up race to the Tour de France. This is where the pros will try them in actual race conditions.
No one wants to do a trial during the biggest race of the year to minimize the risk of gear failure, especially at crucial moments.
More reading : Tour de France Winning Bikes, 1903 to 2022
There are many races within a race
The unique thing about the Tour de France is that there are many races within a race, all happening simultaneously.
Perhaps the most well-known race is the overall classification (yellow jersey). There are others, such as sprint classification (green jersey), king of mountains classification (polka dot jersey), and best young rider classification (white jersey).
In addition, there are daily stage wins, most aggressive rider, and best team classification races. With so many races and wins for grabs, it makes for a very interesting race, as every team and rider has different objectives.
Complicated strategies spice things up
Watching the Tour de France can sometimes confuse those new to pro cycling.
Teams often deploy tactics that make the average cyclist scratch their head in confusion. For example, the stronger rider doesn’t always win; gift the win away for future favors or rivals working with and against each other on different days.
This all boils down to the objectives of the team. Only a handful of teams are there to win the overall classification, while the rest are there to win stages and other classification jerseys.
The race is so dynamic due to crashes, mechanical problems, and many unforeseen circumstances that the team’s objectives can change daily.
The beauty of the Tour de France is that anything can happen at any time. There’s a saying that the Tour de France cannot be won but can be lost during the first week.
Over the years, we’ve witnessed many strong contenders crashing out during the first few stages. The first week is usually chaotic and stressful as everyone is fresh and ready to go. The racing is more aggressive as many teams have a good chance of taking the overall lead (yellow jersey).
It’s a race of attrition, and riders who compete for the general classification must make it to Paris to win it.
It’s a team sport
The Tour de France is much more than the riders.
While the winner usually takes all the credit and glory, this will not happen without the help of his teammates, mechanics, soigneurs, chef, and doctors working behind the scenes to ensure everything goes smoothly. There is more support staff than riders in every team.
There are eight riders, with one being their leader. Depending on their objectives, some teams might have more than one. The leader will be the protected rider. He’s the guy the team will rely on to achieve their main objective.
The other seven teammates, called domestiques will be there to assist the leader, bring him food and drinks, give him a spare wheel or their bike during crashes, ride in the wind, close down attacks, pace him up the climbs or lead on the descends.
Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.
He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.