Le Tour de France 2019 Continues: I Can’t Stop Watching

I’ve been enjoying the 106th edition of Le Tour de France thus far, but I’m way behind watching it. I’m streaming it on NBC Sports, and just finished Stage 10, which was July 15th, the day after Bastille Day. If I can’t manage to watch five hours of cycling a day, imagine trying to ride as fast and over hill and dale as these guys do. For many it’s confusing, boring, or “they’re all on drugs.” Forget those negative nobodies and start watching it now.

Needless to say, the premier cycling race of the year on the planet has had its share of chills and spills. The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. Strategy, bravado, risk-taking and raw emotion. Far better than any staged reality show, I could just go on and on about it. So I will. (I don’t like spoilers so will try to avoid them, but may be a few. If you haven’t started watching after 10 days, that’s on you, so be forewarned.)

Who’s Not There

There’s a bike racer many think should be in the race but isn’t due to being left out unjustly. Mark Cavendish (we miss you, Cav!) may be past his prime, but who am I to say? He did have Epstein-Barr and had to reestablish his form, but one boss said yes and the real boss said no. I think it was probably an impossible and wrong decision. His replacement hasn’t factored in much, so there is some justice maybe. Well, that’s professional bike racing, I can hear Phil Liggett and Bob Roll say.

Plenty of other sprinters aren’t there, like Nasser Bouhani and Marcel Kittel. The former was always behaving badly (and not winning enough), and the latter is on a break. This year’s route only has about six days for sprinters, and many of them will not be able to finish in the high mountains. This quote sums it up well:

“It’s significant, lacking different riders of that calibre, Kittel and Cavendish, you feel it a bit, but that difficulty and fatigue hasn’t changed at all!” said {Peter) Sagan’s lead-out man, Daniel Oss.

“It’s always the same work and level is still so high.

“The world keeps spinning [he said, making a bike pun], a new generation emerges. You mention those sprinters, but now there are others, completely new. Cycling keeps going. And nothing changes with the speed or the difficulty of these stages.”

Source: Cycling Weekly

The glaring absence being four-time overall winner Chris Froome, whom I wrote about in this blog post: Froomey Falls… Blew His Nose… and His Chances).

Crashes, Illness and Abandons – Oh My!

[THIS PARAGRAPH DOES HAVE A SPOILER] There are a few who’ve gone home due to crashes. You never want to see that. Some were stupid, like one of only four Americans Tejay van Garderen hitting a sign and breaking a thumb. To be fair, there’s a ton of “road furniture” in France and while they mark it and put colorful padding over it, they can’t place a gendarme at every single one of them. Many of those who have crashed have continued racing and recovered, though, which is encouraging. It’s sickening to watch at high speed, but it also seems inevitable. These guys are brave, stupid or both.

One guy who was on the front for over 500 kilometers in the first week is now sick from some stomach bug, and barely hanging on. Who knows why – was it something he ate or he didn’t wash his hands after shaking the hand of a fan? Your fortunes can change wildly based on the smallest of things, like your team not having the budget for separate washing machines for your bike shorts. Mixing them with others could mean you get bacteria that cause saddle sores. Or maybe you take a bottle of water from a fan and instead of pouring it over your head you forget and drink it and get a bug. The Tour is just brutal that way.

The Coverage Ain’t That Bad

I’m really liking Bob Roll, even though he’s no Paul Sherwen, his knowledge is encyclopedic. As a former racer, he knows what he’s talking about, too. I could do without Christian Vandevelde sputtering delivery and often talking over first-timer Chris Horner, who has trouble getting in a word edgewise sometimes but I usually agree with or at least like.

Phil Liggett’s English accent can be hard to understand and sometimes he will mispronounce a name differently twice in the same breath. Steve Porino following the race as a passenger on the motor bike is always insightful and Jens Vogt with his German accent is simply amusing. The race feed is up to the French television and usually quite good.

Some people may not care for the announcers, but this is what we get and I think they’re entertaining enough reason to tune in. Especially when the unexpected happens or the race gets to the pointy end, it’s amusing to hear their excitement in their voices. Sure, it’s their job, but they also really love it. NBC has a virtual screen for the two Chris’s to show how a part of the race develops.

There’s also the fans, who except for the few who endanger the riders, go to great lengths to decorate themselves, statues in their little towns, agricultural fields for the helicopters. The behind the scenes footage especially to seat-post cameras they’re using this year are pretty interesting. They really show just how fast the racers go and the risk they take, mile after mile, day after day. Of course the riders are the focus.

Still Just a Bike Race

In the end, it’s a bunch of young, in shape and possibly performance enhanced guys riding their bikes around beautiful countryside . Yet, it’s not sometime I would miss. Even without a marquee American in it, I still find it fascinating. All the strategy, time, talent and energy that goes into it is astounding, really. It’s a major logistical feat to move this rolling parade every night. But I like it and will do what I can to finish watching, even if I hear the winner. I find it inspirational to make me ride my bike, and maybe you will too.

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4 thoughts on “Le Tour de France 2019 Continues: I Can’t Stop Watching

  1. Twenty three days, twenty one full day legs covering some 3,500 kilometers. This isn’t so much a race as a crucible. But as you’ve described in your trademark spirit and love of the sport, it is fascinating. Whenever I tune in, I just hope not to see anybody crash.

    Oh, and the mountains. HOW??!! do they do it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t like crashes, had two, not fun. Nit sure how they do it but I think it’s called hard work, youth and talent. If they’re using PEDs that’s no something I can do anything about. Either way, it’s amazeballs.

      Liked by 1 person

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