It's July and that means the television is set to the Tour de France 24/7 at my house.
In 1903, 60 men raced 2500 km. around the country of France on bicycles to publicize "L'Auto Magazine" . The rest is history.
For me, the scenery around France is the best part of the live coverage. I drool over the castles, the cathedrals, more castles, the vineyards, the rivers, the canals, and more castles. The intricacies of the race itself are somewhat beyond me. I tend to focus on the multi-colours of the peleton (main group of riders), the drama of the spectacular crashes (think major domino effects), the wild break aways (moving ahead of the peleton) and the amazing bodies of all those young men.
I mean really, they are living machines, constantly needing fuel, repair and maintenance. There they go, 50 km/hr, legs and hearts pumping a million times a minute, eating and drinking and chatting with the guys next to them. And all that while negotiating steep mountain terrain, trying to avoid hazzards and obsticles. Who says men are not able to multi-task?
It seems there are many races within the Race. Each day is called a stage. The winner of the day is a stage winner and he gets points for his win. The rider with the most overall points wears the Green Jersey. The rider who tops the mountains first is called King of the Mountains and gets to wear a white and red Polka Dot Jersey. The leader with the best overall time wears the Yellow Jersey. Then there is the Rainbow Jersey for the current World Champion, and Rainbow arm bands on the jersies of past World Champions. The rider wearing the White Jersey is the best new rider.
Things have changed since 1903. The race now covers over 3600 kilometers. Bikes and equipment have evolved, now having gears and weighing less than a six pack of coke. Gone are the steel frame bikes of yesteryear. Aerodynamics, weight and response are the rules of the day now--all coming at a high price: $10,000 to $25,000 per bike. Riders are supported with caravans of mechanics, equipment, spare parts and bikes. No longer do they pedal for days with spare tires around their necks! Medical teams administer first aid on the spot, or call for air lift to deal with major injuries.
From these and those pictures I just couldn't bear to post, it is easy to see why 40% of those starting out do not complete the race.
And then there is the media. This year, 2050 journalists broadcast live coverage to 188 countries. It is estimated that 12 - 15 million spectators (80% French) are following along. The cameramen perch on the back of motorcycles and cars, dangle from airplanes, hot air balloons and tall buildings.600 sponsors in the publicity caravan help finance the tour by giving up 200- 500,000 Euros to participate.
A few final pics for you and I'm off to watch today's recap.
all photos and videos compliments of public domaine.
Au'revoir mes amis. A bientot.