How To Watch The Tour de France

Despite being a keen follower of pro-cycling, I try not to mention it too much on this blog. I write for recreational road cyclists that want to put their rump on the saddle, not the sofa. Other blogs cover the pro-cycling scene in far more depth (and far more coherently) than I ever could.

But with less than 48 hours to this year’s grand depart, it seems remiss not to at least mention the Tour de France.

Rather than talk about the route, the riders and the hotly-anticipated Promenade des Anglais*, I thought I would summarise the ‘resources’** I use to maximise my enjoyment of the event, some of which you might find interesting.

* Note 1: This is a very sophisticated, multi-level bon mot that I have stolen unashamedly from

** Note 2: ‘Resources’ being websites and twitter feeds, rather than le dopage.

Preparation (not that sort)

Strictly speaking, in order to prepare properly for the Tour, you should have started way back in September, by monitoring closely the rumours surrounding the route ahead of the official presentation (which takes place in October).

The single, best source for Tour route rumours (which turn out to be startlingly accurate) is In particular, the post you’re looking for is the one that Thomas puts up to contain all of his latest route speculation analysis (this is the one for the 2013 Tour).

Knowledge is Power Entertainment

Bike races can be confusing things even for those taking part (at least two riders celebrated ‘victory’ on stages in this year’s Giro, despite not being the first to finish). They can also be tedious. And long. With periods where not very much happens.

I look to the internet to perform two functions to enhance my TdF viewing pleasure:

First, by reading the previews of each stage, I can attempt to ascertain when I need to start watching the TV (or at least find out when the cameras will be rolling).

Second, I can refer back to the previews whilst watching the stage to see, for instance, which climb is coming up next or how much further a breakaway rider needs to hold on to win the stage.

Even a little background information helps you understand the ‘story’ behind the race (for yes, each TdF is in fact a rich narrative of plots and sub-plots, heroes, villains and self-styled plucky underdogs). It also means you don’t have to rely on the sometimes inane commentary provided by Liggett and Sherwin.

Enough guff. The websites I recommend for previews and analysis are The Inner Ring (I’ve linked to the main site above; here is this year’s tour guide) and C-Cycling. Both are excellent. At times of the year when two major stage races overlap, the two sites cooperate, with each providing previews for one of the races and then sharing them on the other’s site. (e.g. Inner Ring’s Critérium du Dauphiné posts also went up on C-Cycling, whilst the latter’s Tour de Suisse articles went back the other way).

If You Can’t Watch It On TV

Irrational as this sounds, sometimes my family will not allow me to enjoy 21 days in July watching 3-4 hours of cycling (for Merckx sake, I give them two rest days!). Sometimes, therefore, I need to find alternative ways to keep abreast of the Tour, aside from the TV.

When I was working, I was a big fan of ‘watching’ cricket on Guardian Over-by-Over (essentially, someone at the Guardian website watches it and then types about what is happening). You can do the same for the Tour – in fact I’m pretty sure the Guardian does an ‘Over-by-Over’ for the Tour, whilst there is also the official Tour website, as well as other dedicated cycling websites.

Instead of those sources though, I use my Twitter feed for real-time race updates. Rather than being reliant on the views of one person, Twitter allows you to have a number of well-informed commentators making interesting observations, jokes (ok, pithy remarks) and finding riders to either deify (Taylor Phinney, after his doomed yet magnificent solo ride to avoid the cut-off at Tirreno-Adriatico) or demonise (Peter Sagan, for podium bottom pinching).

My top Twitter cycling commentators are José Been (@TourDeJose), Panache (@Kiss_My_Panache) and SuzeCY (@FestinaGirl), along with the feeds for The Inner Ring (@inrng) and C-Cycling (@mrconde). Reading them in real-time, competing to be the first to announce the winner of a stage is almost as exciting as watching the race live on TV (almost…).

The Rider’s Perspective

Traditionally, a rider tended only to reveal raw emotion when caught by a roving TV reporter at the finishing line. Now, with Twitter rife in the pro peleton, any lunatic rider can broadcast publicly their immediate, often uncensored, reactions to the day’s events. Or, if they’re Italian, talk codshit to strangers.

You’re best bet for adding a roster of riders to your Twitter feed is to start with one or two (take your pick: David Millar, Mark Cavendish, Dan Martin) and then look at who they’re following. Riders are an incestuous bunch. Oh yeah, and follow Jens Voigt.

If you were thinking of following the official team feeds, I wouldn’t. They’re tedious and have a (perhaps understandable) tendency to tell the story only from the perspective of their own riders, even if it makes them sound ridiculous.

If you do feel that you want a team perspective, then Jonathan Vaughters, manager of Team Garmin-Sharp, offers refreshingly honest opinions on the whole gamut of pro-cycling topics.

Girls Just Ventoux Have Fun

A thousand apologies.

Despite possessing a French cyclist whose career is based on the ability to gurn solidly for 150 kilometres, an old man dressed in a skintight devil’s outfit, and a promotional caravan with motorised teddy bears and laugh vaches, the Tour (and the world of professional cycling) sometimes has the temerity to take itself seriously.

So, for a lighter-hearted, and well-written, alternative take on the day’s action, I like to read Tour de France On TV.

In the Twittersphere, UK Cycling Expert popped up during this year’s Giro with a series of ‘wrong end of the stick’ tweets that sucked in a lot of people before realising that it was a spoof account:

The speed at which the Expert built a large following, including some famous cyclists, speaks to how well he or she crafted their tweets. I’m very much hoping that the Expert returns to provide his unique take on the Tour.

La Flamme Rouge

So that’s how I use the t’internet to maximise my enjoyment of the Tour (and indeed every other race on the calendar).

How about you? Is there a blogger or a twitterer that I’ve missed and you want to share with the masses limited readership of my blog? Let me know in the comments section below.

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