As cycling fans, these are the only three weeks of the year where our beloved sport makes the mainstream headlines, the front page spreads, and the morning news. We wait for the month of July all year round, biding our time before we can start spewing all of our cycling jargon to anyone close enough to listen.
It’s very easy to get carried away, however, over-indulging in hours upon hours of TV coverage as the soothing voice of Sean Kelly and excitable vernacular of Carlton Kirby whisk you away into Tour de France dreamland. You begin salivating at the thought of a De Gendt-led breakaway, shaking as Jonathan Edwards draws the daily viewing to a close, even humming the melodic Tour de France theme tune as you sleep.
If you’re displaying any one of these symptoms, you may have become what’s known as a Tour addict. Here some other helpful signs to aid in your self-diagnosis…
As the Tour goes on and Velon releases more and more of their rider statistics, you become awash with knowledge, entering the cycling matrix. You can recite Chris Froome’s FTP in a heartbeat, the Gorilla-like watts of Andre Greipel in a bunch sprint, even the lengths of Tom Dumoulin’s socks.
By the time the race reaches the mountains, your brain has become something not too dissimilar to an Excel spreadsheet. You’re asked who you think may win the race, pause for a moment and then proceed to simulate the thousands of possibilities on your own cycling supercomputer.
Watching the pros for hours on end can teach you a lot about cycling, some good, but a lot bad. Learning all the different hand gestures and instructions is an enjoyable task and can really improve your own riding experience, especially when out with a group.
However, there are quite a few nasty habits we can pick up from the pros, especially with regards to their aimless disposal of empty water bottles. The average team takes 3,000 bottles to the Tour de France – we’d be lucky to own anything from three to four. Try to avoid lobbing your empty bidons at unsuspecting school kids, they’re not the adoring fans you see on TV and will certainly not be averse to chucking one right back at you.
Many fans, even the commentators themselves, struggle to distinguish between riders of the same team, often having to resort to scouring the start list to cross-match the numbers on their jerseys. This is no problem for you, however, the muscle definition, length, and distribution of pulsing veins on a rider’s legs enough for you to identify them as they ping off the front of the peloton.
‘Who’s that rider chasing down the break?’ ‘It’s Pawel Poljanski of course.’ ‘How on earth do you know that?’ ‘Just look at all that piping, you’d easily mistake it for a Gaudi mosaic.’
During the three weeks Tour de France fever period, the road rides step up a notch, more miles, more climbs and, most importantly, more town sign sprints. You race for these like you’re snaffling points in the green jersey classification, donning your finest verdant Lycra to let your cycling buddies know who’s boss.
However, you don’t quite possess the fitness and strength as your professional heroes, having to resort to foul play in order to make sure you cross those town sign sprints first every time. A little air out of your buddy’s tyre here, a flick of the brake blocks there – nothing will get in the way of you and that imaginary podium in fantasy Paris.
Your two weeks deep, 15 long arduous stages in and you’ve now resorted to calling the commentators – and even some riders – by their first name. ‘Wow, Gary has really missed the mark with that shirt, where’s the polo?’ ‘Did you hear David before, he said Chris just needs to bide his time tomorrow.’
We’re all guilty of a few of these, the social media platform giving us way too much space in which to voice some of our most unpopular opinions. In the heat of the moment we say a lot of things we’re not proud of, sometimes even offending those riders we’re moaning about.
But come on, do we really think Tweeting, ‘Oi Froomey, Nibali is on the floor wait up!’ is really going to stop the five-time Tour champ from attacking at each and every available opportunity? Yes? Well then, let me just get Nicolas Portal on the blower…
A position many of us dream to be in, all the action and allure of professional road cycling without the need to even turn a pedal. We sit on our sofas, watching on as our favourite team consistently fail to implement the plan we discussed on the toilet this morning.
‘Romain, what are you doing? I told you and Pierre to attack on the Cat 2, not the Cat 1!’ ‘I cannot believe this, we’d be in yellow, green and polka-dots if you guys just listened to me!’
Are you guilty of any of these actions? Then you may just be addicted to the Tour de France. We promise things do get better, soon the race will be over and our sanity will return. Well until the end of August of course, that’s when we contract the Vuelta fever – cycling’s equivalent to Spanish flu.