It’s the time of year when Mr Perfect, and if I’m being honest me too, become armchair experts on pelotons, breakaways, race team tactics and cycling in general. We know how much time there is between the GC leaders and who needs to win extra points to snaffle the green jersey. We go to bed way too late, and we wonder why we’re sooo tired in the morning. It’s Le Tour de France time, and we are addicted.
There is nothing like a large sporting event to get the armchair experts out, and Le Tour is one of my favourites. Not only do you get to learn about the technicalities and nuances that make road cycling such addictive TV viewing, but you also get a fantastic tour of the french countryside. For a landscape junkie, this sporting event is paradise!
Let me just set the record straight here. Yes, Mr Perfect and I do own bikes. No, they haven’t been ridden for a very long time – I checked them today, and the tyres are very very flat. I would not describe us as any form of cycling enthusiasts, not even cycling dabblers. But we do love Le Tour – I think it is the appreciation of people doing something at the very peak of their ability. Mr Pefect has the i-phone app, and I’ve “liked” Le Tour on Facebook. We love Le Tour so much that Mr Perfect added Cadel to the possible list of names in case The Drama Queen had been born a boy. I think for me, it is the armchair tour of the French countryside that I love the most.
I have been to France, though most of my travel within the country was on train, and at night, so the most I saw of the rural landscape was when we walked from Villers Brettenoux out to the Australian War Memorial, and while it was beautiful, the day was really hot and I didn’t appreciate it quite as much as I should have. Paris, on the other hand, was appreciated to the maximum. We spent days just walking, exploring, and immersing ourselves in the cultural delight that is Paris.
I have always wanted to return to France and explore Provence, Brittany, The Pyrenees, The Alps and oh, the Riviera… Le Tour gives us an annual trip to the French countryside without even having to leave the cosy confines of the couch. Yes, I know, we don’t feel the sun on our backs, or in the case of this year, the rain on our face. We can’t smell the flowers, and even worse we can’t taste the culinary delights that are so abundant in the French culture. Yes, I would much prefer to be there, but without the means to jump on that plane, the annual armchair trip will have to do.
As we are on the other side of the world to Le Tour, our telecast starts at 10pm, after the munchkins are in bed. We can wrap ourselves in a blanket with a glass of wine and a block of chocolate, and travel along with the peloton as it speeds its way through France, and as the temperature drops on our chilly winter night, we can pretend we’re enjoying a European summer.
The overhead footage is stunning as the cyclists pass chateaus, farms, small villages and towns. I have seen some spectacularly intricate parterre and knot gardens, fantastic forests and rolling fields of sunflowers. The picturesque villages and historic chateaus are an architectural delight. And the breath taking scenery as the race hits the mountains stages of the Pyrenees and the Alps is awe inspiring.
And then to top it all off, who can’t love a race that finishes, after 30 days, with a sprint up the Champs Elysee?
There is a strong contingent from down under to cheer for, with a real hope in Cadel Evans. Can he finally break through and be the first Aussie to take out Le Tour. He’s worn the yellow jersey, won stages, but can he win in Paris? There are the heroes and the villains, the spectacular sprints and the gut wrenching crashes. As far as armchair sport goes, Le Tour has ticked a lot of boxes.
It’s nearly 10pm, time to crack open a bottle of red, peel open the chocolate and go get me some of that French landscape inspiration!