Watching the Tour de France

July 07, 2004

I can't get enough of the Tour de France on TV. I've been watching the tour since all we got was a half-hour highlight show in the evening. Now, OLN shows us every grueling minute three times a day, so if I make the slightest effort to watch, I can catch the stage. This year, TIVO makes it all the more viewable, since I can skip the commercials and start the viewing when I'm ready for it.

I appreciate OLN's coverage, but the announcers assume that their viewers are absolute experts on bicycle racing. Like I mentioned, I've been watching for years, and this is the first year where I really feel like I know what's going on. They assume that you remember from minute to minute or broadcast to broadcast which riders are on which teams, and they assume that you know the names of the top dogs on each team too.


The stage two finish, pictured just to add a little color.

They stick to the action - even though the action looks a lot alike from day to day. That isn't a complaint. No time gets wasted with Olympic-style profiles. (Those things almost make me dread the doggone Olympics, but I guess I'll have the opportunity to complain about that next month. But while I've already digressed, is there any more compelling story than the fact that all of the Olympic venues might not be ready? That's a pretty serious embarrassment looming for Greece.)

The few segments that they do interrupt the race to show talk about the technology. For example, US Postal is riding bicycles whose frames weigh two pounds.

The nature of bicycle racing makes it difficult to televise. Since the action happens over a hundred miles in a given day, the announcers just see what we see on the screen. Often, this is a bouncy picture shot from a guy on a motorcycle. At least one cameraman likes to show close ups of a wheel passing over a road. They also like good, close shots of injuries, which tend to be bloody. The drawback is that sometimes, an important thing happens, but there don't happen to be cameras in the area at the time. We're treated to pictures of people picking themselves up out of a pile and brushing themselves off, without having gotten to see the wreck that put them in that place.

If you haven't started watching yet, the best stages are yet to come. I like when they have to ride 120 miles per day, and have to do it through huge, steep mountains. And the time trial at Alpe D'Huez on the 19th should be fun. Riders will have to push individually up a steep, zigzag alpine road. This road has been used as a brutal stage before, but this will be the first time that I've seen it used for a time trial.

I know that most of you could care less about this topic, so thanks for sticking with me to the end of the article.