Friday, July 12, 2013

Le Tour de France

Each year we watch Le Tour de France as the bicyclists pedal their way around France—and sometimes a neighboring country at the beginning of the race.  This year, Le Tour started in Corsica. I know, I know.  That’s France.  But the Corsicans don’t always consider themselves French, or so I’ve heard.  I imagine the Tourist Board of Corsica is over the moon about those three days.  Corsica’s obscurity is doubtless changing.   We caught a glimpse of stunning country—craggy peaks, steep slopes, an improbably perched village at the edge of the sea.  It was very dramatic and new to us. 

We watch Le Tour for two reasons.  First, it’s an extraordinary physical accomplishment for the cyclists.  Over two thousand miles around the country on plains, mountains, curves, villages and finally, the Champs-Élysées in Paris.  The photography is first-rate.  The camera-equipped helicopters are French, but the video is shared with other stations, including the station we watch.  And since we watch French television on cable, we have the benefit of both the full footage made available there and the more edited footage on NBC Sports Network. 

NBC Sports photo with chateau in background
We’ve been watching for many years and listening to the outstanding commentators—Phil Liggett (former amateur cyclist), Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll (both former professional cyclists), all three first-rate and experienced bicycle experts.  I’m not much for sport commentating (except for ice skating because I grew up skating myself), but these fellows are entertaining, informative, interesting and challenging.

Phil and I have our favorites.  Since Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, I’ve moved my loyalty toward Mark Cavendish, cyclist from the Isle of Man.  I used to support the Spanish rider, Alberto Contador, but once Armstrong faltered, it was clear he wasn’t alone. 

We look forward all year to Le Tour and welcome the three-week distraction.  If you have any interest in scenes of France, you might want to check out Le Tour. 

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