#1: A Tough Course for Froome
With shorter stages, fewer summit finishes, and two short time trials, it will be harder for Chris Froome to dominate the race from start to finish, so this year’s Tour could be the most unpredictable (and therefore most exciting) we’ve seen in years. – Whit Yost
38 Reasons to Go Ga-Ga for the Tour De France
Here’s why this is the year you need to let this amazing spectacle take over 3 weeks of your life. – By Bicycling Staff
#1: A Tough Course for Froome
#2: Because Taylor Phinney Thinks You Should Watch
World time trial (TT) champion Tony Martin has the best suffer face ever. You’ll frequently see him on the front of the field, mouth wide-open, legs churning with mesmerising precision, chasing down breakaways for his team, Katusha-Alpecin. —Jen See
I only go to Super Bowl parties for the homemade guac. Bike racing is what fires me up. But when I talk about it to my noncycling friends, their eyes glaze over. Except in July: For 23 glorious days, mainstream sports fans get into the Tour. It’s an opportunity to hook others on bike racing, luring them with promises of postcard scenery and displays of superhuman strength. —Addie Levinsky
*Because, mad bike-handling skills. (He’s a former mountain bike racer.) Ever see someone wheelie—no-handed—while climbing Alpe d’Huez? That’s exactly what Sagan did, in 2013! He also once put his road bike on the roof rack of a Citroën—by riding up and over the hood of the car.
*He shrugs off stuffy rules and convention, daring, for example, to show up for a stage of the 2016 Tour de San Luis with—gasp!—hairy legs.
*He can make anything look cool, even double-fisting gummy bears while totally cracked post-race.
* His race interviews are priceless. You never know what he’s going to say—only that at least part of it will be deadpan funny.
*There are no Tumblrs of this guy staring at his stem, racing by the watts. He is 100 percent unpredictable. While best known for racking up W’s in bar-bumping sprints, he also holds his own up monstrous climbs like Mount Baldy to win the 2015 Tour of California; and on the cobbles, as he did when he won the 2016 Tour of Flanders.
*His YouTube channel is a treasure trove of entertainment, like a video of Sagan and his wife, Katarina Smolkova, staging an elaborate lip synching cover of “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease, and instructional cooking shorts on exotic dishes (steamed sea bass with topinambur and goji berries, anyone?).
*When it comes to fans, he’s a softie who once said, “If somebody disturbs me about a selfie, it’s no problem. The most important thing is making other people happy. Because it’s a bad world, no?” No it’s not. Not so long as you’re in it, Peter. —Selene Yeager
Keep an eye on this year’s Stage 19. Just after the last mountain day, with the final TT and sprint in Paris on the horizon, the top names will have bigger goals in mind, allowing others a chance for a surprise win. —Cosmo Catalano
How can you party for three weeks with thousands of fellow cycling fanatics from all over the world, without ever having to leave your house, wear pants, or actually speak to anyone? Right: Twitter. On Twitter, you can engage with pro riders, team directors, journalists, cycling brands, and other bike nerds as the race unfolds. In fact, by following the right accounts and hashtags (#TdF2017), you can substitute Twitter for the audio stream of the race and probably come away better informed—and certainly more entertained. Here’s who to follow:
Cycling media. Yeah, yeah, follow all of the cycling publications, but head to the individual race reporters’ accounts for more free-flowing observations.
Mainstream media. It’s essential for democracy, but not that great at le Tour. @jasongay of The Wall Street Journal and @PFlax1 of the Hollywood Reporter are noteworthy exceptions.
Tech nerds. Wish you could ask @Keith_Bontrager about the wheels Alberto Contador is riding? Well, go ahead, ask him. Also follow Bicycling’s gear guru Matt Phillips (@ilikesushi) for sneak peeks of new bikes and gear used in the Tour.
Twitterati. These accounts deliver a good combination of cycling knowledge, tweet frequency, and unique point of view. @LesVachesduTour: Just like the name says. Moo.
@NYVelocity: The New York Times recognised this blog for its role in taking down Lance Armstrong. Now it’s mostly about roadside tractors and other Tour de France agri-fandom. Sometimes witty commentary. @TourDeCouch: Organizer of the TdF poetry contest. Just compose a one-tweet poem capturing the essence of the day’s stage and tag it #TdF133.
@LesKnits: Offers slightly snarky but usually heartfelt commentary. @IamJenSee: Scours start times and course profiles to tell you when to begin watching. @cyclingfans: Daily links to all online Tour de France broadcasts. Update your anti-virus software—you may click through dubious pop-ups to get to the race coverage. @TheRaceRadio: Always a deeper look at everything cycling. @JoeParkin: As a former pro, he knows a thing or two about Euro road racing. @VeloClinic: Tries to balance cycling science and reality.
The Outcasts. Doubt their integrity, but not their knowledge. These guys have little reason not to say it how it is. Except when they’d rather say how they wish it was. Or whatever. @LanceArmstrong, @JohanBruyneel, @JoePaBike, @MRasmussen1974
The (current) Chosen One. @ChrisFroome. Because you’re not even a part of cycling Twitter until you’re #BlockedByFroome. —Jasen Thorpe (can be blocked/muted @JasenThorpe)
On the crowd-choked final climb up Mont Ventoux on Stage 12 of the 2016 Tour, Chris Froome got sandwiched between two race motorcycles, breaking his bike. With no teammate nearby to lend him another, and his team car still struggling to get through the throngs, Froome—carbon soles, cleats and all—began running up the mountain.
Less than a week before Froome’s impromptu jog, a two-story inflatable arch spanning the roadway collapsed, coming down on Brit Adam Yates’s front wheel like a guillotine. It catapulted him over the bar, and left the 190 riders behind him flailing through swathes of deflated, polyurethane-coated fabric.
No one claims that every second of the Tour is riveting, but the sheer scale of the event means not a single moment passes without the potential for unprecedented chaos. And when that chaos does strike, you can be part of the millions watching live, sharing the exhilaration of having absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next. —C.C.
If Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) can bounce back from his early-season illness, make it to the Tour, and win four stages again like he did last year, he’ll be tied with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx for the most TdF stage wins. —W.Y.
The Tour is where we see cycling’s oldest traditions on display. Look for the peloton to follow these unwritten rules about when you can and can’t attack.
*If the majority of the peloton is on the side of the road answering nature’s call, attacking is a big no-no.
*No attacking in a feed zone. The consequences for doing so? The next time the offending team’s riders stop for a bathroom break, the peloton will purposefully up the pace. (Team Sky learned this the hard way at the 2010 Tour.)*If the leader has a mechanical or some other unusual mishap, his adversaries should ease up. At the 2003 Tour, Jan Ulrich waited for Lance Armstrong after the American’s handlebar got caught in a fan’s bag.
*If the race is set to pass through a rider’s hometown during a slow portion of a stage, he’s allowed to ride in front of the pack with enough time to greet his friends and family. To use that advantage to go on a breakaway would earn the sustained ire of every rider in the race.
*If the riders deem race conditions to be unsafe, they can decide as a whole not to contest a stage, such as on Stage 2 of the 2010 Tour when wet and slippery conditions led race leader Fabian Cancellara to declare that the peloton would not sprint for second place behind French rider Sylvain Chavanel.
*Despite what the rulebook says, riders who have been dropped can use team cars (even those from other teams) to pace back up to the peloton, so long as it’s not during a crucial part of the stage.
*Riders fighting for the yellow jersey won’t attack each other on the last day. Paris is essentially a victory lap for the rider in yellow. —K.B.
Can’t get enough of Le Tour? Check back for daily stage reports, speculate with us on who’s going to win, and relive any drama you may have missed.