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.


Bicycling Staff |

Here’s why this is the year you need to let this amazing spectacle take over 3 weeks of your life. – By Bicycling Staff

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The Tour is back to delight and distract the crap out of you! Visit our Tour de France headquarters for daily stage recaps, photos and videos of each team’s most cutting-edge new gear, route info, and historical perspectives from our in-house Tour geeks.
Chris-Froome-2016-Tour-de-France

#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

Tour de France Taylor Phinney

#2: Because Taylor Phinney Thinks You Should Watch

I have really fond memories of chasing the race with my dad [two-time stage winner, Davis Phinney] when I was a teenager. I rode a lot of the climbs before the race came through and felt the energy of all the people partying on the side of the road. I was like, ‘This is sick! I definitely want to do this!’ And I always loved watching it in the USA—having it playing in the background in the mornings. It’s three weeks of inspiration. Watch us destroy ourselves. Then go out and have fun on your bike. —Pro racer Taylor Phinney of Cannondale-Drapac, as told to Whit Yost 
Tour de France Tony Martin
#3: Tony Martin’s Suffer Face

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

Tour de France Fans
#4: TFW Your Noncycling Friends Actually Give a $%#! About Cycling

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

Tour de France Peter Sagan
#5–11: Peter Sagan, EFF Yeah.

*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

Tour de France in Pajamas
12: You Can Watch It While Eating Dinner
Tour de France stages are carefully scheduled to finish around dinnertime – in France. With South Africa being on a similar time zone, we get to enjoy the final action-packed kilometres after a long day at work. The bonus? Eating supper and watching it with the whole family. – Aaron Borrill
Tour de France Colombian Climbers
#13: The Colombian Climbers
Colombians live and train in mountains way higher than those in the Tour, so look for a new generation of climbers (including newcomers Esteban Chaves of Orica-Scott and Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana) to join Nairo Quintana in making life hell for Chris Froome and Team Sky in the mountains. —W.Y.
Taylor Phinney time trial
#14: Taylor Phinney’s First Tour
Cannondale fans should have a reason to tune in early—Taylor Phinney had a phenomenal second stage. He was in the breakaway for most of the day, only getting caught in the final kilometre and secured the King of the Mountains jersey for his efforts. —W.Y and A.B.
Tour de France Underdogs
#15: The Underdogs

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

Tour de France Grand Depart
#16: A German Grand Depart
You can break out the German beer for the first Grand Départ from Germany since 1987. Try a Rothaus Pils, a light, refreshing lager that goes down as smooth and as fast as Tony Martin riding a 14km TT. Drink it like a local: Make sure all the gold wrapping is removed before sipping. —Hannah Troop 
Tour de France Roadside Fans
#17: So Many Amazing Roadside Weirdos
No sporting event gives fans in-person access like the Tour de France. Some spectators have become institutions—painted tridents on the roadway portend the appearance of Didi Senft, a white-haired German who  haunts riders in his devil suit (he’s semi-retired now). Also keep an eye out for the giant bicycles formed by people sprawled out in fields. And while it won’t feature in this year’s event, no crowd can top Alpe d’Huez’s Dutch Corner, the hard-partying seventh turn where everyone—even some racers—seems to emerge holding a cup of beer. —C.C.
Tour de France Sausage Truck
#18: This Actual German Saying
Whip this out during Stage One: “Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei,” or, “Everything has an end, only a sausage has two.” —H.T.
Tour de France Terminology
#19: You’ll Learn to Speak the Lingo
By following the Tour, you’ll get a three-week crash course in the countless obscure references in cycling, like the term “sticky bottle”—riders getting a tow by holding on to the bottles from team cars for far longer than is necessary; or podium shoes—replicas of cycling shoes from sponsors, with flat, walkable rubber soles. —Klaus Bellon
Tour de France Nairo Quintana
#20: You Could Witness a First in TdF History
Nairo Quintana, 27, of Movistar has a real shot at being the first Colombian to ride into Paris wearing yellow—if he can recover from the Giro in time, and find enough climbs to gain an advantage over Chris Froome’s time trial abilities and Alberto Contador’s deep well of experience. Quintana’s physical abilities and calculating demeanour were proven by victories like the 2014 Giro d’Italia where he fearlessly attacked, and stayed away, on a snowy descent. —K.B.
Tour de France Twitter#21: The Tweetstorm

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)

Biggest Tour de France Surprises
#22: You Just Never Know What’s Gonna Happen

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.

Tour de France Mark Cavendish
#23: A Record for Cav?

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.

Tour de France Stage 20
#24: The Final Time Trial
The Tour’s penultimate stage, a 23km individual time trial, takes place in downtown Marseilles, which means you have a good excuse to make your own bouillabaisse, a traditional fish stew from the region. —W.Y.
Tour de France Thomas Voeckler
#25: The End of an Era
It’s your last chance to see Thomas Voeckler’s tongue—the Frenchman is retiring at the end of the Tour. —W.Y.
Tour de France Weird Rules
#26–32: Weird Rules

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.

Tour de France Mountains
#33: All of the Mountains. All of Them.
You’ll reconsider the idea of “tough” on your next climbing fest. For the first time in 25 years, the route will cross all five French mountain ranges—the Vosges, the Jura, the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, and the Alps—featuring climbs like La Planche de Belles Filles, which has sections that reach 20 percent. —A.L.
Tour de France Breakaways
#34: Breakaways!
Exciting to watch, a breakaway is a gamble that rarely succeeds. A motivated peloton can reel in a tiring breakaway’s lead at a rate of 1 minute per 10km. But when breaks do work, they often produce surprise winners. For many riders, that one Tour stage victory is enough to make their careers. It’s inspiring to watch racers from rival teams work together to flip the script. “It comes down to guts,” says Cannondale-Drapac’s Alex Howes. “Every rider in a breakaway has to say, ‘Fuck it. I know this isn’t supposed to work, but I’m going for it!’” —W.Y.
Tour de France La Course
#35: La Course Hits the Mountains
The first La Course women’s race at the Tour was a multi-lap race around the Champs-Élysées in 2014—exciting, but fans and riders wanted more. This year, La Course will be 67.5km and finish at the top of the Col d’Izoard on the same day as Stage 18. There will also be a pursuit-style stage two days later in Marseille: The winner from the Col d’Izoard sets off first, then those who finished within five minutes (or the next 19 riders) follow in increments based upon finish times. The first to cross the finish line wins. This format is unusual, and 67.5km feels very short for a UCI women’s race. Still, you have two chances to watch women’s racing at the Tour—and a finish on a legendary climb. —H.T.
Tour de France Marcel Kittel
#36: Marcel Kittel’s Fabulously Gel-Sculpted, Blonde Hair
It seems completely unaffected by a day in the helmet. —J.S.
Tour de France Alex Howes
#37: It’s the Greatest Test of Cycling Ability on This Planet
The first question people ask when they find out I race bikes is, “Have you ever done that Tour de France thing?” If the answer was no, I’d be no different than their friend’s weird uncle who did a sprint triathlon three years ago. The racing is full gas every day. In my first Tour I watched five of my teammates break down and cry. These were grown-ass men. Hard men who had made careers out of their ability to suffer and endure. I love the Tour. It has made me a better person. —Pro racer Alex Howes, as told to Whit Yost
Peter-Sagan-2016-Tour-de-France
#38: We’ve Got Your Ultimate TdF Resource

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.

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