Every year beginning in early July, the great three week long bicycle race, the Tour de France is televised and I watch. Of course I marvel at the physical condition and endurance of the cyclists. They pedal continuously for hours a day at speeds ranging from 10 mph whilst ascending inclines of 10% or more, to speeds of 50 miles an hour and above as they soar downhill or sprint to the finish line. The incredible explosions towards the finish by the sprinters is breathtaking. As a dyed in the wine couch potato I simply cannot fathom how these young men do what they do. However, the real attraction for me is the scenery. The two fellows who have been broadcasting this event for years, have info about the various scenes appearing during the race, usually shown from a helicopter. They’ll tell the age of a church or cathedral, how long it was a building, the history of a castle, plenty of those in this year’s Pyrenees Mountain stage, and they’ll point out Château to whose owners they’ve spoken and who just might be the 15th generation occupants.
This year’s race covered a 1,464 mile circuit through various parts of France. The villages are delightful to see. As well, wineries, Château, farms, mountains, castles, canyons and the fields in impressionist colours, provide unforgettable scenes from this endlessly fascinating country. This year, the tour spent one day in the westen Ardeche, immediately beyond the Rhone River and its Chateauneuf du Pape vineyards among others. Below is a Chateau with eight cylindrical towers, one of the national treasures of France.
Every year the race ends in Paris on the Champs-Élysées route. The riders ride now a total of 8 laps (up towards the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Élysées, round les Tuileries and the Louvre and across the Place de la Concorde back to the Champs-Élysées.) This is a rather slippery spoke as a great part of the route is on cobblestones. Usually the leader of the race is protected by his teammates and they are buried in the midst of the peleton, the majority of racers whose job it is to support and protect their star mountain climbers, sprinters, time trial specialists and road racers. A disaster can occur if any cyclist in the peleton loses his concentration for just a moment and crashes, particularly in front of the leader, thus making the efforts of three weeks come to naught. Around and around they go. And finally, if all goes as the teams planned, there is a winner, sometimes by just a minute or two.
To watch the tour live, you’ll need to have cable and rise very early in the morning. If that’s beyond the pale, there is an 8 PM summary. Monday’s are rest days.