Sunday, July 09, 2006

Le Tour de France

Pro-Cycling has just started to get its fan following in India over the past 2-3 years. The "Tour-de-France" is the most celebrated annual event of cycling. There is more to the tour than Lance Armstrong. For those who do not know about it, this is their website.

In short:

  • Happens every year in the month of July (usually July 2nd to 23rd)
  • Approximately 180 riders of 20+ teams race for 3 weeks across France for the ultimate glory. There are only 2 rest days. This year, FIFA WC '06 final has eaten away one of the rest days.
  • Teams are not national... but based on sponsors. Just like F1.
  • Each day the riders cover approximately 200 Kms in about 5 hours. Yes, go back and read it again - no typo there.
  • To suite riders of various abilities, 5 competitions go in parallel
    • Overall timing : Yellow jersey
    • Best Climber: Polka dotted pink jersey
    • Best Sprinter: Green jersey
    • Best Young Rider (Overall timing + age limit): white jersey
    • Most aggressive rider (subjective. judge's decision) : red number plate.

The race can be split into three terrains. The flat section, The Pyrenees and the Alps: Initial days of the tour will usually be flat. Not much climbing. These stages (a day on the tour is called a "stage") are usually flat and in excess of 220 Kms. Usually the sprinters get their way in these sections. The Pyrenees and the Alps involve lot of climbing... this section is what separates the men from the boys. By the end of these stages, we usually have a clear winner and that guy has to just finish carefully in the rest of the stages to defend his Yellow jersey until Paris.

Paris is where the tour ends.

What do I get by following this Sport?

1. Inspiration: A test of endurance... like no other sport. Mountaineering comes close. But not quite.

2. Sight seeing: Yes, you get to see the French Country side without any tour guide (unlike the Discovery travel channel)

3. Dream: It is hard to imagine anybody who watches it continuously for 2 years not wanting to do it themselves... Believe me it is doable.

4. Sportsmanship: I follow cricket quite religiously and I did follow this years FIFA WC '06. There is always (some times more glaring than other times) some gamesmanship involved in those sports. Not here. You can only find instances of sportsmanship of the highest order displayed on the tour.

So, go home and watch it.