Jun 30, 2017

VIVE LE TOUR

  • Vive Le Tour

Cyclists are often a passionate group of people, we’re right about everything and wrong about it at the same time. But we’re vehemently sure about those opinions. Whilst we argue day to day about the best cleats, ride etiquette and whether or not Froome is terrible there is one event that divides us for only three weeks every year. A chasm wide enough to house a Grand Départ and deep enough to fit a million Carrefour casquettes. The Tour. Cycling’s main event. For 21 days in July many of us revel whilst a similar number revolt. Nowhere is that more true than here at Chapeau. Below we give you the case for the defence, and you’ll find the counter argument here. Read on, take sides, take up arms and fight your corner!

The iconic yellow jersey, the theme tune, Gary Imlach’s unlikely tiny eyes and Chris Boardman’s deadpan excitement.

— VIVE LE TOUR

For most of the year people think we’re a bit weird, rolling around in lycra in all weathers getting excited about cobbles and rainbow stripes. But as the summer arrives and the sun hangs around a little longer, the yellow glow of the Tour warms a wider audience. Everyone knows the Tour de France, it’s the unifying race of the calendar. Just like every household has at least one NOW album tucked away, everyone knows about the yellow jersey.

There are few sporting events that spread further than their specific audience. The Super Bowl, The World Cup, Wimbledon, the Tour de France — these are some of the world’s most famous occasions. Non-tennis fans will eat strawberries and shout “go on Andy” at the telly, Brits will pledge temporary allegiance to an American Football team and once a year your Grannie can hum the ITV4 Tour theme tune.

When it sometimes feels like the whole country is against cycling and cyclists it’s a joy to feel a collective interest spread. It helps that British riders enjoy more success these days than in the past, but our love affair with the Tour is longer standing than Team Sky. Right back to the 60s the involvement of Tom Simpson, Barry Hoban and Vin Denson had little kids pretending to be yellow jersey wearers on over-sized hand-me-down bikes.

In 1974 saw the Tour’s first visit to Britain, thanks largely to a desire to promote Brittany artichokes and the Roscoff-Plymouth ferry. Despite little consideration being given to the viewing spectacle, crowds turned out to catch sight of Eddy Merckx, Raymond Poulidor and our own Barry Hoban hurtling along the Plymouth bypass. There must have been hundreds of acres of denim in the shape of bell bottom flares up and down that stretch of inhospitable motorway.

Fast forward 20 years and by 1994 Ditchling Beacon was a sea of spectators cheering the peloton into Brighton. Our love affair with the Tour was lit up. Tiny Sussex villages bedecked in yellow bunting, welcomed the crazy caravane with it’s exotic freebies and beeping air horns, whipping the villagers into excited frenzy before the colourful peloton sped through. A World Cup doesn’t bring families together for sunny picnics, the Ashes doesn’t draw patient crowds to beer gardens. You can’t watch Andy Murray win Wimbledon on centre court for nothing, but you can see the greats of cycling from the comfort of your favourite pub. Or your front garden.

The hipsters among us will champion the Ardennes Classics as the best races. They’ll try to convince you that Het Nieuwsbald with it’s drizzle and crosswinds is the best race of the year. They may say the Vuelta is their favourite Grand Tour and that Team Sky make everything dull these days. Don’t believe them. They love the Tour too. That iconic yellow jersey, that theme tune, Gary Imlach’s unlikely tiny eyes and Chris Boardman’s deadpan excitement. The disappointment of the first rest day, the sight of giant bike sculptures made out of hay bails. It’s impossible to put into words, it just makes you happy.

We start eating baguettes every day, and trying different cheeses. The Tour is the Summer. If it’s raining here it’s probably baking hot in Pau, you live vicariously through the crowds shouting “allez, allez”, you learn the names of domestiques from 3rd division teams with interesting kits. It’s a three week holiday, a three week party. You wonder how you live without it for 49 weeks.

I can’t wait until we all get gripped by yellow (jersey) fever. I’m relishing my local café rewording their menu with cycling related puns and asking me if i think Laura Trott will win it again. Don’t hide your cycling light under a bushel, share the love with non-cyclists as they join us in the greatest sport of them all.

Allez, Allez!! Vive Le Tour!