Of course in New Zealand we are talking about TV coverage. On the road sides of France during those days 12 to 15 million people will wait for an average of 6 hours to see the peleton flash past in just a few short minutes!
The caravan of support people is the biggest circus in the world. Media alone comprises of 102 TV channels and 450 newspapers representing 25 countries.
This is a BIG deal and it all started 106 years ago.
Road cycle racing is viewed by many as some kind of boring sport and in NZ cyclists tend to be more a target of contempt than any sort of respect especially when encounted on the road!
Its fair to say its not a great spectator sport but TV has changed all this. Stars like Lance Armstrong caught the attention of the world press and brought this traditionally European sport to the attention of America and with it a better profile in our part of the world.
The racing itself is more about sickness and suffering than it is about health! These guys are always right on the edge of ill health as the training and racing are so demanding and body weight levels have to be kept down...way down.
I mean imagine just the race alone where you ride for 200K's every day with an average speed well in excess of 40km/hr. Not to mention the rigorous training programs. Now go and get out your old 10 speed and try doing even 30k/hr for 10 minutes. That's a small taste.
One of the reasons the sport is seen by the public as being a little boring is that its so hard for a spectator to understand whats going on at any one time. There is a lot going on and its not just about the guy sitting on the front of the pack or out there all alone in front. In fact many times these are the very people who are being sacrificed for team tactics and you may never see these people win a race. There are many races going on within a cycle race.
Technology is another cool thing about the tour of France. This is the furnace of testing. Lots of new gear is trialed and while failure is a high risk, success of components that have withstood this ultimate thrashing has untold marketing value. So we look for all the new goodies.
This year we will see new technologies in frames, new gear trains (11 spds), new wheel designs and hopefully Shimano's new electric gear changing system.
If you have never watched this amazing event. At least take a look at the evening reviews of the racing. Follow a riders progress. Try to get a feel for the tactics, the endurance and the atmosphere. You may just get hooked.
Remember that cycling is one of New Zealands leading medal winners in International sport.
My favorite? I am keen to see how Lance goes on his ambitious and controversial comeback.
More important for me is to watch some of the upcoming stars. This year I will be looking out for a young Luxembourg rider Andy Schleck. This 24 year old has a lot of talent, physical endurance and has a calm head on his shoulders.It all starts on the 4th of July from Monaco right on the edge of the Mediterranean.
(Photo and graphics copied from web)