The 104th Tour de France (#TDF) is upon us! If you are a cycling fan, I don't have to explain anything, the "Tour" is just magical, plain and simple. If you are not so tour-savvy, sit back and rest assured that I've got you covered with all the essentials needed for a successful Tour viewing experience.
1. How to watch. Because cycling is not a mainstream sport here in the US, you have limited options for viewing. The two most popular streaming options are as follows:
- www.cyclingfans.com - free coverage, when it works. Cyclinfans.com usually pulls a feed from Eurosport or some other euro channel. Coverage is a bit unpredictable, but if you want to view for free, this is not a bad option.
- NBC Sports Gold - For $39.99 you can buy the full coverage from NBC and watch it on your laptop, phone, or tablet. If you don't mind the 40 bucks, this is by far the best way to view. Also note that you get a full year of cycling coverage including Cyclocross events and the 2018 Classics like Paris Roubaix.
2. How to really watch. Watching the coverage is only part of the fun. Take your viewing to the next level with these tips from the pros:
- If you're not consuming copious amounts of coffee while viewing, you're doing it wrong. Brew like a champ with a French Press, Primula Coffee Maker, or go big and invest in a Rocket Espresso Machine.
- Watching people ride bikes is definitely not as fun as riding bikes. While it's a little tough to get an invite to race with a pro team, you can always train like a pro while watching the pros. Kit up and spend some time on that smart trainer while watching all the action.
- If you really want to get into the spirit of things, dress like those crazy fans who run up mountains after the riders.
3. Jersey Cheat sheet. Cycling was an easy sport to follow back in the day, now there are more than just winners and losers, there are multiple winner and losers! Four leaders jerseys are awarded each night.
Yellow: Overall GC (general classifications) leader - This is usually a super skinny guy and is worn by the person who has the fastest cumulative time up until then. Everyone knows this one, thanks Lance.
Green: Points leader (or sprint leader) - Peter Sagan.
Polkadot: The King of The Mountains leader - It would actually be really cool if the recipient of this had the fastest time up all the climbs, alas, it is a points race with points awarded at the top of climbs throughout each stage.
White: Best Young Rider - This is the Yellow jersey but for youngsters (under 25).
4. The favorites. Most people concern themselves with two races within the TDF. The GC leader and the sprinters on each sprint day. Here are the favorites:
Peter Sagan (Team Bora-Hansgrohe) - Currently the biggest and most prolific figure in the sport, Sagan is the crowd favorite and is the 2015 and 2016 road world champion.
Marcel Kittel (Team QuickStep Floors) - So far, Kittel has been the sprinter to beat in 2017. With 9 victories so far this season, it is clear that Kittel is on top form.
Andre Greipel (Team Lotto Soudal) - Always good for at least one stage win at the tour, Greipel has won at least one stage in the last 6 tours.
Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) - From the Isle Of Man (famous for the motorcycle TT and Mark), Cavendish holds more sprint victories at the TFD than any other sprinter. Seeming to be in the twilight of his career, "Cav" still never seems to slow down.
Chris Froome (Team SKY) - The three time champion. Not much of a fan favorite, he's still the race favorite after three years of near flawless TDF racing. His season so far has not been full of success which either means he has been focusing only on the Tour, or his fitness is not what it once was.
Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar) - Absolutely a fan favorite, Quintana is a quiet hard working Colombian, who sprang onto the scene only a few years ago. A two time runner up (2013 and 2015), Quintana is one of the best climbers in the world, he does, however, struggle with the individual time trial.
Romain Bardet (Team FDJ) - A youngster at age 26, Romain was the 2016 TDF runner up. France has not had a TDF winner in 25 years and Bardet is their best shot to break that streak.
Richie Porte (Team BMC) - A former teammate of Chris Froome, Porte is a top all-around cyclist with grit and stamina for both the climbs and the time trials. Always seeming to fall just shy of the leaders when true climbing legs are needed, Porte has never been one to shy away from an attack and his fitness is on point with two wins at Tour Down Under and Tour de Romandie.
5. The USA... With only three athletes represented, 2017 is not the year for team USA. Andrew Telansky, Taylor Phinney, and Nathan Brown will represent the Stars and Stripes on the US based Cannondale Drapac Team, and you can expect them to work hard for their team leader. Phinney should shine at the individual time trial and both Telanski and Brown will hopefully make an appearance in a break or two.
So, grab a coffee and enjoy the greatest race in the world and more importantly, get inspired to ride your bike!