Feasting Upon The Tour de FranceDuring July you may notice an odd glaze appear over many sports fans’ eyes. It’s not, as you might expect, the result of an influx of Valium into the East; rather, late nights spent watching the hypnotic flow of pink, yellow and white riders of the Tour De France worming their way through the idyllic French countryside.
This faraway look stems not just from a lack of sleep, but also an unbridled and desperate desire to escape Sydney’s winter and frolic through European fields with picnic baskets and posies. Behind every glassy, coffee-craving eyeball is a mind screaming ‘I need a holiday! Take me away from this wretched cold!’
There is no other sporting event quite like it. The culture and culinary fare that beckons you from the mountainous backdrops is a far cry from the hot chips and meat pies we usually associate with sport. This is not merely a race. It is a cultural feast.
Lagers are traded for exquisite Malbecs, cheeseburgers for a delectable cut of Roquefort and your sauce-sodden pies make way for mouth-watering salamis and cured meats. Sure, there’s still a comparable amount of cow’s anus in there, but it tastes so much better (and costs so much more).
Staying up till the wee hours wrapped in blankets and gorging on extravagant foods is not for everyone, but you can still catch the highlights on SBS at a more civilised hour the next day. Who cares if it’s not live? In fact, does anyone really care about the result?
Admittedly, each year there seems to be one individual we as a nation decide to support, whether it be national pride, as in the case of Cadel Evans, or simply because they look like a decent bloke. Chances are they are not decent blokes (although I’ve heard Cadel actually is) and are even worse conversationalists.
So why would these athletes submit themselves to such torture? They, unlike us, are not there for scenery and salami, they are there for their egos and a bit of cold, hard cash. It goes a long way in explaining the rampant drug abuse. We’ve always known cycling is as dirty as a teenage boy’s Internet search history. In terms of the Lance Armstrong scandal, it was less shocking that he was cheating and moreso that he turned out to be such a stone-cold psychopath.
Yet it shouldn’t have surprised us. Cycling is less a sport about raw talent and more about who wants it more; who is desperate enough to endure all sorts of physical and psychological hardships, and late nights shaving their gooch, all just to feel that sweet, pleasurable surge of victory.
I personally couldn’t name one rider who is racing this year, but it matters little. I will still get caught up in the romance of the ride and dine on the delicacies of the region, quietly wondering how many photographers are going to cause accidents this year and secretly hoping I’m awake to see them all.