My husband loves cycling. He rides. He watches. He buys bicycle components. Having lived in Europe, I, too, have an appreciation for this international sport. I go out and cheer when the Tour of California comes to town, and have been known to hang out by team buses in hopes of spotting a famous rider. And this Spring when in Italy, we will likely attend a stage start during this year’s Giro d’Italia.
But it doesn’t mean I don’t get completely bored out of my mind when in front of the TV for another day’s stage. I try to be supportive of my cycling loving husband and listen with interest to his running commentary of the different riders, teams, stage wins, points and jerseys. We debate team strategies and sprints and watch replays of crashes and mountain climbs. I’ve just become smarter at entertaining myself during the Tour or the Giro or the Vuelta or the Paris-Roubaix. For those who love travel more than cycling and need a kickstart to the season, I offer a few tips.
Check out the scenery and study the screenshots of maps. Those with a passion for travel will enjoy scrutinizing maps they post on screen (“I’ve driven there” you’ll say, or “remember that church?”), and the breathtaking aerial shots of European churches, castles, walled villages, and the alps as the riders fly down narrow cobblestone streets and past lavender in Provence or screaming around roundabouts. Get a kick out of the stunts the locals do in hopes of a live national TV camera shot, like carving the shape of a racing bike into a field of wheat to create a “tractor ballet” (below).
Play trivia. The Tour’s crowd lining the streets include fans from all over the world – the US, Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, among others. Guess – by the language of the cheer and clothing – what country the fan is from (“Allez!” coming from an older man in a beret would be unmistakingly French). Wonder how the riders stop for a bathroom break. Look for earpieces and guess the secrets passing between rider and team manager. Count the seconds it takes for a team assistant to make a tire change when under pressure from a pissed off or injured rider. Try and diagnose the injury of the latest rider to go down (collarbone or wrist?). Be in awe at the athleticism, determination of professional riders and the pain they endure.
Marvel how the podium girl tradition carries on. I love how not all things in Europe need to be debated. Podium girls aren’t exactly politically correct. It wouldn’t fly here (there is nothing close to French podium girls at the Tour of California. Honestly, they shouldn’t even try.). Study the correct use of the European kiss. Depending on country, two or three? Kiss to the left than right? Appreciate the old-fashioned-ness of it all. Then lament how the French women always manage to look (effortlessly) better than American women.
Listen to and rate the commentator’s correct pronunciation of a foreign language. They have their hands full with city names or rider last names like Vande Velde, Vinokourov, Chavanel, Petacchi and Bertagnolli. (Cycling commentator Bob Roll wins hands down with Italian! Sorry Paul and Phil.)
Last, enjoy. Cycling will bring you the most beautiful parts of the world. With a little fun, you might just make it to the final stage.