Saturday, 29 June 2013

Tour de France 2013- starts today...

At 12.15pm Corsican time today, the sprawling, narrow streets of Porto Vecchio will be overpowered with colour and klaxons and people who have squeezed into every vantage point to see off the 100th Tour de France.

198 men in 22 teams will start the race, it will be a long road and, in places, a steep one. Whether greatness lies at the end of it is a vexed question, although that remains the objective 110 years and 100 editions after this great epic started.

This is the bike race that everyone knows; a colourful, lycra-clad amorphous swarm of thunder-thighed masochists known collectively as 'the peloton' whirr relentlessly through the French countryside at high speed, occasionally taking on the kind of terrifying Pyrenean and Alpine summits that sane individuals would think twice about ascending or descending in a car. The teams, the riders employ a strict hierarchy and caste system not dissimilar to that of a beehive, where each member has its own specific role and the group works in harmony for the common good. The cycling equivalent of worker bees are the 'domestiques' whose duties involve protecting their team leader (the queen bee) from rivals and fetching and carrying refreshments from the team car. Further up the chain are the cyclists who specialise in various fields of industry - such as climbing, time-trialling or sprinting. Given the skill sets of the various riders it comes as no surprise that the Tour de France consists of a number of races within the overall race. The overall leader is the man in the yellow jersey, synonymous throughout the world, but then there is the green jersey (best sprinter), and the polka-dot jersey (best climber) plus the white jersey (best young rider) - very rarely we see a rider who will fill all jerseys simultaneously and it is well documented the lengths to which cyclists will go to get their hands on one of these emetic garments.

So, tune in today - and pretty much every day for the next three weeks - keep up with British hopes as Chris Froome attempts to become the second Brit in history to win - see the drama unfold, the crashes, the blood, sweat and tears. Look out particularly for stage 15 - Bastille Day and a summit finish on Mont Ventoux (Gary and I rode up it last year) - and the final day on the Champs Elysees - can Mark Cavendish win the sprint? - We'll be there having cycled to Paris - can't wait!

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