I am currently back home in Philadelphia visiting my family, and a happy combination of jet lag making me wake up early and my parents having finally decided to get cable TV a few years ago means that I have been watching every stage of the Tour de France live! I've kept up with the Tour in past years, but never to this degree. It's fantastic!
The problem is, as a newbie to cycling I feel like there is so much I'm missing out on because I don't really understand it. The team tactics, the following cars and feed stations, the camaraderie and competition amongst the riders... the things that make these racers into humans. For instance, in Stage 3 I thought it was really amazing that the peloton allowed Anthony Charteau of team Europcar to break away from the peloton so he could meet his family on the side of the road, stop and say hello to them, and then rejoin the peloton as it passed by!
Anthony Charteau pulled over on the side of the road to greet his family. Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au.
These are the kinds of things that aren't easily communicated by commentators on TV and are not really covered in Wikipedia. In searching for more information on all this, I've come across some great writing about the sport:
First, a great story about the way that the riders in May's Giro d'Italia paid tribute to Wouter Waylandt, along with some critique about the way pro races are organised these days and the way the media covers crashes and injuries.
Back in March, there was this article by Michael Barry which helped me understand how pro-cyclists use drafting or slipstreaming. Not just of each other, but of the motorcycles and cars associated with the race as well! It's a pretty good introduction to understand what's allowed and not allowed in that area. I thought it was an interesting point that it is impossible to simulate a pro-racing situation without actually motorpacing, because nothing else creates that drafting effect of a 200-strong peloton.
Then there are the pro riders that have their own blogs. It's really fun to watch a race on TV and then read about what was actually going through riders' minds at the time. Of these, my favourite is Jens Voigt's Hardly Serious. Jens (team Leopard-Trek) is the oldest rider in the tour so he's got a lot of perspective -- plus I think he's a great writer!
Until yesterday there was also Chris Horner's blog (team Radioshack) but sadly he crashed out of the race.
There are also twitter accounts -- too many to mention. But I did thoroughly enjoy Alberto Contador's tweet after a crash that left his jersey torn up -- "Here's my summer jersey," he said!
All this has really enhanced my experience while watching the tour. Now, if only I knew other cycling fans to show off my knowledge to!