Le Tour 2011

Ever since setting up camp in Australia, I always know it's my birthday month - when I find myself doing long kilometres on the couch for three weeks, watching "Le Tour"! I guess that's one of the drawbacks of being hitched to an ex-professional cyclist - sooner or later, some of that passion will undoubtedly rub off on you. No matter how hard you might fight it, one day you find yourself camped out on a hot, windy stretch of roadside for hours, waiting expectantly for a bunch of colourful, lycra-clad thighs to speed past, waiting for that split second glimpse of a Cadel Evans, Thor Hushovd, or Fabian Cancellara. You find youself nervous with excitement at the prospect of actually capturing a shot of one or two of them on your own camera. Sunday's at five, you find yourself watching Cycling Central on SBS. June, and you can't resist that first trawl of the Tour de France website to check out this year's course, and wonder just how cruel this year's mountain stages will be.

This month, not just the cyclists will suffer through Le Tour. Woe betide the besotted viewer on this side of the world! Coverage here in Australia is pretty much FULL (i.e. goes for HOURS daily!), is LIVE (i.e. doesn't start until 10pm local time!), runs Monday through Sunday for three weeks (although, they do have a couple of rest days, to be fair), and if you get too cold when you're still on the couch at 1am, there's LIVE WEB STREAMING to take to bed. Need I mention, half hourly summary shows twice a day, in case you did nod off the night before, and missed something? Suffer?! The square eyes! The dark circles! The torture, and angst! The sleep deprivation! Such is the cycling fan's life in July.  

Not that it's all bad. Gotta love Phill Legget's commentary, and 'colourful' soundbites of weird and wonderful cycling information and history. The cycling is epic - almost insane at times. There are the endless crowds, the humourous French signs, the scenery (long fields stuffed full of flowering lavendar, or towering sunflowers, anyone?), the chateau's (how many fifteenth century 'castles' can one country have?), the threat of the plane trees proving potential to lose the feed altogether! The motorcyle camermen are just plain scary, but also disturbingly compelling to follow. There are the nights watching with the odd glass of faux-French bubbly, the (late) mornings of 'celebratory' French breakfasts with lashings of strong coffee, and warm croissant. Personal highlights for me, The Mighty Thor, seeing the solitary kiwi, Julian Dean, doing New Zealanders' proud, and the uber-consistent Cadel.

Another July when for three weeks you hope like heck that Cadel Evans can throw off the shackles and nail this one! Bring it on! Allez!!

This year's Tour starts tonight, check out the official website @ www.letour.fr/us/