Tour de France Fanboy

I met two guys during this year’s Tour de France who have been covering the race for 32 years – journalist Francois Thomazeau and photographer James Startt (two unconnected meetings, but coincidentally they are the best of friends). Two weeks later I am starting to think about how it is that I can lay on my sofa for hours on end every year for 3 weeks, making sure I don’t miss a minute of the Tour de France.

These days I consider myself a ‘cycling fan’ because I can happily devour all sorts of different races, but in the beginning it was definitely all about the Tour de France, and, like some of you who are my ‘vintage’, it started with Lance Armstrong.

The first Tour that I sort of followed was 20 years ago – 2001. I was in France in July that year, cycling with Shoko, and we would see the Tour on the TV in village bars and cafes throughout the country. I vaguely knew that Lance had won a couple of Tours before and that he was a big favorite this year. That’s about it.

Back in Japan I started buying a few books about the TDF and, although I couldn’t watch it on TV (partly because I didn’t have a TV), I read live text updates of each stage late at night. I think I just answered my sofa question above…if I could ‘read’ the Tour de France and still enjoy it, ‘watching’ would be pretty easy.

And then it all progressed from there and the Tour de France is even one of the reasons I’m in France.

You are not all fans like me, but some of you are. What was your first exposure to Le Tour?

11 thoughts on “Tour de France Fanboy

  1. In summer 2004, just before we made our permanent move to France, I decided I ought to watch The Tour as it was such a integral part of French psyche. It was a stage won by Tom Boonen and I fell in love with the history, romance, scenery etc etc

  2. Great story, Gerry. I also met François Thomazeau 3 years ago, the second time the Cycling Podcast stayed with us in the Alps. Funnily enough, I remember asking them if they thought we were watching the end of Mark Cavendish’s career as he struggled through the stages that year. From memory, the prevailing opinion was that he was indeed on the way out… just goes to show what an amazing comeback he has made this year.
    I first got into the Tour as a student in the late 90s: bored (and probably hungover) on long summer afternoons I came across it on Eurosport and quickly became hooked. I followed from afar until we moved to the Alps, 12 years ago now, and I have been lucky to see it several times (including right outside our front door) on various brutal mountain stages. It always amazes how fast they move uphill. The descents are pretty exhilarating as well. I have resolved that next year, when we probably won’t be in the mountains, I am going to go to Paris for the final stage. Have you done that?

    • Chris, that IS funny! I wonder about all the talk of the ‘Pogacar era’ now in that light. It’s pretty hard to predict the future.

      Did the move to France have anything to do with the Tour, even remotely? For me it was all part of the package.

      I have indeed been in Paris to see the last day, although not on the final circuit. I took a train up in the morning and came back the same night. Highly recommended.

  3. My first encounter with the tour was 1997 when Ulrich won. I had just moved to France and couldn’t speak French, but used the teletext for hearing impaired to begin learning French (and learning cycling). I immediately was a fan.

  4. I think my first tv tour watching experience goes back to Lemond days. But I really got into it during the Armstrong years. Say what you will about him but he brought a lot of fans for and against him into the tour and cycling in general. I actually enjoyed a couple references the announcers made about him and his era without mentioning the doping. You referenced Ben Johnson the other day – I still get goosebumps thinking about that record run.

    • I still get those same chills. The raised arm as he crossed the line!

      Everyone needs their own intro to things. Hell, The Karate Kid was mine to martial arts, which ended up changing my life! I’m not going to thank Lance for this one, but probably if it wasn’t for his too-incredible story, I wouldn’t have found cycling when I did.

  5. My first exposure to TDF, indirectly, was my dad. He got into road bikes in the 70s and even though he was a tourer, not a racer, he did have a Peugeot-BP jersey and that checkered pattern absolutely fascinated me (as did his shoes full of holes), and he explained That some French men wore this jersey for a big race in France. But the first time I actually followed the TDF on TV wasn’t until 2011, what with you & Karsten doing Etape, and the whole country super excited about Tommy V in yellow for 10 days.

    • ‘Shoes full of holes’…that does sound fascinating! As for 2011, I saw some FB ‘reminders’ of that day not very long ago – another anniversary to celebrate. I actually watched the entire stage a few weeks ago, too. It was far more exciting than our Etape, except for K’s Strava KOM of course.

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