It may be over 3,000km of blood, sweat and tears but it grips us for one month of the year. When the Tour de France peloton embarks upon its Grand Depart in Copenhagen today, its twists and turns will no doubt draw us into cycling’s most prestigious event.
Starting in Denmark before weaving down the eastern flank of the Republic, the route will snake around the perimeter of France before its customary Parisian finish.
“It stands alone in its scale – the grandeur, the enterprise, the chaos of the event,” ITV commentator and author Ned Boulting told City A.M.
“It’s completely unlike anything else that you’re going to watch and it has that kind of fabulous mixture of long periods of time during the event where ostensibly not much is happening and then in the blink of an eye, everything can happen and everything can unfold, and everything can change.”
Limits of human endurance
“It’s an absolutely unimaginable act of suffering and it always has been.
“Ever since the Tour de France 119 years ago was called into existence it was always about pushing the absolute limits of human endurance and extracting from the human body a performance that actually doesn’t make sense – that shouldn’t be possible.”
The Tour not only encapsulates the limits of the human species but it demonstrates the beauty of sport that is free to watch, in locations that simply blow you away.
“The race goes up Alpe d’Huez – there is probably no more famous climb in the entirety of the Tour de France history,” Boulting added. “Be prepared for those scenes of total bedlam again when the riders have to push their way, in particular through Dutch Corner, which will be populated by 1000s, if not 10s of 1000s of insanely inebriated Dutch cycling fans who’ve been there for three days on the drink.
“It’s also going to new parts of the world that it’s never toured because it’s starting in Denmark for three days.
“On day two, the race is routed over The Great Belt Bridge, around 7,000 metres long, and goes over the Baltic Sea – that’s going to be extraordinary because of the howling.”
Ones to watch
There will be no Mark Cavendish this year and Chris Froome will not be in contention, but there remains British interest. Former winner Geraint Thomas will be there or thereabouts as he looks for a first title since 2018.
“Thomas has ended up in something like the form of his life, heading into the Tour de France, and he’s only going to get stronger over the next month,” Boulting, who will soon be embarking on his own show tour – The Re-Tour de Ned – said. “The defending champion Tadej Pogacar is a complete phenomenon, the Slovenian rider, if he pulls it off, will win three in a row at only 23.
“Young Tom Pidcock belongs to a clutch of young riders now who don’t obey the rules – the traditional rules being you’re a sprinter, a time trialist, or a climber, you can’t be two or three of those – he’s all three.”
And when the Tour is over, The Re-Tour de Ned will take its place in autumn. The aim of the show is to satirise the tour and bring together lovers of cycling. “It is an opportunity as the nights draw in and the days get shorter, ruining all our lives for another year, to sit back and bask for 90 minutes in the Tour and relive all of its glorious chaos and wonderful eccentricities,” Boulting said.
Ned Boulting is on tour this Oct/Nov with his one-man stage show Re-Tour de Ned. Tickets are available from www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/ned-boulting