What, you ask? The Tour de France is still a thing? Yes, and it starts on Saturday (on Corsica, of all places — the 132-mile flat stage beginning at Porto-Vecchio and ending in Bastia) — the race’s 100th edition. But with doping all but rooted out and no Americans really expected to contend for the victory, why should you watch? Here are seven very compelling reasons.
1. Lance Armstrong is still showing up. Yep he’s at the Tour now, and he gave an interview to the French magazine Le Monde in which he says he still considers himself the all-time Tour de France champion, even though he has been stripped of all seven of his titles. But more significantly, Armstrong also said that it’s impossible to win the Tour de France without doping.
Armstrong was clearly talking about his own era, rather than the Tour today. Le Monde reported that he was responding to the question: “When you raced, was it possible to perform without doping?”
“That depends on which races you wanted to win. The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping. Because the Tour is a test of endurance where oxygen is decisive,” Le Monde quoted Armstrong as saying. It published the interview in French.
2. Sheep can determine the outcome. In 2011, Alberto Contador was helped in the final mountain stage when a flock of sheep wandered onto the course. He darted through the obstacles, but other riders were slowed and fell back a bit in their times for the day. I can think of no other sport in which mutton has played any major role.
3. The favorite is fond of spearfishing, and is fluent in Swahili. Chris Froome — or as his fans call him, “Va Va Froome” — loves to spear-fish in his spare time, and since the race begins on a small island, well, advantage Froome. (That’s not him in the photo — he’s right here). The Brit, who finished second to Sir Bradley Wiggins last year, is also fluent in Swahili and lives in Monaco. So just your typical cyclist.
4. There’s always a chance one rider will attack another rider with a bicycle wheel. It happened during the 2010 race, when Carlos Barredo and Rui Costa engaged in a wild fight at the finish line of stage six, with Barredo releasing his front wheel and using it as a weapon. Barredo told Spanish journalists that Costa had elbowed him in the gut during the race, nearly throwing him off his bike. The best part: Neither rider was expelled.
5. There’s a church in France called Our Lady of Cyclists. Where else but on the route of the Tour de France could you see a statue of the Virgin Mary displayed among 800 cycling jerseys? It’s at Notre-Dame des Cyclistes (Our Lady of Cyclists) chapel near the village of Labastide-d’Armagnac in Landes, southwestern France. Founded by cycling priest Joseph Massie, the chapel was approved by Pope John XXIII in 1959. Photo: Reuters.
6. It’s the only major sport that requires skin-tight pants and a map of the Alps. Who is going to win? The answer is shrouded in mystery. The only thing we know for certain is that this Slovakian team should be closely watched. Photo: Getty Images.
7. Wile E. Coyote Thinks The Roadrunner Might Come By. During the final climb at stage 14 of last year’s race, someone threw carpet tacks onto the road, causing more than 30 punctures. Photo: Getty Images.
Cycling preview, prediction: Who will win the 100th Tour de France? [The Washington Times]