Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.
Put aside your built up prejudices about cycling and drugs, because if this is what has held you back from tuning into SBS from 10pm every night for the past two weeks then your attitude has to change. With a week of the Tour de France remaining this is looming as one of the better finishes to the race in recent memory.
The Tour de France is the greatest sporting event on TV. For three weeks every year Australians who love cycling will sit up with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin for company through 3-6 six hours of combative, gut wrenching sport, through the most picturesque scenery in the world, and at the same time receive a history lesson.
If that is not enough to get you excited then throw into the mix, this year, the winner could potentially be Australia’s Cadel Evans. Evans would become the first Australian to win the race, standing one step higher on the podium in Paris than his previous two runner-up finishes in 2007-2008.
Cycling has its detractors; many of my friends who enjoy the Tour but still don’t understand the sport completely and believe that most of the peloton are on the gear.
Despite this year’s tour has having one Russian rider kicked for a banned substance (a known masking agent), for the first time a no needle policy has been agreed to by all teams participating in the race. The sport has cleaned up its act.
Villages and towns petition years in advance to have a stage start or finish there. Millions of people line the routes every day and they don’t pay a cent to watch. The helicopter shots of chateaus and cathedrals are choreographed months before hand.
There is not a team sport like it in the world. Everyone on the team works for one designated person. In a team event there is so much individual glory dependent on the strength of the team beneath.
The race to be in the maillot jaune on the Champs Elysees next Sunday is fascinating. Can the reigning champion and three-time winning Spaniard, Alberto Contador, peg back four minutes?
In his way is are the two men who have been runner-up the last four years, Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck and of course Evans. Then not out of the question is Andy’s brother Frank, who is currently second overall and has looked strong. Finally, can Thomas Voeckler hold on through the Alps and become France’s first winner since the 1980s?
If you are a diehard then enjoy the shorter nights of sleep this week. If you are not a fan, give it a sample.
When you choose a night to watch, there will be no better night to try than Friday night. The climb to the finish line of Alpe-d’Huez is one of the most famous stages in the Tour and it might just reveal who will win the Tour de France.
I expect a first-time winner on the podium on Sunday. The heart is hoping it will be Evans finally realizing his dream. So come on Cadel and vive la tour!