O, to be in England
Now that July’s here,
Fun and games in England
In this sporting year,
Wimbledon, Silverstone, cricket galore,
Olympic Games are on the way, could you ask for more?
Bring a raincoat, an umbrella: the rain is bound to pour,
But it’s good to be in England, now that July’s here.
(With apologies to Robert Browning)
For lovers of sport, this is an amazing year. No sooner were the three weeks of football at Euro 2012 over than we had the Wimbledon fortnight. In three weeks time the Olympic Games will be well under way. And in the meantime we have the Tour de France.
France? What’s France got to do with it?
For some of us the Tour de France is THE sporting highlight of this summer, and every summer. It’s been that way for many years, ever since there’s been live coverage of it on TV. The fact that Mark Cavendish won the Green Jersey last year, and Bradley Wiggins is wearing the Yellow Jersey this year, is just added interest.
It’s odd, really, given that I’m by no means a sports nut. For example, I would never consider taking out a subscription for a premium sports channel on cable. It’s odd that the contests I enjoy the most take place over 5 days (Test match cricket, listened to on the radio) and 3 weeks (in the case of Le Tour). In neither case do you need to invest high levels of attention. You can actually get on with other things, including conversations and writing, whilst the live action unfolds. Alternatively you can watch the highlights in chunks of an hour every evening.
Unfortunately the ‘highlights’ of the Tour miss out what for me are the real highlights of the day, which are the helicopter shots of the glorious French countryside and the villages, towns and chateaux of La Belle France. I first encountered the beauty and the culture of France as a hitchhiker during student days, and my appreciation of France has increased with the passing years. Now that Sarko’s been kicked out of office I’m intending to visit more frequently. (Ditto Italy – with Berlusconi gone I can lift my boycott.)
Meanwhile, may the best man, and the best team, win this year’s Tour. The physical and psychological fitness of the guys who ride the tour is phenominal. The tactical astuteness needed to win a stage of the Tour – be it a sprint finish or a mountain stage – is remarkable, and the courage and endurance of those guys is unbelievable. They need to excel in every area of fitness and intelligence.
If you’re persuaded to take up viewing then I recommend you watch it on ITV4 rather than Eurosport 1. The quality of the commentary and analysis is far superior.