Tour de France 2008 – France
The world’s most gruelling bicycle race is just around the bend. The 2008 Tour de France marks the 95th anniversary of this high profile professional cycling event. Competitors in this 23 day annual event will hit the road from Brest in the north-western part of Bretagne on July 5th and finish in Paris on July 27th. Whilst the organizers are excited about the number of mountain stages and altitude finishes, my pain threshhold does not even allow me to dwell too long on how exhausting the rides must be.
The Tour de France will be made of of 21 stages covering a total distance of 3,554 kilometres. To put this into perspective, if you’ve ever done a 15-day coach holiday in Europe, you will generally travel that sort of distance. Yet these guys are actually covering the same mileage on bicycle and up and down the mountain roads of France. How the riders motivate themselves to climb on the bike again after each punishing day on the road is beyond my comprehension.
The race rules are complex and the tactics and strategies employed by the teams and individual riders to win the yellow jersey are a mystery to me. For me, I rather enjoy following the course that these riders will be taking, which takes you through some beautiful French countryside. The aerial shots are particularly amazing as it provides a different view of the magnificent chateaux that we’ve visited, especially around the Loire Valley. This year, the route strays into Italy and the riders will have a break day in Cuneo.
Another treat from watching the Tour de France (for Australian viewers) is the cooking show and food commentary provided by Gabriel Gate. Gabriel is a celebrated French chef, currently resident in Melbourne. He grew up in the Loire Valley and did his chef’s apprenticeship in a renowned restaurant in the Loire before taking off to Paris. It’s great watching Gabriel discuss the regional products and cuisine and then he cooks up a mouth-watering dish in such an effortless manner as only celebrity chefs can.