How to be a Tour de France fan...
when we can't go to France
The commencement of any Tour de France would be a throng of action, a deluge of Instagram stories, of press coverage, broadsheet front covers, bookies speculation with media, photographers, journalists, producers, technicians, riders, managers and - most importantly - fans, flocking to France for the biggest race in cycling.
This year is obviously different. The fewer fans physically at the roadside will be locals, photographers will have a stranglehold on how much access they can get to the riders and many journalists will be covering the race from their home countries. Case in point is our own David Millar and co-commentator Ned Boulting who - for the first time in their commentary careers - will be tucked away in a studio in Kent to dish out the UK's ITV coverage of the race.
But we mustn't let this get us down... we have the Tour de France on our hands. Finally! The actual Tour de France is happening and as cycling fans it just doesn't get any bigger or more exciting than this. So, we did what any cycling fan would do - on a particularly windy evening in Essex we packed our coolboxes, grabbed a few bottles of wine and headed into a country lay-by with some friends to create the illusion that we were in France.
So, here's a few tips from what we discovered in the process to help you be your best fan-self during this years unprecedented Tour de France.
It goes without saying really, doesn't it? Pack your wet weather gear, if you must, but we tend to find an optimistic mindset is a far better protective measure than actual rainwear. A mandatory cycling themed T-shirt (we've just released some, as it happens), baseball cap (we've got a whole load of them too) and some comfortable socks (would you look at that?!) should all be on your list.
Choose your friends wisely
Remember, you could well be sat next to a field with these people for the best part of 7 hours waiting for some local riders to whizz past. Make sure that your friends are the kind that will keep the laughter levels topped up all day long and can stick out the silences. Today is the day to leave the guy who likes his gear ratio chat a bit too much out of the group chat...
Lunch is served
For this one it's very important to remember that you can never have too much red wine, too many continental lagers or enough cheese. Just like on your dawn-til-dusk rides, you're body is going to be craving variety in just the same way so remember to alternate between the crusty baguette and Haribo at regular intervals.
Location, location, location
How are you supposed to kid yourself that you're in rural France when your stuck looking at a quaint British countryside pub? No, for the most realistic effect you should base yourself as far from civilisation as possible. A well-stocked field of wheat was our choice destination as we're getting a bit late in the season for the typical sunflower fields.
Regardless of where you pitch up, you should remember to get the basics of fan-zone picnic setup sorted upon arrival: a plastic picnic table draped with a billowing nylon table cover, tricolore flags and a screen to follow the race on.
We hope this guide has been of some use. We're all entering into unchartered waters together, so do that these tips with a pinch of salt and feel free to let us know your own tips and tricks to enjoying this years Tour de France from a distance.