The 2012 Tour de France has passed the halfway point. Mountains have been climbed, massages have been administered and yellow jerseys have been awarded.
If the experiences of Hampton Sides, writer and historian, are any indication, wine has been consumed, blood sausages have been gnawed and new friends have been made all along the course. Sides, who chronicled his experience at the 2011 Tour for the current issue of Bicycling Magazine, joined Bill Littlefield this week on Only A Game.
“Not only had I never been to a bike race, I had certainly had never been to the Tour de France, the mother of all these bike races,” Sides said. “I think that was the concept of the article, to find somebody who had never covered this sort of spectacle and drop them into this alien world and try to make some kind of sense out of it.”
Sides said he wanted to answer the question of why the Tour is=s one of most-spectated sporting events in the world. “I figured it out a little bit,” he said. “The average spectator isn’t one of those ‘cycling weenies.’ The average spectator is someone who comes for some sort of inspiration. They come for the great countryside. A lot of them treat it like a Woodstock kind of thing.”After experiencing the pageantry and intrigue of the Tour de France last year, Sides explained how he views the race with a new perspective. “When you’re in France watching the race, you realize that everyone in the entire country is following it in some shape or form. It’s like a giant boa constrictor is passing through the countryside and, at any point, everyone in the nation knows where it is.
“Here (in the U.S.), it’s an abstract thing to follow,” he continued. “In some ways, I feel like I’m still digesting what happened. There’s so much energy, so much wattage…and it’s so complicated.”