TV review: Tour de France offers gloriously chaotic entertainment

Policemen face protesters during the sixteenth stage of the Tour de France (PA)

Tour de France: ITV4 and Eurosport. Daily. Various times.


I DON'T watch TV.

I am aware, however, that there's an invention called television, and on that invention they show programmes.

Anyone who has seen my TV set, or pictures of my dog with said set hiding in the background, feel compelled to remark upon how small it is.

"How do you watch anything on that?" Well, I don't. That is one way to look at it.

Another, more accurate way to look at is I do watch some shows on occasion, mainly documentaries, things that make me laugh or live sport - mostly baseball.

So it was with a degree of trepidation and bemusement that I agreed to write this column.

I tend to keep the Tour de France on in the background most summer weekends, and highlights at nights. It is quiet. I like quiet.

Having been to watch the Giro d'Italia as it visited Ireland four years ago, I concluded that cycling is best watched on television.

Standing in the rain in Belfast, the riders were past and away up the road in about 10 seconds, and there was not a glimpse of the leader's maglia rosa, which was being worn underneath a jacket.

Eurosport and ITV4's coverage of cycling typically lasts about seven hours longer than 10 seconds.

I'm not hugely into cycling so won't be glued to the screen for the duration, but the broadcast is long enough to dip in and out and not miss much.

I much prefer Eurosport's coverage, mainly because Sean Kelly's one word answers and monotonic analysis make me laugh.

This year's edition has been entertaining, dramatic, pleasant and captivating.

Sweeping camera shots from helicopters capture the peleton rolling its way, seemingly lazily, through scenery ranging from the spectacular to the mundane. The Alps and Pyrenees offer stunning landscapes.

The tighter camera shots from the motorcycles give a more realistic indication of the thrilling and high speeds reached by riders.

It has not been without incident.

The cobbled stage into Roubaix was expected to wreak havoc, and satisfyingly lived up to its billing. It was gloriously chaotic. Bodies and bikes were strewn across the course in a stream of crashes and riders were left caked in mud and grit from the cobbled roads of northern France's former coal-mining region.

The gruelling climb of Alpe d'Huez and its mountain-top finish was back. It is said that the antics of spectators on Alpe d'Huez annoys the purists but enthrals the broader public.

Team Sky's Chris Froome was jostled and spat at, while 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali saw his race ended after he was brought down in a tangle with a fan on the same mountain.

Days later, yellow jersey Geraint Thomas and world champion Peter Sagan were among riders affected by a spray used by police to break up a farmers' protest which caused stage 16 of the race to be stopped.

Farmers rolled large hay bales into the road. Police then used a spray to tackle some of the protesters as the race approached, and it appeared to get into the eyes of riders. The race was stopped completely while several riders received medical treatment from the doctor's car at the rear of the peloton.

Such protests are nothing new at the Tour, but the incident added to the intense security situation this year.

And, there was a superb stage win for Irish rider Dan Martin - only the second such victory in the last quarter century.

It will all end on Sunday with the traditional sprint finish on the Champs-Élysées.

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