Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sightseeing at the Tour de France, Concluded

Thanks to our unanticipated bathroom remodel, my Tour-watching was oft-delayed, sometimes by days, so I really lost all sense of continuity to my screen-grabs. That said, I hope the beautiful scenery and architecture compensates for the lack of commentary.

The first mountain stages took the Tour through the Vosges and Jura into Switzerland.

Returning to France, the Tour completed its first individual time trial at the historic fortress city of Besançon in the Franche-Comté before heading into the Alps.

The beautiful abbey of la Grande Chartreuse in Dauphiny.

The Tour next cut across Languedoc in the south of France to the town of Foix and its ancient château.

The classic langue d'oc bastide, found on hilltops throughout the south of France.

The castle of Foix.

Frustrated by trying to squeeze in time to watch four to eight hours of coverage each night, once the Tour entered the Pyrenees I fast-forwarded through my recorded stages, focused more on attacks and stage victors than on scenery.

Some commentators on this year's Tour deemed it dull; the yellow jersey changed hands exactly once, and Team Sky ably defended it from Besançon all the way to Paris on the back of Bradley Wiggins. The only rider willing to attack Wiggins was the Italian Vincenzo Nibali, and basically his attacks went nowhere thanks to Wiggins and his super-domestique, Chris Froome.

But this Tour saw one of the peloton's most distinguished and affable riders, Thomas Voeckler, take two mountain stages and the polka-dot climber's jersey, adding to an already distinguished Tour palmares and giving the French something to really cheer about. It also saw the most stage victories by British riders and hte first British Tour champion, plus provided a glimpse of what to expect when the Olympic men's road and individual time trial rolls around in a couple of weeks.

But my favorite part of this year's Tour, aside from the beautiful images of France streaming through my screen, was the young riders who may contend in the future, like Thibaut Pinot, Peter Sagan, and Teejay Van Garderen, arriving on the scene with the flash and bang of a thunderbolt. It's great to see the next generation of cyclists on the sport's most prestigious stage.

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