I am sad to say that I won’t be at the Tour de France this year. I’ve been at the last five — sitting in sweaty press rooms, standing on bald mountaintops in thunderstorms and getting walloped on the back of the head by unexpected flying sausages from the advertising caravan.
It hasn’t all been fun. There’s been French coffee to deal with, and passing whole weeks without seeing a vegetable. Not to mention the day I drove the Cycling Weekly car into the 2km-to-go banner on Alpe d’Huez, and a dozen officials shouted at me for 10 minutes without stopping.
I will miss it. But I’m also quite looking forward to the Tour the way it’s supposed to be watched — in the curtains-drawn gloom of a stuffy living room while domestic strife piles up all around me.
“Look,” Mrs. Doc will say. “Are you going to cut the damn grass or are you not?”
“In a minute. Padovsky has just attacked!”
“I have absolutely no idea. But it might be a critical point in the… oh, he’s just nipped up the road to have a pee.”
“And the grass?”
“Later. I’m… working. I am a cycling writer. I need to watch this… this… small thin man peeing in a French ditch.”
A few days later: “Michael, you do know you have bits of Monster Munch in your hair, don’t you?”
“Uh? Cool,” I’ll say, and pick them out and eat them. When they turn out to be stale, this will upset me slightly, but not because it suggests that they might have been there a while, but just because they’ll be less delicious.
A few days after that I’ll probably lose the remote control in the folds of my stomach fat. I won’t be able to mute the adverts, and by mid July I’ll have ordered a kitchen extraction system because I love this cooking revolution, and the shower will have several bottles of caffeine shampoo stockpiled against the off chance I ever wash again.
This year we have the pleasure of coverage of the stages from beginning to end. I recall in a recent column expressing the opinion that “only an idiot” would want to watch all of a stage’s early kilometres.
Despite that analysis, I also know that I am just such an idiot. Working from home means I have not just the stupidity, but the opportunity. (I use the term “working” in a distinctly niche sense here, but I’m still going to try to sneak it past Mrs. Doc.)
>>> Dr. Hutch: How do you choose your favourite rider?
I know that I should have more sense. I should consult the road book each day, look for the decisive bits, and plan accordingly so that my normal life can continue. I would be able to take some exercise and eat proper meals.
But when the roll-out happens, I’ll turn it on. Just in case something interesting happens. It won’t. And something interesting will continue to not happen, probably for many hours.
But that’s how it begins. After a while I’ll become convinced that so little is happening because the gods of cycling are storing up a real treat specially for those pure enough to withstand the tedium, like the pacing of a Scandinavian crime box-set.
At any moment a giant tornado will vacuum a leading contender clean out of the bunch and into the sky and if I stop watching, even for a moment, I’ll have missed my chance to tweet a whole sequence of smash-hit “Porte in storm” jokes.
I really ought to admit my true nature, rent a cheap hotel room for three weeks, and place a recurring order for beer and pizza with room service. It will feel grubby, and borderline sociopathic. But that’s who I’m going to be over the next three weeks anyway.