Watching bike racing on TV is perhaps the most obvious way to experience the Tour de France. But sometimes it’s even more exciting to experience the tension of listening to a race on the old-fashioned radio.
These days, most of the important bike races are broadcast live. You can follow every move that the peleton makes in the one-day classics and big stage races on various television channels or internet livestreams. Despite this visual feast, sometimes its still switching moving images for the radio.
Yes, it is old-fashioned. And yes, you do have to be able to understand Dutch (Radio Een) or French (Radio Montecarlo). But it takes me back to the campsites where we stayed during family summer holidays; I remember the short updates in the early stages, punctuated by background interviews and music, and then the frantic and excited reporting as the race progressed.
The commentators in the studio would explain the race situation and share airtime with reporters riding on the backs of motorcycles inside the race. Without seeing anything, you could feel how riders are being dropped and suffering, and you could imagine who is set to triumph and win the spoils of victory.
Close your eyes and listen
Today, you can see pictures of the race on TV in virtually any café. Even if there’s no café nearby, you can just open up your laptop—and even if you’re sitting in the park with your friends you can still stream the video on your mobile phone. But, personally, and when the time is right, I still prefer to enjoy the racing using only the radio.
It’s especially pleasant to lie on the grass outside with headphones on. Close your eyes in the sunshine and allow your thoughts to create the images of bicycle heroes performing feats that are impossible for us mortals to achieve. The tension of the final kilometre experienced on the radio is particularly special. The enthusiasm of the commentators comes across really well, and when your favourite rider comes over the finish line and the commentators go wild, the only thing that remains is to dance around with a big smile on your face. People might think you’re mad. Let them.