Every July, I’m utterly focused on style in France. An elusive style that none of us could ever attain, no matter how hard we tried. A style that unfolds across 3,497 kilometers, over three weeks, involving thousands of fans, and 198 really fit, skinny guys. The undisputed object of my undivided affection this month is the penultimate bike race in the world: the Tour de France!
Nobody wears lycra better than a pack (or in Tour lingo, a peloton) of professional cyclists. In fact, lycra’s really their best style, because in street clothes they just look…well…gaunt and hungry.
Not to be overlooked…the Tour de France podium girls. Aspiring models and small town beauties, these young women diligently present bouquets and stuffed animals, and plant kisses on the cheeks of winning riders each day. And, they execute their duties in (sometimes horrendous) matching outfits. Plus they’re almost always at a height disadvantage, since they generally tower over the cyclists. Height may be an advantage for a career in modeling, but it rarely is for a career in bike racing.
And then…the fans. The Tour de France is the third most watched sporting event in the world after the Olympics and World Cup soccer. Think about it. For three weeks in mid-summer, you can drive, bicycle, walk to any spot along the Tour’s 3,497 kilometer route, and watch for free. And people do just that, coming from all over the globe.
On some of the most famous (and grueling) mountain climbs, spectators arrive days in advance to set up camp and get their party on. Sort of like Bonnaroo, but without the music, the food trucks and the heat. It’s no surprise there’s a lot of creative expression.
The most spectacular aspect of the Tour de France is the country itself. The towns are quaint and historic. The chateaux abound. The mountain vistas in the Alps and Pyrenees are breathtaking (though not nearly as breathtaking as what it takes to climb them on a bike).
And nothing beats the Tour de France’s final day, when the riders enter Paris and ride the cobblestones of the Champs-Élysées for eight glorious loops. For me, it’s more gorgeous than anything on a Paris runway.
Vive le Tour de France!
About Cindy Wall
Cindy’s a communications and marketing pro, a writer, a grammar snob, and a rapacious reader. In her own words, she knows “a little about a lot” — i.e., 19th century literature, Karl Lagerfeld’s latest adventures, professional bike racing, and when to use the Oxford comma. She’s a fan of indie film and music — and bullish on local eating and shopping.