TV review: Why the Tour de France on Eurosport is my ideal home companion

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Working from home can sometimes be an isolating experience without the background noise of a busy office, but for three weeks every year, the Tour de France on Eurosport (daily, with highlights in the evening) is the ideal home companion.

Unlike Norman Tebbit's dad, I don't like getting on a bike myself – the saddle's way too thin and pointy, the chain keeps coming off, there's no roof – but the Tour de France exerts a hypnotic fascination, and Eurosport's coverage is an absolute joy.

Firstly, it's great to look at. The colours of the peloton shimmer in the sun – and sometimes shines like beacons through torrential rain – and watching the Tour de France for any time gets you attuned to the liveries of the teams taking part.

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You can pick out the acid lemon shoulders of Intermarche-Wanty, the orange stripe down the backs of the Ineos Grenadiers and the day-glo pink of EF Education-EasyPost.

Sir Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crosses the line in Saint-Vulbas to win his record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage (Picture: JASPER JACOBS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)Sir Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crosses the line in Saint-Vulbas to win his record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage (Picture: JASPER JACOBS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
Sir Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crosses the line in Saint-Vulbas to win his record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage (Picture: JASPER JACOBS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the tour goes through some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe. This year's pedal-powered extravaganza started in Florence, and has already taken in Italy's Adriatic coast, the mountains which split Italy from France, and the vineyards of Pouilly-Fuisse and Montrachet.

We've seen the Duomo, the Piazza dei Cavalli in Piacenza, Turin's Palatine Towers and the cathedral in Dijon, its roof covered in polychrome tiles.

And that's where the commentary team comes in. It's a difficult job, you would think, talking for five or six hours straight as a bunch of cyclists roll through the camera-shot.

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However, Carlton Kirby, Rob Hatch and the team have an inexhaustible supply of knowledge, whether that's of the cyclists, the tactics, the terrain or the buildings they see along the way.

The pack of riders (peloton) cycles past vineyards in the Burgundy region during the 6th stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France cycling race (Picture: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)The pack of riders (peloton) cycles past vineyards in the Burgundy region during the 6th stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France cycling race (Picture: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)
The pack of riders (peloton) cycles past vineyards in the Burgundy region during the 6th stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France cycling race (Picture: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Who knew for instance, that those polychrome tiles of Burgundy were a symbol of the region, that the different colours denote different things – green for the forest, red for wine – or that the more tiles you had, the richer you were?

Rob Hatch knew, and delighted in telling us.

Meanwhile, Carlton Kirby describes the red and yellow jerseys of Norwegian team Uno-X as “blood and custard”, while ex-pros Robbie McEwan, Adam Blythe and Dani King give fascinating insights into life on the road.

The Prince of the Peloton, however, must be Sean Kelly. Speaking in a lugubrious Irish brogue, as thick as a pint of Guinness, he carries all the knowledge of more than 15 years as a pro-rider, many of those at the pointy end of the pack, and combines it with a real authority – all the commentators defer to him, and you can guarantee that anything he says will be illuminating.

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The riders in this year's Tour de France cycle through the town of Buxy, in Burgundy, one of the sights you can see on Eurosport's coverage of the event (Picture: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)The riders in this year's Tour de France cycle through the town of Buxy, in Burgundy, one of the sights you can see on Eurosport's coverage of the event (Picture: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)
The riders in this year's Tour de France cycle through the town of Buxy, in Burgundy, one of the sights you can see on Eurosport's coverage of the event (Picture: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

But of course, this is sport, and it would be nothing without the cyclists themselves, and while there are stretches where the whole peloton rolls along with nothing much happening – perfect background to work, by the way, the swish of the wheels on the tarmac – it is punctuated by high drama.

The big beasts of the general classification duke it out in the mountains, but it is the sprinters which catch the eye, and a bunch sprint finish is one of the most thrilling spectacles in all of sport.

The margins between triumph and collarbone-shattering disaster are as thin as Jonas Vingegaard's skinsuit, while the bravery, fearlessness and, yes, foolhardiness is breathtaking.

The moment that Mark Cavendish crossed the line in Saint Vulbas to win his record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage was one of the sporting moments of the year, captured in a flash of colour and noise.

Eurosport covers bike races through the year, and every one has the same love and enthusiasm lavished upon it. But the Tour de France really is the boss of home comforts for the home worker.

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