- Posted by Hugh Gladstone
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As anyone following the Tour in person will tell you, there's no better way of watching the actual racing that sat at home in front of the TV!
"I'm back off home to the Netherlands," a Dutch spectator told us yesterday evening. "I've been following the race since Rotterdam. Now I want to see what's going on in it!"
But, as fleeting as the action is, there is a lot to be said for being here in the flesh. If you get the chance, take it up.
For starters, there's all that atmosphere, the kitsch fun of the publicity caravan and the crescendo-ing anticipation of the race's arrival.
If you're wise, you'll have brought a picnic, a bottle of wine and made a whole day of waiting for the Tour.
Then there's the French countryside - particularly fantastic where the race has been the week. Heading from the finish to our hotel yesterday, we passed through some fantastic gorges and stopped for dinner at an outdoor bar in a rustic hill-top town with views stretching back towards the high Alps.
Don't even let us get started on the food to be eaten around France.
As for the racing, you may not get the overview that Phil and Paul et al offer, but by watching at the roadside, there are little exclusive snippets you'll catch all for yourself.
On Tuesday, we parked the Cycling Weekly car in a village between the Col de la Columbiere and the Col des Aravis and grabbed a coke from a local bar. As the race came through, we spied yellow jersey Cadel Evans chatting with BMC team mate George Hincapie.
Was Hincapie reminiscing to Evans about defending the yellow garment in Armstrong's day? Perhaps Evans was telling the American how bad he was feeling. Three climbs later his jersey was a goner.
At yesterday's finish in Gap, I watched the two leaders come in at the 800m to go mark. It may not seem the most obvious place to catch the race - it's too far away to see the sprint unfold. Why not walk up to the finish line and see the stage concluded? Or locate myself on the last climb and maybe catch Nicolas Roche attacking?
Then again, why not watch it from the 800m mark? Sat behind Vasil Kiryienka, this was the exact point where Sergio Paulinho coolly lifted his hands off his bars, did up his zip and straightened his jersey. It was a little insight into how confident he was of taking the win. I know they showed that zip moment on TV too, but because I couldn't see the finish, it made it all the more telling. There was something a little bit exciting about later learning that he'd succeeded.
As the rest of the field came in behind, there were other fascinating little observations to be made. These glimpses may not sound like much when I write them down but nonetheless they leave tiny mental imprints from this fantastic sporting event.
Perhaps the one that sticks most in my mind from yesterday's stage was Fabian Cancellara freewheeling in, alone off the back, having spent the day working for Andy Schleck.
As he did so, Cancellara was trying to shake some of the lactic acid out of those almighty thighs of his.
For a moment I imagined that the ground was going to rumble beneath him.
I've never had that impression watching the race on TV.