Ahead of the Tour de France, here are the cycling shows you should watch

Whether you’re a devoted cycling fan or a once-a-year viewer who enjoys the stunning shots of chateaux, landscapes and fine food as much as the race, very little preparation is needed before watching the Tour de France.

Just organise some Tour snacks and settle down in front of SBS’s coverage for as long as you can stay awake. If you can’t make it to the finish of the stage in the early hours, catch the highlights in the morning – either from 7am to 8am or on SBS On Demand.

Commentator Matthew Keenan will be joined by Dr Bridie O’Donnell and Simon Gerrans, with reporting from the scene and podcasting by David McKenzie and Christophe Mallet. Chef Guillaume Brahimi returns with Plat du Tour.

The 111th men’s race takes place from June 29 to July 21, with the third year of the Tour de France Femmes, the women’s race, running from August 12 to 18.

There are some notable firsts this year: the Tour starts in Florence, Italy; it finishes outside Paris, in Nice, because the Olympics start in the French capital on July 26; and the Femmes, which starts in Rotterdam, has been pushed back in the cycling calendar and will run between the Olympics and Paralympics.

After two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogacar’s stunning triumph in the Giro d’Italia last month, winning six stages and the general classification by almost 10 minutes, there will be huge interest in whether he can carry off the rare Giro-Tour double in the same season.

Much depends on how the two-time winner and defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and two other star riders, Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic, recover from a horrendous high-speed crash that also badly injured Australian Jay Vine during Spain’s Tour of the Basque Country in April.

Australia’s contingent at the Tour includes former Giro winner Jai Hindley, Jack Haig, Luke Durbridge and Chris Harper. In the Femmes, Sarah Gigante, Grace Brown and Amanda Spratt are expected to be contending for stage wins.

If you can’t wait, here are some suggestions to get in the mood ...

Tour de France: Unchained (Netflix)

Season 1 of this Netflix series was a visceral inside look at the 2022 Tour, showing the drama inside team meetings and making the crashes feel more brutal than they ever have on the TV coverage. While highly entertaining, it featured an overcooked storyline about competition within the Jumbo-Visma team and suffered for lack of access to Pogacar.

The new season, looking at last year’s race, is better for featuring both sides of the intense competition for the race leader’s yellow jersey between Pogacar and Vingegaard. With the start of the race overshadowed by the death of Swiss rider Gino Mader in a crash at the Tour de Suisse, an early highlight of this season is a surprisingly frank rivalry between two Australians, Hindley and Ben O’Connor.

Julien Jurdie, the sporting director of O’Connor’s team AG2R Citroen, has to tell him: “The Tour de France isn’t an inter-Australian race, you know?”

A later episode raises the ugly question of whether doping is back in professional cycling after Vingegaard’s phenomenal time trial win on stage 16 raises doubts among rivals and fans. “There’s no truth in cycling,” French cyclist Valentin Madouas says. Vingegaard insists: “I’m clean. And even when they test these samples in a hundred years they will still not find anything.”

While fans have no reason to doubt Vingegaard, it’s hard to forget seven-time winner Lance Armstrong’s repeated denials before eventual admission to doping in 2013.

Second to None (weekly episodes on DocPlay)

A three-part series from Australian production company Sweetshop & Green on the Lidl-Trek women’s cycling team, which includes Amanda Spratt, as they prepare for and race the second Tour de France Femmes in 2023. Made over two years, it’s a less frantic look behind the scenes than Unchained, focussing on one team rather than rival outfits.

Episode one has Italian sprinter Elisa Balsamo battling to come back to racing from breaking her jaw in three places when she crashed into the back of her team’s car during Ride London. The third episode features Spratt’s epic climb on the Col du Tourmalet.

Classic Tour de France Stages (SBS On Demand)

In the last decade, the Tour has had so many memorable stages, including the drama when Chris Froome ran up Mont Ventoux after a crash in 2016, Pogacar’s amazing stage 20 time trial that finished with a savage six-kilometre climb in 2020, and Wout van Aert’s win after climbing Mont Ventoux twice in 2021.

SBS has packaged 21 of the greatest stages.

Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling (SBS On Demand)

An entertaining documentary about the famous English cycling commentator’s life that covers his time as an aspiring professional rider, move into cycling journalism, time organising Britain’s Milk Race, passion for raising funds to save the rhino and surprising love of model trains.

It also shows how distressing it was for Liggett when fellow commentator and close friend Paul Sherwen died suddenly from heart failure in 2018.

Tour De France 2011: Conquering Le Tour (SBS On Demand)

ahead of the tour de france, here are the cycling shows you should watch

Cadel Evans is the only Australian to win the Tour de France, which he did in 2011.

For anyone who watched the Tour in 2011, Cadel Evans becoming the first Australian winner was unforgettable. This four-part series covers his race from the grand depart to the presentation in Paris with all the memorable moments, including his remarkable calm when he had a mechanical problem then his inspired ride to catch the leaders on stage 19.

Then came his time trial triumph over Andy Schleck – with the split screen showing Cadel cutting into Schleck’s lead then overtaking him – on stage 20.

The Armstrong Lie (Netflix and online rental)

Have we watched enough about Armstrong betraying cycling fans by now? If not, the story of the former champion, who was stripped of his seven titles when he admitted to doping, is told in the 2015 movie The Program (available for rental online), the 2020 documentary Lance (Disney +) and parodied in the 2017 comedy Tour de Pharmacy (Foxtel Now).

The best account, though, is Alex Gibney’s 2013 documentary The Armstrong Lie.

SBS’ coverage of the Tour de France runs from June 29 to July 21 and Tour de France Femmes from August 12 to August 18.

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