2011 Tour de France: 10 Reasons You Need To Watch

Tyler PurcellContributor IIIJune 14, 2011

2011 Tour de France: 10 Reasons You Need To Watch

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    Every summer the Tour de France starts up again and offers viewers 21 days of what is arguably the most physically gruelling test of endurance in all of sports. Unfortunately, everyone who wasn't a diehard cyclist stopped watching the sport right after some guy named Lance Armstrong retired.

    Here is a list of the top 10 reasons why you should start watching now.

10. National Pride

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    The summer Olympics aren't until 2012 but you can cheer for your country every summer with the tour (although the U.S. did a lot better with Lance around). Still, The Tour de France is one of the best sporting events for athletes to truly represent their country.

    A few Americans to watch:

    Christian VandeVelde (fourth place in 2009)

    Tyler Farrar (expert sprinter)

    Levi Leipheimer (third place in 2007)

9. Breakaways

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    Everybody loves to root for the underdog and there is no better opportunity to do this then a breakaway in the Tour de France. During the flat stages, lower ranked, supporting team members get their shot at glory by breaking away from the pack and attempting to keep them off for the victory. These guys are similar to the last guys on the bench who get one shot to be king for a day.

8. Three Sports in One

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    While it may just seem like cycling is about getting from Point A to Point B, the fastest pro tours like the Tour de France are actually made up of three different contests with riders who specialize in each.

    Sprints: After long flat stages, teams push to the front of the pack to set up their "sprinter." Sprinters are the most powerful riders in the tour and are similar to runners in the 100-meter dash. Excitement stems from two hours of riding coming down to a 10-second sprint to the finish.

    Mountains: The mountain climbers are a completely different breed from the sprinters. These riders are long and lanky so they can outlast the others on the steepest stages. They don't try for the sprints, just as sprinters do not try to win in the mountains. The mountains of France are what break the riders. No rider can win the Tour without being good in the mountains.

    Time Trials: There are two time trials in the Tour de France, one individual and one team. Time trials are short stages that remove most of the outside elements of the sport. Call them the free throws of cycling. You can win it without being good at them, but it's difficult.

7. France Is Beautiful

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    Need I say more?

6. It Is on 5 Times a Day

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    No, seriously, the cable channel Versus airs it five times throughout the day. If you want to see it live, however, you have to start watching at 8 AM because of the different time zones.

5. NFL Lockout

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    With the NFL lockout there will be no spring training camp and no free-agent moves to talk about in football. What else is there to watch, baseball?

4. Mark Cavendish

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    Cavendish is the most dominant sprinter the sport of cycling has seen in a long time. On top of that he is also one of the most cocky making him loved and hated by fans of the sport. Those who oppose him cannot deny his accomplishments as he has posted 15 total stage wins in his first three tours. Given he is only 26, he is certain to win many more.

3. Heated Rivalry

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    The top two overall riders in the sport are Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador. Both have won many awards and races in the sport of cycling but only Contador has won the Tour de France. The last two years Contador has finished first and Schleck was second. Both riders are young and this great rivalry may go on for years to come.

2. Crashes

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    Everyone loves a good crash. That's why people watch NASCAR right? Well, each Tour is guaranteed to have a few, so sit back and enjoy.

1. Alberto Contador

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    As I previously mentioned Contador is the two-time defending champion. He has won each of the last three years he has been in the Tour de France (he did not participate in 2008 because his team was disqualified) and has won every other major cycling race during that time as well. If Lance Armstrong was Michael Jordan, Alberto Contador is Kobe. He has no weaknesses at any aspect of the race, and most impressive, he is still only 28.