Sad­dle up for an­other clas­sic

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Graeme Blun­dell

The cy­cling circus is with us again as the world’s su­per­star rid­ers and their fran­tic en­tourages go head to head in this most spec­tac­u­lar race as the Tour de France re­turns for its 26th year on SBS, with more than 200 hours of cov­er­age and nightly live broad­casts di­rect from France. It is, as the French might say, a be­guil­ing mix of beauty, thrills, pas­sion, dreams and per­for­mance. Com­pris­ing 21 stages and cov­er­ing a to­tal of 3519km, the 103rd Tour de France will visit three neigh­bour­ing coun­tries this year: Spain, the Prin­ci­pal­ity of An­dorra and Switzer­land. And Le Grand De­part is in Nor­mandy’s La Manche, the majesty of the grav­ity-de­fy­ing Ro­manesque cathe­dral Mont-Saint-Michel pro­vid­ing the per­fect back­drop to the ath­letic and aes­thetic ef­forts of the pelo­ton. The rid­ers start the epic jour­ney at the foot of the “Won­der of the West­ern World”, as the great gothic abbey is known, and chase each other to “a meet­ing with his­tory”, ar­riv­ing at Utah Beach, one of the beaches cho­sen on June 6, 1944, for the D-Day land­ing op­er­a­tions. The SBS commentary team, led in France by Michael To­ma­laris, cov­er­ing his 21st Tour, will broad­cast ev­ery stage of the race. He is joined by three-time green jersey win­ner Rob­bie McEwen pro­vid­ing his in­sight into the race and Giro d’Italia stage win­ner Dave McKen­zie, along­side former Tour de France rider Henk Vo­gels. New for this year’s event, McEwen, at one time re­garded as the fastest pro­fes­sional sprinter in the game, will join Matthew Keenan in commentary at the start of each stage, be­fore hand­ing over to the voices of Phil Liggett and Paul Sher­wen for the last 50km of each stage. The tour is sim­ply an ex­tra­or­di­nary spec­ta­cle and Liggett, at 72, re­mains broad­cast­ing’s class act.

Tour de France, from tonight, nightly on SBS.

Rob­bie McEwen, left, joins vet­eran com­men­ta­tor Michael To­ma­laris for this year’s Tour de France cov­er­age

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