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How to Watch the Tour de France -- TV Options and Viewing Recommendations

How to Watch the Tour de France -- TV Options and Viewing Recommendations

by: Dru Ryan
Monday, July 2, 2018 - 9:06am

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How Watching the Tour de France Can Make you a Better Cyclist


About the Tour de France

The 105th edition of the Tour de France starts Saturday, July 7 and ends Sunday, July 29.  The largest spectator sport in the world asks 176 riders to spend three weeks traversing 2082 picturesque miles -- roughly the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah to New York City.   So much effort and only two off days!

READ: Watching the Tour will make you a better cyclist.

The grand tours are the ultimate test of endurance.  Simply finishing a grand tour is an accomplishment. To wear the yellow jersey, worn by the tour leader, is seen as a career-defining moment.  


Wear the jersey at the end of the race, and you’ll pedal away with just under US $600,000.  Traditionally, the winner splits the earnings with the entire team, demonstrating that cycling is a team sport in every regard.

What are the Jerseys About?

The three other jerseys are green for best sprinter/points classification, polka dot for best climber and white, best young rider (under 25).  Best sprinter and climber are decided by points.

The white jersey is for the best-positioned rider under 25 years old. In cycling, everyone has the same birthday of Jan 1.  Whether January 2 or December 30 birthday, you age one year on New Year’s day.

Last year, Peter Sagan was controversially disqualified as he went for his sixth consecutive green jersey.  He will be out for blood this year.

How to Watch the Tour de France

Cycling is a unique sport to watch.  The leader of the race isn’t necessarily the first bike on the road.  The overall leader (wearer of the mallot jaune) is the person with the lowest cumulative time.  The winner of the stage finishes first on the day and all jerseys are redistributed.  The race leader may change during the stage, but the yellow jersey only changes hands during the podium presentation.  


The yellow jersey is awarded after each stage.  As of this year, the Tour de France will no longer employ podium girls.  Image:

An average stage of the Tour can last for to six hours.  Only the cycling junkies watch everything. It makes for excellent background entertainment.  You look up when the announcer's voice suggests it’s appropriate. If this is your first time watching cycling, you’ll hear a lot of strange words -- use this glossary as a reference.

Finding the Tour on TV and Online

In the United States, live, cable television coverage usually starts two hours into the stage -- typically 8 a.m. EDT.  The race will start earlier for the pivotal stages. Paid access allows you to watch the entire stage.

Here are your U.S. options for watching the Tour de France:

Cable TV

  • NBCSN shows live coverage of the tour in the morning at 8 a.m. EDT with a wrap-up show (usually two hours) each evening.  NBCSN is available on most cable packages.

On Demand Mobile App

  • NBC Sports Gold provides an annual cycling package for $49.99.  You will get access to a host of races and cycling events. This subscription allows you to watch the stages from the opening pistol.

Live Online

  • If you want more than cycling in your paid sports subscription, checkout FuboTV.  Fubo allows you to record programs but does not provide on-demand viewing.

  • A favorite of cycling enthusiasts, website Cycling Fans offers live access.

Suggestions on how to Watch the Tour

The tour is a stage race.  A moving caravan around France with riders, team directors, photographers, chefs, mechanics, officials, fans, media and helicopter pilots all gathering and dispersing.   Keeping up with the daily happenings of the race is part of the allure. There will be spats within teams, between riders sometimes with the motorcycle drivers and even fans.

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There’s no wrong way to watch the tour -- as long as you watch, the cycling gods will smile upon you with favor.  But here are a few suggestions.

  1. Choose a favorite team -- There are 22 teams with eight riders per team.  Most teams have a national affiliation.  Education First /Drapac is considered the American team, along with BMC.  

  2. Find a favorite rider -- Team leaders have a jersey number ending in one.  11, 21, 31 . . . if you can’t find a team, key in on the top riders.  It’s okay to like multiple riders. Typically, you will find sprinters and climbers to cheer for on multiple teams.  Realize the riders have their own rivalries. Respect the rivalry -- you can’t like both the Yankees and the Red Sox -- get it?  

  3. Hone in on specific stages --  Flat stages are for the sprinters. With the hills for climbers.  All of the grand tours are decided in the mountains. Be sure to catch the mountain stages!  

  4. Watch the summary show -- Each evening, NBCSN will show a condensed version of the stage.  If you can stay away from social media, the condensed stage usually suffices.

  5. Hang at a bike shop -- Don't know much about cycling and need to ask questions?  Lurk around a bike shop showing the Tour de France. Owner Chuck Harney at The Bike Rack (14th and Q. St NW) is a former racer.  Always support the local bike shops.

  6. Join a fantasy league --  Yes, fantasy cycling is a thing.  Velogames has an easy to follow interface -- though other options do exist..  Play in the large pool, or join my league:  

League Name: DruCycles TdF

League Code: 823935413

And Make Sure Your Ride

In D.C., riding outdoors (need routes?) is always advised during the Tour.  If indoors is your thing, the following studios typically offer Tour de France rides: Equinox, OffRoad DC, Wired Cycling, Mint DC and Flywheel.

And if all else fails, play the Tour de France video game.  Playing during the Tour may be overkill, but who am I to judge?



Pro Cycling Manager -- as close to the real thing without putting on spandex.   

About the Author

Dru Ryan is a daily bike commuter, indoor cycling coach (EquinoxCrunch, Mint DC) and road cyclist who averages 200 miles a week. Follow Dru on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook or visit his website