Lisa's Mum's guide to surviving a conversation with a Tour tragic

Lisa's Mum understands the unenviable position of being stuck in a conversation on a topic she knows nothing about. She encountered this very problem only the other day when sitting next to Julia Gillard at a roundtable forum for Influential Women of the 21st Century held at the Altona South RSL. Although Lisa's Mum found Julia charming and very smartly dressed, her views on carbon pricing were somewhat limited, which made for some awkward silences between the pair. Lisa's Mum is here to ensure that the same does not happen to you during Tour time. Here are some fail-safe phrases to throw into water-cooler discussions about Le Tour / the Giro / Vuelta. Just make sure you deliver your snappy line and move smoothly away before the other person draws you into a proper conversation:

On the way the tour is panning out:

  • It's a game of cat and mouse
  • Ah yes, but they haven't hit the mountains yet
  • It's because Cadel still has a crappy team

On individual riders:

  • He's bluffing
  • Crikey he's arrogant. Can you believe what he gets paid?
  • What a hard man. They say he can crack walnuts between his calves just by putting his feet together and sneezing

On doping:

  • Doper or non-doper, Contador is still the best cyclist in the world
  • I ate a steak once, but I didn't test positive
  • Have you read 'Rough Ride'?

On the race radio debate:

  • Rider safety is important, but it's also important that I get to watch exciting TV
  • Why don't they all just listen to ABC NewsRadio? I do.

Good luck! And get some of your wife's eyeliner onto you - those dark circles are unbecoming.

Lisa's Mum's guide to the Tour de France

The Tour de France starts on July 2 and Lisa's Mum is excited. She is still a little bit miffed that Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen have declined her offer to join them on the SBS TdF commentary team. Apparently, they do have enough women commentators and no, they do not think omitting Lisa's Mum from this year's line-up would alienate a large portion of their audience.

Alberto is a big Star Trek fan but even big fans can get the official greeting wrong sometimes
Le Tour this year winds through all sorts of romantic-sounding French places before ending up on the Champs-Elysees where, like most tourists visiting Paris, the peleton will be too tired to do any decent shopping and won't be able to afford anything there, anyway.

Lisa's Mum appreciates that not all of her fans will have as intimate a knowledge of Le Tour as her. Accordingly, she will be providing Le Commentary for the next three weeks to help the uninitiated through the Greatest Show On Earth. To start with, here is a glossary for beginners:
  • Tour: A multi-day stage race (like the Tour de France). A Tour provides many days of racing, but just one overall winner. Which makes you wonder why the other 197 riders are so slow to catch on. The overall winner and some lucky other guys get to dress up in colourful jerseys at the end and everyone else loses 5kg. [See also Lisa's Mum's previous Guide to Cycling for Non-Cyclists]
  • Stage: One day of racing in a Tour. Even though there is only one winner at the end, each stage tricks riders into thinking they may have won (a 'Stage Winner'). On the podium, the Stage Winner is told the sad news that no, they are not the real winner, and they have to race again tomorrow. The frustration leads him to throw his bouquet of flowers into the crowd in a huff.
  • Time Trial: A stage of a Tour where each rider races not against other riders, but against the clock. Each rider is set off one or two minutes apart and told that there is only enough hot water in the showers at the end for 3 people. Each rider turns themselves inside out trying to get there first.
  • Neutral Start: Technically, this is where the start of the race is 'neutralised' and not part of the race, so that riders can parade through the start town nice and safe. I think in most pro men's races where the stages are 200km+ this generally works. In women's pro races of 100km, 'neutral start' means 'get to the front any way you can, as fast as you can, before the neutral zone ends'.
  • Finish line: Where the race ends. A rider's finishing time is taken from the moment they cross the line... unless they are in a big bunch, in which case the time is taken from the first wheel and given to everyone in the bunch. This is so that the riders who have not yet worked out what a Tour is (see Tour, above) will not be tempted to race everyone else in the bunch in order to 'win' the sprint for 38th place.
  • King of the Mountains: The smallest and skinniest rider who gets to look like Where's Wally as a reward.
  • Sprint Leader: Given to the rider with the biggest and strongest legs. Also the first rider likely to get fat when they retire.
  • Domestique: A rider who can ride just as well as their leader but is paid half as much. Often seen getting water bottles and getting spat out the back after an epic 150km solo breakaway.

Next: Lisa's Mum's guide to surviving conversations with a Tour de France tragic!

Tracking the Tour

This weekend, the biggest men's and women's races in the world kick off- the Tour de France for the blokes and the Giro d'Italia Feminin for the women.I've just installed the SBS Cycling Central TDF iPhone app (it's free- avail on iTunes) which has tour routes, results, videos and a lot more. It looks unreal. Next stop is to finalise my TDF tipping team for Milesini's 'Le Tipping' comp run out of Canberra (a real highlight of the tour for me).

The Giro Donne, or women's Giro d'Italia, is the biggest women's pro race in the world. I raced it last year and it remains the hardest thing I've done. What an awesome experience. This year, the Aussie national team won't be racing it but there are several women flying the flag- Ruth Corset, Shara Gillow, Rachel Neylan, Carla Ryan, Bridie O'Donnell, Tiff Cromwell and others I can't think of right now. Special mention to TE's Sharon Laws who is coming off 3rd at British nat champs last week to race for Garmin-Cervelo. Go Shaz!!

Best of luck to everyone and I'm looking forward to some sleepless nights ahead!