One of the luxuries of working on the Tour de France is the concentration on a mono-topic theme. For three weeks, the race is the focal point and other elements of life’s minutiae can be ignored…
Back in Sydney. Back in the office chair. Back to the ‘ordinary’. There’s nothing at all wrong with the routine of day-to-day living. It is, in fact, something worth celebrating. Wake, eat, work, eat, exercise, eat, relax… sleep. Add a few other elements to the daily processes and that’s a perfectly healthy, happy life.
For the month of July, however, there’s plenty of added variety thrown into the mix for those who are part of the enormous ‘Tour Family’.
The race and the riders are the centrepiece for three weeks, but the Tour de France becomes something much larger than just a sporting event. It’s a microcosm of activity that needs to shift daily and although there is always something to report on, with regard to the race itself, that’s only one aspect of what makes it interesting.
The Tour comes and goes. When it’s done and dusted, raced and won, there’s the obvious compulsion to share with others elements of the adventure that has just taken place. That’s what we see a lot of in this post-Tour week; highlights reels of an extraordinary experience that thousands of people have shared.
For me, ‘The Week After’ is that time in the year when I recognise the bliss of having a mono-focus, and the liberty that comes with being free from the daily news cycle.
It’s not a celebration of ignorance, far from it – for I recognise that we need to be aware of what’s going on in the world. There is a reason why news has morphed from a half-hour slot at the end of the day to a 24-hour cycle that is constantly blasting information from all corners of the globe. We have the ability to share what’s happening with a relative minimum of fuss and explain events that affect our community, region, country, or the planet.
It is important that news dissemination takes place but when you’ve been in ‘The Bubble’ that is so often referred to by people talking about their experiences on the Tour de France, it’s a reminder that there is a kind of bliss that comes with blocking out external distractions that somehow inevitably fall into our thinking.
Photos: Zac Williams
During the Tour, you can catch some news and find out things that you may otherwise not need to know. The radio issues messages while you drive. Social media feeds are littered with items of information that keep you up to date – with world events and family matters alike. You may even find the TV remote after arriving at the hotel late at night and BFMTV explains what’s happening in the Republic, or elsewhere in the world before you fall into slumber (often without having the energy to click ‘off’).
I also know that there can be days when little else enters the mind other than what is happening on the race.
Where are we now? Where are we going? Who is in the lead? Who won? Who crashed? Who got caught in the echelon..? Often the query could be a simple as: what day is it?
Simple questions, easily answered, come and go.
There are few distractions other than what needs to be managed daily.
For a journalist on Tour, it’s managing the correct word count, getting the story filed and published, ensuring edits are checked and correct and, of course, shared on myriad forms of social media. Once that’s all done, the periphery elements of the daily tasks are considered.
What do we eat? When can we rest? What time is the next stage? What happened yesterday? Where did we park the car…? And so on.
As for what Donald Trump tweeted or who Scott Morrison spoke to or what some swimmer did at a podium ceremony…? Well, as the French would say: pffff!
Pffff! Is such a universal term and I’m going to try and use it more in everyday life; it’s just a sound, not a word you can find in the dictionary, and it is used often to simply say: who really gives a shit?!
Escape the news cycle for a few weeks and you’ll soon realise how liberating it is.
Try it now. Repeat with me: pffff!
Instead of waking and frowning at some comment on the radio, or yelling back at the news reader, or being incredulous about some link urging you to care about the content of a pill swallowed by someone you’ve never heard of, or the number of times a bloke has run up and down a patch of grass with a bat in his hand, or the lack of scrutiny at building sites, or the size of someone’s lips, or the price of a 10-bedroom house, or the latest reality TV sensation, or the many other distractions that come with paying attention to the vortex of news babble… you just get on with your own life.
As for the rest of things, well: pffff!
Geraint, Egan and Steven get together in the middle of an avenue (above). Photo: Zac Williams
There’s nothing at all wrong with The Ordinary. It’s something to celebrate and appreciate. We wouldn’t want to be on Tour every day of the year and worry about the cumulative time of one rider or another day after day after day.
Three weeks is a good span of time to be absorbed in such trivialities.
Twenty-one stages are enough to lure us in, make us care, and elicit a wealth of stories for us to share.
The Tour de France is a bike race, but that’s not all it is. For me it’s the coming together of a vast group of people from a wide range of places, each managing different tasks and speaking various languages, with a common desire to showcase something that’s wonderful.
It is possible for a 22-year-old to get from point A to point B faster than everyone else, and for that same bloke to have the kind of education that allows him to express his appreciation for the support he’s enjoyed in multiple languages in front of a global audience. He may be young and shy and much rather just talk about his experiences with his family and friends. Eventually – like now, in The Week After – he will get to do that.
But before the bubble burst, and before Egan Bernal returned to the ordinary, he was given the opportunity to feel extraordinary.
We will talk of what Egan and the 175 other riders did in France last month for years to come. And that is the net effect of an enormous effort by many people to make cycling a focal point – and this is something that’s beautiful about the Tour de France. But it’s not the only thing.
The Tour allows us to be distracted from the grind of everyday life and removes us from the urgency that seems to be attached with things we should be able to ignore.
This is not the first time I’ve felt the liberty of having a mono-focus and although I’d rather not get sucked back into the vortex of distractions that may upset or annoy – or perhaps even inspire me – I’m aware that it’ll inevitably happen.
Still, for the time being, I’m going to be grateful that I’ve had a month of relative ignorance, a time to shun matters that I’m unable to influence. There are limitless distractions on offer in ordinary life, but the Tour reminds me that we don’t always have to be aware of them, let alone respond to them. And surely that’s a good thing.
– By Rob Arnold