THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GRAND TOUR WATCHING
Sure the Grand Tours of cycling are some of the most punishing sporting events on the planet – but watching them, particularly all the way from Australia should be considered just as gruelling both mentally and physically. The late nights, post stage group debriefs and analysis combined with trying to keep your training or caffé latte ride regime in check is a tough process through the months of May, July and August. No matter how strong your pre-season through the Spring Classics is, that first week of the Giro really hits hard. Things are hotting up as we enter the final week of Le Tour, so here we are to give you the ultimate guide to Grand Tour Watching. Feel free to join us at Soup Boys HQ for some high quality bicycle race watching some time between now and the peloton's arrival on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Whilst it may be cold and dreary outside, we advise that you aim to replicate the nice toasty climate of the European summer with your choices of dress. That's why we personally recommend numerous layers, matching sports/chav/high fashionz brand tracksuits or Versace robes. Finish off your fire sports watching outfit with woollen socks and at least some kind of slipper, we are strong advocates of moccasins as they have proven themselves through years of Grand Tour watching.
AN EFF OFF BIG SCREEN
An important part of watching the Grand Tours of cycling is of course the "watching" aspect. A big screen certainly helps, as does quality sound from either built in, or surround sound speakers. Our ADL division is lucky enough to spectate in the lounging comfort of Jack's lounge room, with one wall reserved for a projector screen. The MEL crew split their spectating time between the Studio Cayman and Soup Boys HQ, depending on the vibe and amount of work to complete. Fortunately both ticking the crucial "big screen box" with the Cayman's having a suitably large projector screen, and Soup Boys HQ having a big ol' LED TV.
HEARTWARMING FOOD (HOME MADE)
Winter is the season for gaining a few kilograms, raising the fat % just slightly to keep you protected from the elements, and to give you that warm feeling inside as you park your ass on the couch for the night. You might grab dinner on the go on the way home, hit Chin Chin or Swanny Maccas with work mates for a sit down feast, or cook it at home, but leave dessert to us. This here pie recipe is designed to perfectly fill the void of time that sits between arriving home from work, and race coverage starting.
5 Fuji Apples, peeled > cored & finely diced
½ cup of caster sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
A 500ml bottle of Spiced Apple Rekorderlig*
1½ cups of plain flour
¾ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 cup of rolled oats (uncooked porridge)
225g unsalted butter, melted*
Thick Ass Custard
Vanilla Ice Cream (recommended brands include: Gundowring, Timboon, Maggie Beer or Connoisseur)
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the apple, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and a suitable amount of Rekorderlig (subjective) in a large bowl and mix to combine. Transfer all that over into a nicely sized ovenproof dish or baking tray.
To make the crumble topping, place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, oats and butter in a large bowl and mix until just combined. Freakin' simple no?
- Spoon the crumble mixture over the apple and place the dish on a large baking tray. Bake for 40–45 minutes (enough time for a session on the Zwift) until either the crumble is golden and the apples are soft, or until you start to cramp...whichever comes first. Serve up with vanilla ice-cream, custard and a warmed Rekorderlig. Serves 6 climbers, 3 sprinters or just 1 lifter.
(* can be subtracted/substituted for vegan/straight edge friendliness *)
ACCOMPANYING SNACKS (STORE BOUGHT)
For shorter stages, prologues and time trials, sometimes an assortment of snacks is all you need. We recommend Tim Tams, Oreos, Pringles in almost any flavour, oven warmed donuts, strawberries by the punnet, stone fruit like peaches and apricots, sultanas and of course bananas.
Beverage choice is paramount, especially as you lead towards the end of a gripping stage and into the early hours of the morning. You of course want to be able to sleep when coverage and post race analysis with friends finishes, more so if you have a 200km day in the hills planned for the following morning...but you don't want to miss that final attack up the HC climb, or that perfectly executed lead out train for the sprinters. We recommend a sweet, late night friendly tea, Greek coffee brewed in a briki (naturally) - perfect for the long mountain stages, or this recipe for Italian hot chocolate.
120 grams of dark chocolate (min. 69% cocoa solids)
2 teaspoons of icing sugar
100ml full-cream milk
Fill a small saucepan a third of the way with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Grate down the dark chocolate and place that, the icing sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk in a small heatproof bowl. Place over the pan and stir until chocolate has almost melted and the icing sugar has dissolved (!!! don't let the bowl touch the water!!!).
Slowly add the remaining milk and stir continuously until well combined, keeping a strong, high cadence.
Continue cooking over a low heat as you make stage winner predictions, and until the mixture becomes thick. Serve in caffé latte glasses and consume on the comfort of your couch as you criticise professional cyclists (not top tube) pedalling techniques.
A COSY SETTING
Plush couches (whether the adjective or the brand) can make or break the Grand Tour of cycling television watching experience. A coffee table to match the size of Tony Martin's chainrings is also advisable as it will allow you to arrange your snacks, rest hot drinks or other screened devices as you scroll through bicycle race related social feeds and feeds from multiple tv networks to make sure you don't miss a single thing going on. Heating through ducted, fan forced or other popular suburban methods are ideal, however all are easily trumped without question by a wood fire (open or closed).
A PENCHANT FOR BANTER
Whilst the SBS commentary team does a good job of informing you of historical chateaus, time trial positions, echelons, gran fondo's and sprint victories from the mid 2000's, there is still so much of the race, so much cycling history, analysis and action that you miss. Of course your primary aim should be to ignite banter amongst your friends taking up space on your couch, but in this connected world of ours its only natural to take to the digital e-realm to interact with other Grand Tour of cycling fans, journalists and workers. You could set up a group chat of course, but we recommend the following twitter accounts who participate in #sbstdf #tdf2016 or no tags at all because they're famous enough already. Of course Adrian will toot his own horn, but the accounts of Simon Atkinson, Daveo, Ben.x and Wilko (when he's awake) will either keep him in line, provide slightly more coherent commentary, or both. Of the internationals, UK Cycling Expert, Gage + Desoto, Speed Metal Cycling and Dan Lloyd (token verified account) are a pick of the bunch. Join us and get tweeting.
A GOOD ALARM
With many stages finishing no earlier than 1am AEST, a good alarm is necessary to make it to work, brunch, or the Beach Rd bunch in the morning. No doubt your watch has been replaced by the iWatch by now, your regular clock replaced by the futuristic, pinnacle of design iClock, or maybe you kick it old school and just set your alarm on your iPhone 6s Plus 128GB Rose Gold. Whichever way you swing, here are some tracks we recommend waking up to, guaranteed to have you raring to go for the day.