Tour de France 2010 – it’s tech on wheels!

Tour de France

For me, the word’s premier sports event started last night – the Tour de France. It’s been nice of the FIFA World Cup to warm us up with a spot of sport, but move over divers and divas, the peloton is here to take world centre stage.

You might think it odd that I choose to post about the Tour de France, but tech is everywhere in the race, and, well, it’s my site, I get to write about what I want. And over the three weeks of the Tour de France, I’ll be throwing in a few stories on bike and cycling technology.

Tour de France: the numbers

As I said, the Tour de France started last night, and is the 97th edition of the race. It finishes in Paris, on July 25. Over the prologue, and the 20 stages of the race, the riders will cover 3,631 kilometres. There are 22 teams competing, 197 riders in all, 11 of whom are Australians.

Tour de France 2010 route

Follow the Tour de France

If you want to follow the race, your first stop is SBS, or SBS HD. They’re showing every stage of the race live, each night beginning around 10 pm. It’s a sport event, yes, but the Tour de France is also probably the world’s best – and longest – travel and history program. You’ll learn a lot about the regions of France that the race passes through – all the vineyards, chateaus, cathedrals, museums and more. The coverage shot from cameras in helicopters is often spectacular, particularly in the mountain stages.

Another thing you can do to follow the race, and get a real sense of the length of the race and the height of the mountains, is to download Google Earth, and then, once you’ve done that, download the 2010 Tour de France map overlay. This is Keyhole Markup Language (KML), and meshes with the map to show you the exact route of the race. Then using the Google Earth program you can zoom in for close-ups, and using the tilt tool you get a real appreciation of the heights of the mountains and the steepness of the climbs.

Tour de France KLM for Google Earth

Tech sponsors

So you see, there is a tech angle to the Tour de France. One last thing… there some names amongst the team sponsors that you’ll recognise. Phone makers HTC, GPS makers Garmin, internet telephony company Skype, and apparently, a late addition just before the start of the race, is that Google is putting some money into a team, under the guise of their Google Maps brand. Actually, HTC, Google and Skype are all involved with the one team, HTC-Columbia. Oh, and their rider in line for a win in the general classification – that is the winner of the race – is an Australian, Michael Rogers.

Well done HTC, Skype and Google for putting your support into an absolutely brilliant event.

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