Bike Week: five good reasons to watch the Tour de France this weekend

Use YouTube to remind yourself why it's worth tuning in to the Tour

Excited about the start of the Tour de France this weekend? No? Okay, sit yourself down in front of the five greatest cycling videos on YouTube, and you soon will be. And there's at least one crash, we promise.

Sometimes it goes cross-country

In 2003, Lance Armstrong was years away from becoming the world's most famous drug cheat, so nobody begrudged him a little shortcut. In fact, when you know why exactly he took it (the shortcut, not the veinfuls of performance-enhancing megajuice), it's impressive. The furiously hot summer of 2003 had caused patches of road on the descent out of the Tour's ninth stage to melt. Stage leader Joseba Beloki hit some molten tar, his tyre exploded and he broke his leg, elbow and wrist. Following closely at over 50kmph and understandably keen not to have the same experience, Armstrong veered left, careened across a field regained his place in the peloton.

people ride down mountains at well over 100km/h downhill...

It's generally a good thing that the Tour riders now wear helmets, but if you crash on the Col du Galibier, it won't make much of a difference. Once the riders crest the top of this classic climb, they descend 50km of winding mountain road at motorway speeds, often coming within inches of a sheer drop in order to be able to get the most speed out of each turn.

More after the break...

...and 75kph on the flat

Usain Bolt may be able to run at superhuman speeds for nine and a half seconds, but Mark Cavendish can cycle 160 kilometres, jostle for position with a bunch of other riders and then sprint, accelerating to just shy of 80kmph in a phenomenal burst of power that makes him perhaps the most exciting cyclist to watch. See the overhead helicopter footage of this sprint for why, on a good day, the Manx Missile remains unbeatable. 

READ MORE: Five bikes that won the Tour de France

occasionally there's a crash

It's not like we want them to crash, but the Tour does throw up the occasional impressive takedown. Top honours go to Dutch rider Johnny Hoogerland for surviving this nightmare crash in the 2009 Tour, when a France Telévisions car went for the sort of undertaking manouvre normally reserved for South London roads, sideswiped Juan Antonio Flecha and sent Hoogerland flying into a barbed wire fence at 50kph. Hoogerland won himself lifetime membership of Club ToughGuy by finishing the stage before receiving the 33 stitches his wounds required. 

the next tour will have on-bike cameras

Just as Formula 1 has cameras built into every car, the Tour will soon be capturing the action from seatpost level. At the recent Tour of California, a test of Shimano's latest minicam allowed for this incredible footage, which allows a previosuly unglimpsed view into the shouting and shoving that goes on as the riders jostle for position in the build-up to a sprint. On-bike coverage isn't planned for this Tour, but it should be ready in time for the 2015 race. 

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