Tour de France and Wimbledon

This month boasts two other major world sporting events that don’t involve a football

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The Tour de France

Date: July 3-25
Location: Across France
Watch it on: Dubai Sports TV
Info: www.letour.fr

This year’s Tour de France will cover a distance of 3,600km – that’s one heck of a bike ride. We asked Wolfgang Hohmann, owner of Wolfi’s Bike Shop and possibly the most knowledgeable cycling enthusiast in Dubai, about why we should watch the so-called ‘greatest race in the world’.

Variety: ‘Every day there’s something to look forward to. There are so many competitions in one: the yellow jersey is for the fastest rider overall (it’s worn by the leader each day of the tour), the green jersey goes to the cyclist with the most sprinting points (the first past the mark at the end of each stage wins sprinting points – good sprinters will come to the front of the pack and focus on this), and the white jersey with polka dots goes to the King of the Mountains (the rider who finishes with the most points for climbing the hills and mountains).’

Athleticism: ‘This is the toughest sports event in the world. Once a year [local cycling club] the Dubai Roadsters cycle from Dubai to Fujairah, about 230km in six and a half hours – imagine doing six and a half spinning classes in a row – but on the Tour they do this for 20 days. They average a speed of 44kph. In Dubai we average about 33kph on a Friday-morning ride, and we’re on a flat terrain. Some athletes live for the tour – they cycle more than 35,000km the year before, and during the Tour they expend about 12,000 calories per day. It’s tough.’

Teamwork: ‘No one can win without their team. If you have someone riding directly in front of you, it saves you about 25 per cent of your energy because you’re not breaking the wind. Great riders always have a high-profile ‘domestique’ (that’s French for servant) – when teams ride they often need water and other supplies, and you’ll often see a rider falling back to collect things and then sprinting back to the front.’ Now that’s service.

A gentleman’s sport: ‘If the person in the yellow jersey gets a flat tyre, no one will attack (ie accelerate), and there’s sometimes a gentleman’s agreement that you let people win a stage. For instance, if the riders are coming to a mountain finish and a cyclist is near the person in the yellow jersey, the leader will sometimes grant him a stage win.’

Cyclists to watch: ‘Last year’s winner, Alberto Contador, is a very complete rider. Seven-time winner Lance Armstrong knows what it takes to win. And as for brothers Andy and Frank Schleck, you need help mentally out there, and who knows you better than your own brother?’
Wolfi and the team will be watching the Tour de France every day at Wolfi’s Bike Shop on Sheikh Zayed Road and are happy to talk anyone through it. See www.wbs.ae for info.


Wimbledon

Date: Until July 4
Location: London, SW19
Watch it on: Al Jazeera Sports +3
Info: www.wimbledon.org

This week, the world’s top tennis players will be battling it out in London as the oldest tennis tournament in the world reaches its final stages. It’s also the only sporting event that so fervently encourages the consumption of calories – Pimms, strawberries and cream, anyone? We asked Dubai tennis legend Clark Francis (who competed in Junior Wimbledon as a youngster) to take us through the game.

Why watch? ‘It’s the only tournament played on a grass court, so you get a different style of play: different footwork, irregular bounces of the ball and players coming to the net a lot more. If you’re new to watching tennis, I recommend focusing on one player so you can see how incredible their movement is.’

Men to watch: ‘I don’t see Rafael Nadal winning this year – it’s not his preferred surface. Andy Murray has had a terrible couple of weeks, but then you never know which Murray is going to turn up to a tournament. You obviously can’t ignore Roger Federer – he owns the place and he treats everyone that way. He’s the best player the planet has ever seen. Overall, though, I think the Americans have a strong contingent, with Andy Roddick and Sam Query – they haven’t won this thing in a long time, and the men’s final will be on July 4, which is American Independence Day.’

Women to watch: ‘Samantha Stosur is going to be very hard to beat – she’s very good on this surface. You can’t ignore the Williams sisters, but then there’s Justine Henin – she’s the queen of Wimbledon and grass is definitely her preferred surface.’
If you fancy brushing up on your game, Clark Francis can help. See www.esportsdubai.com for info.

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