by Alison Benney
Yes, there's one every year, but this is the 100th Tour de France, a good reason to get excited and get on board with the ultimate event of the "petite reine".
1. Get in the know. Tour the Tour de France pages at www.letour.fr in English or French, and read up on its facts, history, the map of the ride, the riders, and of course, live updates of the race.
2. Get there before the riders do. Join the "Irish corner" this year on hairpin 10 on Alpes d'Huez during the 18th July race, to cheer on Irish rider Daniel Martin. Careful - don't confuse it with the well-established "Dutch corner" at hairpin 7.
For more, follow @IrishCorner10 on Twitter or Facebook.
3. Get into the mood. Walk around the Luxembourg Gardens, where an expo of 80 photographs pay tribute to Tours past and present until 27 July; then go see the recently released movie about the Tour, “Tour de Force (La Grande Boucle)“.
4. Get obsessed: follow the Tour on social media. Use hashtag#TDF, and remember the event is called simply and elegantly“Le Tour”, so find it at Twitter.com/LeTour and Facebook.com/LeTour. Or for those truly obsessed, try the Facebook page named “If you don’t want to hear Tour de France results stay off social media”. Really.
5. Get your cable working, pull up your cushion in front of the tube and be a Tour-ist, watch the cyclists ride through the countryside live, thanks to caravan and helicopter crews broadcasting a blow-by-blow description of not only the race but the history and heritage of the itinerary. Or watch it online at www.sbs.com or other sites like Irishcyclingnews.com
6. Get on a train - after the Alpe d'Huez (Photo ©Laurent SALINO / Alpe d’Huez Tourisme) and be part of the general audience. Claim a roadside seat outside a rural café near Albi, for instance, so that you can catch some swag from La Caravane, and applaud as the bikers whip by.
7. Get in shape and intrepid. Climb Mt Ventoux if only in a car, to understand what kind of men these be. But avoid Bastille Day, which is when they will be completing this legendary mountain stage.
8. Get the garb and be a wannabe – Sign up as one of the 5,000 who will wear a yellow jersey and ride the final stage around the Champs-Elysées starting at 14h30 on 21 July, before the real riders get there.. This could be a fun ego booster as, unusually this year, the final étape doesn’t start down the Champs-Elysées until 19h30, but many unsuspecting tourists may will think you are the real thing.
9. Get there for the finish, at twilight on the Champs Elysées. This stage has been the traditional finishing line for the Tour since 1975. What is not traditional is the spectacular air show by the Patrouille de France that will close out the 100th ride.
10. Take drugs. Just joking, but couldn’t ignore doping in an article about professional cycling. No, those who really want to get ahead of the crowd will take a bicycle ride around Yorkshire, which is where the 2014 Tour will kick off..
And since this is the 100th anniversary there is one more essential thing to get: a t-shirt, of course, available with lots of other souvenirs online.