There is no doubt, as enthusiasts bedazzled by an overwhelming fanfare of chiselled anatomy, we become so attached to those three weeks of human triumph over adversity and soap opera scandals that it is almost acceptable we arrive at a somewhat misguided sense of what it takes to merely reach the Champs Elysees.
Indeed like repetitive elevator music, we listen to many Tour riders hoping to simply make it to Paris.
We already know that Tour riders are the epitome of physical and mental fitness. But perhaps that extra necessary factor required to 'make' it is something we don't see on our T.V screens. That is, the suffering shared amongst fellow teammates, of camaraderie, a spirit that is built as a team on the road. Sweat and toil is in most cases in the aid of another ; their teammate. Or else it is a spirit broken. A different experience to what many of us endure when we suit up and head out for a thrashing; sculpting ourselves for glory at the local races.
So too the Tour has many layers of history, particularly the tremendous rivalries between cycling heros. But historically for our small nation, we can be proud of the following list of New Zealander's who have shown the exceptional human qualities it takes to warrant a start in the Tour, and then to 'simply make it to Paris'.
NEW ZEALANDERS IN THE TOUR DE FRANCE
Place and time (behind winner) in brackets.
1928, Harry Watson, Ravat-Wonder-Dunlop (28, 16h 53min 52s)
1971, Tino Tabak, Mars Flandria (DNF)
1972, Tino Tabak, Goudsmit-Hoff (18, 1h 5min 9s)
1973,Tino Tabak, Solonor (DNF)
1976, Tino Tabak, Valda-Flandria (DNF)
1979, Paul Jesson, Splendor-Euroshop (DNF)
1982, Eric Mackenzie, Caprisonne-Campagnola-Merckx (87, 1h 54min 31s)
1983, Eric Mackenzie, Euroshop-Mundial-Moquette-Splendor (DNF)
1985, Eric Mackenzie, Lotto-Merckx-Campagnola (127, 2h 40min 41s)
1986, Eric Mackenzie, Joker-Emervil-Merckx (DNF)
1987, Stephen Swart, ANC-Halford-Lycra (DNF)
1989,Nathan Dahlberg, 7-Eleven-American Airlines (DNF)
1994, Stephen Swart, Motorola (118, 2h 45min)
1995, Stephen Swart, Motorola (110, 3h 14min 15s)
2001, Chris Jenner, Credit Agricole (139, 3h 38min 21s)
2004, Julian Dean, Credit Agricole (127, 3h 02min 09s)