DARREN Harris is among the south-west cyclists not content to just watch the Tour de France on television.
After years of seeing the epic 23-day race unfold on the screen, he travelled to France in 2012 for a 10-day bike tour that allowed him to ride mountain stages of the tour route only hours before the race came through.
“It was awesome,” Mr Harris said.
Mr Harris, a salesman at Warrnambool’s Crankhouse bike store, has been riding bikes for more than 20 years and said he went on the tour to get a feel for how tough it was.
He said local interest in the Tour de France had increased “massively” since the SBS television channel began live broadcasting of the race.
The Crankhouse caters for the growing interest by holding occasional informal night-time gatherings at its store to give Tour de France fans an opportunity to socialise while watching the race.
It will hold a bring-your-own deck chair and drinks gathering on Saturday night at the Fairy Street store from 9.30pm.
Crankhouse owner Stuart Pyers said previous tour viewing functions attracted up to 14 people and went from 10pm-1am.
The Warrnambool Mountain Bike Club also expects to hold a gathering later this month for members to get together to watch a stage of the tour.
Mr Pyers said he was astounded at the number of people who watched the Tour de France live on television, many of whom did not ride a bike.
“It’s not just about bike riding, they like to see the scenery,” Mr Pyers said.
“It’s amazing how many women watch it that have no interest in cycling.”
He also knew of many people who had gone to France to see the tour or do tour “spin-off” rides.
The tour was great publicity for cycling, Mr Pyers said.
It planted the seed for a lot of people that had never ridden a bike before and his store received a lot more interest in road bikes in the months after the tour, he said.