Tour de France TV Schedule

France Télévisions have announced the TV schedule of the 2012 Tour de France. As the production crew behind the TV images, they produce the video for domestic broadcasts in France but also the international feed which means their schedule is your schedule wherever you live.

As a rule there will be live coverage each day from 2.00pm Euro time onwards, with the finish planned each day between 5.00pm and 5.30pm. But seven stages will be screened in full, from start to finish:

  • Sunday 8 July – Belfort > Porrentruy
  • Thursday 12 July – Albertville > La Toussuire – Les Sybelles
  • Friday 13 July – Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > Annonay Davézieux
  • Monday 16 July – Samatan > Pau
  • Wednesday 18 July – Pau > Bagnères-de-Luchon
  • Thursday 19 July – Bagnères-de-Luchon > Peyragudes
  • Sunday 22 July – Rambouillet > Paris Champs-Elysées

This means the stage is broadcast from KM 0 all the way to the finish line. There’s no guarantee your local broadcaster will be offering the same coverage but if you’re keen you should be able to find a pirate video feed.

If you haven’t seen a full stage before, I’d recommend it. Five hours of racing is a long session even if you’re sitting comfortably at home with a supply of food and drink. I’d liken the experience to listening to the radio, as you will find you can do other things at the same time as the race is on. The advantage of watching the first hour is that you can see how the breakaway forms.

It’s tempting to think of the early move as group of chumps wasting their time in a futile effort that will only get the jersey some TV airtime. But watch the first hour and you’ll soon abandon that idea. Riders work the 11 sprocket like it’s a weapon, taking it in turns to attack all whilst everyone has fresh legs. It’s often the case that the first hour of racing is faster than the last hour. Of course sometimes the first attack goes up the road and that’s it and you’re left watching a five hour procession.

I blogged on the invisible first hour of racing for last July, you can read the piece at

What’s the French word for frustration?
In addition to coverage of the race French TV offers broadcasts around the racing that is for the domestic audience. If you’re not in France you’re not missing much. There is a pre-race show that showcases the local area, there will be two chefs to cook up regional cuisine, handy since the show is broadcast around lunchtime. But the coverage is weak, they fail to attract anyone of interest. It’s often idiotic, here’s an example from the past:

Note the “Super Yellow” character has an intro with a voice that very similar to the francophone Homer Simpson. It’s funny for five minutes but no other sport in France gets such infantile coverage.

After the stage there is a post-stage broadcast with interviews behind the podium and riders invited to comment on the stage. It’s similar to the RAI’s Il Processo Alla Tappa during the Giro, but with less informed comment. Host Gerard Holtz seems to like asking riders questions like “was it hard today?” or “were you happy with the win?”.

Polo La Science
A living legend

There is one gem: Jean-Paul Olivier. Nicknamed “Polo La Science” for his “scientific” knowledge of France, he comes with meticulous notes on each stage, able to recount past instances of the Tour de France or the history of a chateau on the route. There’s not always action so having Olivier on standby improves the coverage, a luxury other channels don’t seem to have. The race organisers give out basic notes on the route and points of interest but Olivier spends the winter preparing folders of notes for each stage.

41 thoughts on “Tour de France TV Schedule”

  1. The French local coverage is amazing. In-car conversations with DS, even talking to some riders in the peleton. It’s quite something to see, compared to what we in the new world see/hear with Phil/Paul chattering on about misidentified riders, who knows Lance, etc.

  2. I would like to see behind the scenes coverage of how the motorcyclists, camera guys and support staff prepare for each stage. I have been tempted to watch the French coverage, but despite taking 5+ years of French, my comprehension level still requires an occasional glance at subtitles when watching French movies. I suppose I need to take one of those 3 month vacations to France, so I can solidify the language in my brain.

  3. Eurosport showed the first stage in full last year from the ceremonial depart to the depart actuale it was magic, a great late morning and afternoon sat at home with wine cheese and ham, I’d heartily endorse it as a pleasurable waste of a day!

  4. yeah whatever, in the meantime Frank Schleck is getting angry over in the Tour du Suisse. That’s the equivalent of Richard Ashcroft swaggering bitterly down Hoxton street. It’s begging to be psychoanalyzed.

    RAI rules; your missing the raw action inrng, France…. can wait now until July.

  5. I learn so much from your blog. Really nice summary of the upcoming coverage.

    I envy you Europeans.
    Here on the other side of the pond our choices are quite narrow, aside from the Euro online video feeds. The video quality is marginal no matter which feed I watch, but at least I get to see the race. I don’t like commercial TV, so I don’t subscribe.

    I can’t say I miss Phil and Paul these days, but I can say that back in the day they used to be more original and interesting to listen to; now, their broadcasts sound almost scripted and sensationalized.

    The Euro feeds I watch are from various countries in different languages. Sadly, I’m a typical monolingual American. The Italians speak lightning fast but with much passion:) The French cadence is fine but I understand only the names of the riders, same with Dutch and Flemish.
    Español, muy poquito, but again, the rider’s names and picking up words here and there works fine:)

    @INRNG: How would I find pirate video feeds in the US during the TdF?

    • Now that Versus is NBC Sports Network, and judging from their cycling coverage thus far–cutting podiums to cover fishing shows, having race recaps in the middle of the night or a day or so later, etc.–I’m a little nervous how they’ll cover the TdF. Last year, I watched full stages on the Versus TdF app for my iPad. Hopefully , NBC will offer something similar.

      • If you don’t mind watching it a few hours later try You’ll find British Eurosport versions there – English and much more interesting that Phil/Paul (in my opinion).

  6. The prerace show on France 2 is really horrible, they don’t talk about the race at all, it’s all terroir, rillettes , chat with the mayor and “has been” horrible french singers and Gerard Holtz is a complete tool as mr inrng points out.
    Jalabert is decent on the race commentary though
    Love the blog

  7. Also FDJ is pathetic in getting in every breakaway to remind the french populace to not forget to play the numbers that day.
    Still, allez Voeckler, Chavannel et les autres frogs

  8. News today that Horner is not included in the tentative Nissan Leopard Trek Le Tour 2012 line up. Perhaps his sunset is near, or another team in his future?

  9. Also @ INRNG. Care to speak a bit why the Phil and Paul bashing is so popular with comments on this blog? LOL. Sure, these ole chaps are long in the tooth, but many casual observers are not so keen on a propeller head commentator obsessing about why a rider is en bloc, or knackered, or other arcane cycling references. They seem to be quite popular, otherwise they wouldn’t continually be requested as the go to commentators. Is there an English speaking alternative. In my mind, Bob Roll doesn’t cut it, except it is funny when he flexes his Italian pronunciation commenting on Milan San Remo.

    • I do have a real soft spot for Phil and Paul, however, from a technical veiw point, they are clearly past it. While their voices are synonymous with Euro cycling on TV, they did benefit, in large part, from the fact that they started commentating when the English-speaking world knew almost nothing about cycling. Now that we are well and truly up the curve, their commentary has failed to keep pace with the knowledge of the average viewer. This is probably truer of Phil than Paul (the latter obviously having a vast first-hand experience) but I do find that there is minimal insight coming from either of them.

      One has only to listen to David Harmon and Sean Kelly on Eurosport to realise this. Kelly can be a bit droll but between them they provide great insight. In the Dauphine this year when the race was descending the Joux Plane they were both talking about their experiences on that climb both having ridden it (incl. Kelly’s description of the descent remembered in detail from back in his riding days!). I also love how Harmon talks about the bikes and the kit – who uses Di2 vs mechanical Dura Ace and why, some of the history of the bike manufacturers, comments on special gearing, etc, etc. Phil and Paul are a gear free zone.

      I get the sense from Phil and Paul that they are resting on their laurels a bit and have stopped doing their research. One minor illustration of this from a few years back (can’t remember which race) involved Boonen suddenly coming towards the front of the peloton. It was unmistakeably Boonen, centre screen, the largest bloke in Quick Step kit with the world championship bands clearly visible on the ends of his sleeves – took Phil and Paul a good few minutes to identify him “here comes a Quick Step rider to the front Paul….is is Knaven? [he was then riding for Milram]…we’ll have to wait…hang-on…Boonen, Tom Boonen has come to the front…”.

      We expect high standards from commentators in other sports (eg. football) and for them to deliver real insight into a particular game or event given we are all well aware of the basics. In my view, Phil and Paul do not meet this standard anymore. Great voices though and likeable characters.

      • Commentators have a tough time, they need to explain the basics of cycling’s sophisticated tactics to newcomers whilst pointing out expert things for established viewers. They need to know the roads and the riders. All whilst watching on a small monitor for the video feed, a laptop with other info and having a producer bark instructions in one ear. It’s a tough job. Plus we all have different tastes and want different things.

        This is a subject I want to return to but have been struggling to put pen to paper on this one, I need to think about it some more.

        • Think that all of the commentators you tend to hear in the UK have their pros and cons. I enjoy the excitement that Paul Sherwin can convey, especially on the bunch finishes. Phil Liggett puts me at ease like no other. David Harmon can go from one extreme to the other – one minute appearing to have no clue the next relaying his personal experience of a descent to great effect (as mentioned above). Once you’ve tuned into Sean Kelly (seems easier these days or have I just perma tuned in myself?) he’s a good foil to some of Harmon’s nonsense.

          Perhaps one of the most important bits of the job for me is also the most challenging in an already challenging job – identifying riders quickly at key times when they all have tiny numbers, team colours on, helmets and sunglasses. There is nothing more frustrating then not knowing who just jumped off the front, crashed or is being dropped. The best at that seems to be Brian Smith (think that’s his name) of Eurosport – kudos to him given the difficulties. Now go and give some of the others some lessons Brian!

        • @inner ring. How about a piece on the Belgian, French, Spanish etc commentators that we hear on the Internet feeds. Would be nice to know a bit of information/background to who we are listening too.

        • I will always love Phil and Paul. When I first started watching races in the middle of the night, on the Outdoor Network (now NBC Sports Network) knowing nothing about pro cycling, I felt like they were there to explain things to me. Now I see some of the things people say about P&P, and while agree with some criticisms, I can’t hate on them; it has to be hard.

          • This thread led by RooBay and the rest does suggest that we in the US had been “in love” with quirky Phil and Paul with their accents explaining why Lemond was an excellent cyclist as one of the first “successful new generation US Pro’s”. Now we have matured to a similar level of comprehension of pro cycling peloton politics as the continental European countries.

            Many gaffs in TDC, Phil was calling Sonoma County, Santa Rosa County or some such nonsense. It was not funny the mistakes through the event.

            With the maturity of HD TV and many multiple shots in screen, less is more! Networks provide us with more technology rich information, time splits, terrain/elevation maps, GPS locations of key riders and teams, GC reminders of the top ten riders in breaks, time reminders of top ten overall GC in mountain stages. Provide only a minimum of dialogue generally on flat stages to keep us awake.

            Harmon is good.

      • I find it interesting how people have strong opinions on commentators. I prefer Phil’n’Paul, only for the fact that it is more pleasant on the ears then Sean Kelly – but for me I’ll listen to whoever has the race on :o)

      • harmon and kelly, a bit of backstedt or smithy, dan lloyd or even some of carlton kirbys whacky stories…

        eurosport usually is excellent commentary, though harmon and kelly are the best combination, even though sean’s voice is a bit droll he always has excellent information and good humor =) and they normally have good extra tidbits about the riders and can pronounce their names correctly (which really annoyed me when i had to watch an american feed a couple times and they messed up even simple names)

  10. Here in Australia, on SBS the pre-race ‘show’ is famous for “Le Taste of Le Tour”.

    French-Aussie chef Gabriel Gate takes us through the cuisine of the region for that night’s stage (the broadcast starts around 10pm Aussie time), and cooks up a recipe. He then sits down with a sommelier, who matches the food to a wine from the region…

    Its interesting – but you do find yourself thinking “get to the cycling!!”, especially when its such a late night start for us all… 🙂

    • Yes, it’s easier to find the DVDs of ‘Taste Le Tour’ than of the race itself! If it’s really exciting at 10 pm (not often) they will push M. Gate back to the end. Otherwise it’s the Phil and Paul show with extra interviews, wrap-ups from the rest of the SBS crew. Sydney Morning Herald journalist Rupert Guinness always appears with his legendary bad Hawaiian shirts.

  11. Interesting read as always.
    Thanks for the link to the Simpsons in French-I’ll consider it revision for my French exam, merci !

  12. Good piece. I like the tip to use the TV broadcast as a radio. That’s what I usually do on weekends after riding, while cooking something typical of the place of the race (like they do on French TV). The Gratin Dauphinois was very good on Saturday (and it allows to share the moment with the wife).

  13. Harmon and Kelly are the natural progression of Duffers on Eurosport, Kelly’s humour is so dry it’s like sandpaper in the desert, really first rate, Carlton Kirby pops up in the Tour as well with glorious trivia and back stories. Somehow the Eurosport coverage feels like the celebration of France that the Tour is rather than just a sporting event, tips on holidaying too.
    Really eclectic, but intensely accurate and informed coverage, I think the best compliment I can give is like the Radio 4 of cycling!

    • Hi all, thought I’d catch some views out there. As varied as ever. Keep ’em coming and keep us on our toes. LeTour is a joy to work on and we all hope that comes over the airwaves. All the best, Carlton Kirby…. Up too late as ever!

  14. Looking forward to some early stage coverage. It can be as interesting as a stage finish and sometimes more so. As you say so often it just appears as a one liner in a race report when the reality can be an hour or more of intense racing before a break goes clear. It’s equally as interesting to see just who is chasing at any given time and guess all the reasons why – too big a group away, no rider in the break, dangerman present in the break, team classification concerns etc, etc.

  15. Matthew Keenan is the commentator for Australian feed of Eurosport and early on in the races for SBS before Phil and Paul take over. I find him very good, and analytical. Does commentate in a lot of rhetorical questions though which can be slightly repetitive but still a joy to listen to. Sean Kelly is quite absurd as a commentator, absolutely incapable of providing any excitement but his insight is superb. It can be quite hard to decipher what he is saying especially in Australia where the race finishes at around 2 in the morning and you are fighting off the sandman.

    • I reckon Keenan really struggles on his own. When he has a foil – Pat Jonker, Dave McKenzie or Scott McCrory (all who know what they’re talking about) – it works much better. Of the GB commentators, I think Brian Smith is good with Harmon and I remember hearing some young bloke in the Giro with, I think, Dan Lloyd who were really good. Kirby is hopeless in my opinion but is still marginally less annoying than P&P, who are just poor, which is a shame since Phil probably has the nicest “voice” of all. I like Sean Kelly – love his dry humour. Eg. in the Giro when one of the more sizeable mechanics on the Fluro Pen team I cannot remember (Cipollini bikes) was forced to run up the road to change a rider’s bike – Harmon: “the rider is making his mechanic get some exercise there” Kelly: “he could use it”.

      • Agree with you Tricky Dicky other than your comment re Dave McKenzie who gets a major F for calling Hesjedal the second Canadian to win the Giro after Andy Hampsten. Come on. We all make mistakes (I have likely spelled Hesjedal incorrectly for example) but please, commentating is his job and its not like Hampsten was some obscure middling pro that rode back in the early 1900’s.

  16. You’re so right about Jean Paul Olivier, he is indeed a gem. He’s also an excellent writer. I feel French TV is missing some bite since the demise of Laurent Fignon, it’s all a little too matey.

  17. As an American living in America all I’ve been able to get has been Versus which is now NBC sports. Phil, Paul and Bob. This year I have been streaming everything online and I must say eurosport is head and shoulders above. The race coverage is better and Kelly is a pleasure to listen to. I even enjoy his accent. I’ll stream whatever race live in the morning (today it was tour de swiss) and then watch it on NBC sports the next day (I DVR it while I’m at work). I met Phil at interbike some years ago and he is a great guy, very, very friendly, but as a competitive cyclist myself I want and need more from my race comentators.

    On a side note, I did find the “recap” show of the tour last year on VS to be far better. Bob Roll and some other guy did it and it was fantastic, but you must wait till 8pm to watch.

  18. Anthony McCrossan always seemed the best to me. Informed, excited, passionate, able to identify riders. For all his stock phrases (‘playing the waiting game’ etc) Kelly’s analysis is always spot on. Harmon has grown on me, but can still grate occasionally, e.g. ‘[insert rider name here] literally tore the legs off everyone else’. Phil and Paul – only heard them a couple of times but already bored of their stock phrases. Carlton Kirby’s a bit like David Duffield – annoying if you’re actually trying to follow the racing.

  19. In Denmark we very much have an equivalent to Jean-Paul Olivier. His name is Jørgen (Jörgen) Leth. First of all he’s a writer and a poet with a very calm and documentaristic language. One of the great writers of modern Denmark.

    Second of all, he’s a documentarist. He have made to of the most important sports documentaries ever: “Stars and watercarriers” and “A Sunday in Hell (guess about what)”. He made those in the 70’s.

    He does the same thing as Olivier. It really makes the tour something quite els, having a famed poet narrate it (together with Il Biondo, Rolf Sørensen – who knows what will happen based on the facial expressions and the way riders sit on the bike, but that was also the thing when he was riding himself – and journalist Dennis Ritter )

    I would say that Denmark has one of the most sublime coverages of the tour. And it’s the country where the highest percentage of the population watches the tour. I feel pretty thankful for that.

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