Calling Le Tour de France a bike race would be akin to calling the Super Bowl a football game. Thanks to Le Tour’s epic route, the renowned race transcends it’s niche audience of bike mechanics and francophiles. It’s something like a 22-day, 2000-mile block-party. Beginning in Leeds on July 5, the race winds through Belgium and France before ending in Paris on July 27. Along the way are such drama-inducing obstacles like the Renaissance-era cobblestone roads and snowy French-Alp summits represent worrisome obstacles along the way, but like any national event, it’s streakers wearing nothing more than their national flag you need to look out for. And you can expect the iconic tour announcer, Phil Liggett, to give a nod to every historic landmark along the way.
Despite the party atmosphere, there’s nothing casual or neighborly about the quest for the Yellow Jersey. Those who witnessed Chris Froome claim last year’s title know there is a kind of ruthless competition at-play. There may be an emphasis on tradition, but when it comes down to it, Le Tour is gripping because of the unlikely heroes and major surprises at every turn. Unfortunately, simply following the race online often seems just as difficult as the race itself when you don’t know where to look.
Here’s our how-to guide for watching the Tour de France online, so you don’t have to spend the entirety of the race fumbling to find coverage, along with this year’s route. While you’re at it, check out our guide for watching the World Cup — or if you’re a cycling aficionado — our pieces on the recently-detailed Patchnride and solar-powered Skylock.
2014 Le Tour de France route
|1||190.5km (118.4 miles)||Leeds to Harrogate|
|2||201km (124.9 miles)||York to Sheffield|
|3||155km (96.3 miles)||Cambridge to Londres|
|4||163.5km (102.5 miles)||Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille Métropole|
|5||155.5km (96.6 miles)||Ypres to Arenberge Porte du Hainaut|
|6||194km (120.6 miles)||Arras to Reims|
|7||234.5km (145.7 miles)||Épernay to Nancy|
|8||161km (100 miles)||Tomblaine to Gérardmer La Mauselaine|
|9||170km (105.6 miles)||Gérardmer to Mulhouse|
|10||161.5km (100.4 miles)||Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles|
|11||187.5km (116.5 miles)||Besançon to Oyonnax|
|12||185.5km (115.3 miles)||Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Étienne|
|13||197.5km (122.7 miles)||Saint-Étienne to Chamrousee|
|14||177km (109.9 miles)||Grenoble to Risoul|
|15||222km (137.9 miles)||Tallard to Nîmes|
|16||237.5km (147.6 miles)||Carcassonne to Bagnéres-de-Luchon|
|17||124.5km (77.4 miles)||Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet|
|18||145.5km (90.4 miles)||Pau to Hautacam|
|19||208.5km (129.6 miles)||Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergarac|
|20||54km (33.6 miles)||Bergerac to Périgueux|
|21||137.5km (85.4 miles)||Évry to Paris Champs-Élysées|
How to watch the 2014 Tour de France 2014 online
There is no other way to put it: legally streaming every stage of Le Tour sans a cable subscription will set you back $30. However, opting for NBC Sports Live Extra will guarantee the best possible experience for true Tour enthusiasts. Not only is NBC’s subscription the only legal avenue for streaming the entirety of the tour, it’s the only option that provides truly reliable coverage. The premium subscription provides live-streaming video for all 21 stages of the race, along with interactive maps featuring real-time tracking and the ability to follow individual and team standings. Furthermore, the subscriptions allows you to watch replays of particular stages, highlights, and interviews in addition to ongoing race analysis. You can even watch HD-quality video in slow motion. Unfortunately, whereas a single-day desktop pass will cost you a mere $5, an all-access desktop pass covering the iconic event will cost you $30.
Aside from the desktop package, NBC also offers a mobile option for $15. Like its Web-only counterpart, the mobile version for iOS and Android features live video coverage from every stage, along with real-time tracking and interactive maps with accompanying stage descriptions. Access to stage results, standings, and rider profiles also come standard, as well as interviews and vivid tour photos from the ride. NBC will also live broadcast all 21 stages in some respect, showcasing coverage on select days, but only NBC Sports Network will offer full coverage throughout the race in the same manner as the dedicated Web and mobile app.
Note: The subscription package is only available within the United States.
Questionable streaming sites
Sure, the Web is chock-full of streaming sites. Many of them will grant you access to every stage of Le Tour and provide largely unrestricted streaming, but keep in mind, most of the free options available come loaded with unwanted spam and a barrage of pop-up windows. Online streaming can be frustrating, particularly when it comes to finding quality video and audio feeds with little buffering, but you can gain access to every stage with a little patience. However, you must also keep in mind many of these sites illegally broadcast the content and your computer is more susceptible to contracting a virus or malware when using said sites. Nevertheless, you’ll notice the deep selection of links available to you once you find an adequate streaming site on the Web. Notorious sites such as First Fow Sports and Justin.tv — though technically legal given they only provide links to various broadcast streams instead of broadcasting the copyrighted content — should be avoided if you fear legal prosecution. We aren’t saying it’s going to happen, but you should recognize most freemium hosting sites streaming the race are likely doing so illegally.
Note: As a rule of thumb never click on any link which asks you to download any HD Players, update your streaming software, or to install any “required” media players. These are often just spam links which could infect your computer with malware.
Reddit’s Tour de France Page — FREE
Reddit is great for finding a good deal of things on the Web, and being the case, it’s not surprising Le Tour’s subreddit is one of the best resources for the Tour de France. Redditors often use the subreddit to link to live-streaming coverage of each stage of the race, while additionally providing comprehensive and in-depth cycling content in the form of breaking news, popular articles, and even some fan opinion pieces that’ll keep you current on Le Tour. The section is relatively bare during the off season, but you’ll likely see a healthy litany of posts relating to the epic race as it draws nearer and begin. However, keep in mind some of the links Redditors provide may lead you to the questionable streaming sites mentioned above. Regardless, the subreddit represents a great hub for finding links to Tour-related content, whether you’re looking for a YouTube documentary clearly outlining the history of the race or photos of various town’s prepping for the big event.
ITV — FREE
Much like NBC, England’s ITV will live broadcast the finish of each stage and air a subsequent hour-long highlight reel of every day. Phil Leggett also provides the race commentary, but unfortunately, the broadcast is only available in Great Britain. Still, it is possible to disguise your computer and gain access to ITV’s Cycling coverage via our handy guide to using a proxy. Doing so will allow you to change the IP address your browser transmit to the Web, thus bypassing region restrictions in the process.