5 Ways to Catch the Tour de France Away from the TV

htc-tdf-sponsorIt’s nearly Tour de France time, and you know what that means: I’ll be working from the couch in front of the television for the next month, starting on July 4. Perhaps the biggest pre-tour news local to me is yesterday’s announcement that HTC is sponsoring Team Columbia through 2011. Yes, it’s the same HTC that makes Windows Mobile and Android devices. James passed me the news last night, but it broke on Twitter before then. Thank you, Levi Leipheimer, whom I’m now affectionately calling “Mr. Spill the Beans, not the Bike.”

Although I was able to live on the web for 60 days, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be able to park myself on the couch for a month straight. Not even our cats can do that, although I personally think they’ve given it a go in the past. So what’s a TdF junkie to do when away from the television? Here are five options:

1. Use a Slingbox – If you have the hardware, this might be one of the best ways to go. Essentially, you can catch the entire live television broadcast with a Slingbox, a supported handset or a computer, and an Internet connection. Sling Media offers its free SlingPlayer Mobile for PC or Mac and $30 for iPhone, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian S60 and Palm OS. No, that’s not the new webOS for the Pre — at least not yet.

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2. Set up OrbOrb is similar to the Slingbox solution, but it doesn’t require the purchase of the Sling hardware. Instead, you’ll need a Windows Media Center PC with a tuner card that can grab the TdF coverage in your area. Once you have that, you can remotely stream your coverage through a web browser. Orb also offers an iPhone-specific app in the App Store for $9.99.

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3. YouTube – There’s an entire YouTube channel devoted to the TdF. You won’t see live race action, but you can catch shorter vids of the daily route, highlights, interviews and more. This was my way to “catch up” if I missed a live broadcast during the day.

tdf-logo4. Location-specific online video coverage – The official TdF site currently lists 11 broadcasters from around the world that will be offering video of the tour. Again, it may not be live streaming, so double-check. Some of the video coverage is country-specific, so I’m not able to check. Broadcasters include: ARD, Évasion, France Télévisions, NOS, RTL, SBS, Skysport, TV2, VRT and ZDF.

5. Twitter – OK, this won’t compete with video coverage or updates, but how else can you get into the mind of your favorite team, coach or cyclist? Do some Googling for the teams or riders you want to follow, and you might be surprised. I’m following Lance Armstrong, Johann Bruyneel, Team ASTANA, and the aforementioned “loose lips” Levi — oh, and the incomparable Bobke: Bob Roll. Just think: These guys are tweeting their thoughts before, during and after a race. They’ve even been known to take questions about the rides. You can’t get that personal level of interaction on the TV. Just this morning, a fan asked Lance for a “nice” place to eat in Nice, as he’s flying there to watch the tour. How’s a little local knowledge from the seven-time TdF winner grab you?

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Bonus – If you’re interested in more details of the various stages, there is a detailed way to view them in Google Earth as well, just like last year. You’ll need to hit up the Google Earth Blog for the data file and then add it to your local instance of Google Earth.

Enjoy your TdF fix, wherever and however you catch it. Got any other ways to keep with up with the toughest race on the planet? Any predictions for who’s going to win it all and take home the maillot jaune?

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