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The Tour de France Diet: More Calories Than You Can Ride A Bicycle At

The 2010 Tour de France begins on Saturday, and our cycling blog, Podium Cafe, is all over it. If you need to school up on the basics of the Tour, spend a few minutes here and get familiar.

Why should you care about the Tour? Well, there are plenty of reasons, the most compelling of which may be this: it's the single most physically demanding event in sports. It's a sport that's played in the same sense as boxing or MMA in that it isn't played at all. It's fought. The delightful irony here is that the most physically grueling event in sports is conducted by guys who are sitting on their asses the entire time.

And they eat. A lot. In preparation for the event, Lance Armstrong ramps his diet up to 6,000 calories. Many racers consume around 9,000 calories while the race is happening. Let's take a look at what consuming 9,000 calories actually means.

Consider the most caloric sandwich on the McDonald's menu: the Angus Bacon & Cheese and its 790 calories. I had one of these last week, and five minutes after finishing, I just wanted to go home and take a nap. Part of this was owed to the sodium, sure, but it's just unnatural to consume 790 calories within a dozen bites.

Now imagine eating 11 or 12 of these in a single day. Congratulations! You have just consumed 9,000 calories. If your digestive system isn't strong enough, you'll get sick. Meanwhile, these Tour de France fellows have to consume this many calories in a single day. Like everything else in their bodies, their digestive tracts are finely-tuned, hyper-efficient machines. I'm certainly not supposing that the Tour de France is more fun to watch than the Super Bowl. I am supposing, though, that the achievements of its participants demand more respect than they receive.

How much fun will you actually have if you watch the Tour? Well, if you decide to tune in, you'll decide for yourself. At the least, though, you can catch up with the experts and read about their adventures in a state of awe. That's certainly what I'll be doing.