The FIFA World Cup may have been top of the sporting agenda for the past few weeks, but there’s a feast of other fabulous events taking place this summer.
Cycling - Tour de France
When Bradley Wiggins famously won the Tour de France back in 2012, he became the first British rider to climb to the top of the podium on the Champs Élysées. Yet remarkably, British riders have now won five out of the last six Tours. And with another strong UK contingent going to this year’s event, who would bet against six out of seven?
The “grand départ” of the 105th edition of the Tour takes place on Saturday 7th July at Île de Noirmoutier off the Vendée coast, and 176 riders will race 201km to Fontenay-le-Comte for the honour of pulling on the first yellow jersey. Then for the next three weeks, the 22 teams and countless support vehicles will tackle bone-shaking cobbles, breath-sapping mountains and high-speed descents, much of it in searing heat. Stages likely to decide the winner include stage 12 from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Alpe d’Huez, the short- but-savage stage 17 from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan, and the 31km time trial on the penultimate day.
Golf – British Open
The British Open (or ‘The Open Championship’ to give the event its real title) is the world’s oldest professional golf tournament. And the winner’s Claret Jug is one of sport’s most iconic trophies. This year’s Open – the 147th edition – takes place from July 19 – 22 at the famous links course at Carnoustie in Scotland.
Carnoustie boasts a fearsome reputation for shredding the scorecards of the world’s greatest golfers. And it famously crushed Jean Van de Velde in 1999, when he took a three shot lead onto the final hole, only for his third shot to plummet into the infamous Barry Burn, causing him to finish his round with a triple-bogey seven. Padraig Harrington fared better last time Carnoustie hosted The Open back in 2007, beating Sergio Garcia in a thrilling four-hole play-off. Expect similar fireworks this year, particularly if the wind blows.
Rugby – World Rugby Sevens
For anyone not familiar with Rugby Sevens, the rules are similar to the standard game, except there are just 7 players a side, and games last for two 7-minute halves. So there’s more room on the pitch than a 15-a-side match, which makes games more open and more exciting, with scores running up a lot faster. And it’s no surprise that Rugby Sevens has become very popular with crowds around the world – particularly outside rugby’s traditional heartlands. In fact so much so that this year’s World Rugby Sevens is taking place at California’s 42,000-seat AT&T Park – home of the San Francisco Giants.
24 teams have qualified for the finals, including all our home nations. And they’ll be joined by rugby giants New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, plus relative minnows like Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Tonga. The Springboks are top seeds, with England seeded fourth, one place above USA. But ‘sevens’ is the kind of sport where form can quickly go out of the window – so just about anyone could win it.