I am the lightest weight of cycle racing fans. I am only a recreational rider, only picked it up a few years ago, never raced, never plan to race, only light touring, haven't even done a century (yet). But in 2010 I watched the Tour for the first time, on Versus, and really, really enjoyed it. For me it was part travelogue, part sporting event with all its drama, and part comedy with the Phil, Paul, and Bobke show. I think watching that beautiful scenery go by was part of the reason I got inspired to plan the vacation my wife and I took last year, which included a week of cycle touring (in the very flat Netherlands) and also watching the Tour go by on the S bank of the Seine.
This year I recorded the whole Tour, and as it started while we were away, I only began watching a week or so after it started. My wife joined me one evening, stage 4 or 5, then our 21 year old daughter, then our 18 year old daughter, and the next thing I knew it was a nightly ritual. (I'm not sure daughters' interest was purely cycling oriented as they seemed especially interested in TJ Van Garderen and Thibeau Pinot.) Also, older daughter just spent some months in France so she was interested in the regions they were passing through, and who would not get excited for a team like Sky, or George Hincapie's selfless performance, or the elfin Tommy Voeckler. Or Phil's dry wit from time to time. But it was quite amazing how involved we all got, in fact the wife and daughters seemed more wrapped up than I was. With a 4+ hour broadcast we made a lot of use of the remote FF, but by the last few stages we were watching all but the ads. In fact it was a little sad when the whole thing was over!
I know most of you are in the small hard-core of American cycling fans, but I'm telling you the sport has breakout potential, if more people just knew about it!