Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

13 July 2016

Why Aren't You Paying Attention To The Tour de France?

Funny he should mention it:  The Tour de France is in progress.  

Yesterday, "Retrogrouch" said he is "barely" following this year's race.  I could say the same thing.  In fact, other cyclists I know who've followed Tours (and Giros and Vueltas) past say that they're paying little or no attention to the latest editions of these contests.


It got me to wondering why this is so, and whether it's just an American phenomenon.  Could Europeans' interest in those races also be waning?


Now, to be fair, the Euro football (soccer) championship ended three days ago.  It's held every four years, like the Olympics, and this year's version was held in France.  As it happens, les bleus made it to the championship game, which they lost to the Portuguese side.


Then again, the tournament was held in France in 1984 and 2000, both of which the French won.  This year's final matchup brought Cristiano Ronaldo-- who some regard as the world's best player-- and Antoine Greizmann--who could become his successor, according to some experts--onto the pitch as opponents.  So, even those football fans who aren't French or Portuguese (or simply fans of those teams) could find something interesting to watch.  Also, there was the "feel good" story about the Icelandic squad, which made it all the way to the quarterfinals against France (and, along the way, beat England).  This is especially shocking when you realize that more people live on Staten Island than in Iceland, where there are no professional leagues!


Stories like those keep casual fans interested in major sporting events.   Such drama seems to be lacking in this year's Tour.  There are favorites and "dark horses", to be sure.  But there aren't the sort of compelling rivalries, in part there is no rider-of-his-generation like Bernard Hinault and, thus, no one who's in a position to ascend to the throne, if you will.   There is also not a "feel good" story like the pre-fall-from-grace Lance Armstrong's (though, even in his heyday, there were whispers that he was doping).  





And, let's face it, there's nationalism in sports.  It's no longer startling to see British riders dominate the race, just it was no longer a shock to see Americans win after Greg LeMond.  While there are some very good riders from the former Soviet Bloc countries, none of them yet poses a challenge to the established order.  One reason, I think, is that those riders tend to dominate in sprints, often at the expense of other events, just as the best British riders--until about fifteen years ago--were time trialists.  Even Peter Sagan doesn't look ready to make the "breakthrough", and even if it did, it wouldn't excite fans in the US or the major cycling nations of Western Europe.

Finally, I think some people have given up, or are giving up, on cycling because of the widespread doping.  While football and other sports have their share of "juicers", the problem doesn't seem anywhere near as rampant.  At least, that's how fans seem to see it.


Anyway, if you want to read about a really exciting Tour, Retrogrouch wrote a very nice account of the 1986 version, which had everything this year's edition seems to lack.

11 comments:

  1. Maybe it's the doping, but it was widely known that doping was a part of pro cycling from the earliest days of the Tour as well as throughout the heyday of American 6 day racing. No one should be shocked -shocked!- that there was doping in the Tour. Names like Christophe, Coppi, Anquetil, Simpson, even Merckx have been linked to it, and small wonder. How else does one beat his brains out days on end? "You can't ride the Tour de France on mineral water." (Jacques Anquetil)

    Maybe for me, and some like me, it's the emphasis on the latest gadgetry and high tech (e.g.:"motodoping")that have taken the thrill out of it. With obscene amounts of money on the line, cheating has become an art form. Also, riders have come to depend on such things as radio communications with their Directeurs Sportifs calling all the shots from the comfort of their team cars and with all the latest electronic marvels at their fingertips. It seems no longer to be a blood-and-guts human endeavour of the riders themselves.

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  2. Mike--You've given a very eloquent description of what's wrong with racing today. I never could get interested in auto racing because I never could tell how much had to do with the skill of the driver and how much had to do with the machine. Sadly, it looks as if bike racing is headed in that direction.

    About the doping: I don't condone it. But it's easy to understand why riders do it when, as you say, large sums of money are on the line. Add to that the fact that someone can win a three-week long race by seconds (as LeMond did in 1989)and it can seem like a wonder that some riders don't
    "juice".

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  3. Mostly it's the spotty coverage by NBC. That and the fact that I can barely stand to watch Chris Froome ride with his monkey boy limbs akimbo style. Although obviously it's working for him. Peter Sagan has been the most interesting character to me so far. He's a pretty well rounded rider. With a little change in his training I could see him being a real GC threat in the future.

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  4. Phillip--You're right about Chris Froome: I can't recall another elite cyclist who was less appealing to watch. I wonder how many other people have been turned off the TdF and other races because of him.

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  5. I read this post this morning before having to rush out. I was going to say that it is the lunatic spectators which ruin it for me especially in the mountains, then I turn on the highlights recording to see that the whole race has been turned into a farce on the stage where the ungainly rider was going to pull out a probable winning lead. Now he has to ride on having been run into by a motorcycle and has probably had his confidence shattered. TDF, sadly Total D**n Farce...

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  7. Coline--I watched it. In a way, I felt bad for Froome: After all, he had bad luck in crashing with that motorbike. On the other hand, I'm not sure of whether he's more unwatchable when he's running or pedaling. Stephen Roche he isn't--on a bike, anyway.

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    1. Stephen Roche was amazing! I only saw him live once when the Tout of Britain started with a time trial in Dundee. It was a short one from sea level in the city centre to the war memorial at 572 feet on top of the core of a 400 million year old volcano which rears up in the city. I walked the course seeing riders at every point then saw the final group arrive at the top as the quickest times were gradually beaten, each rider arriving worn out. Finally Stephen powers up the corkscrew road a full 30! seconds faster in great style and hardly out of breath!

      I could probably have beaten his time but it would have to be downhill...

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  8. Coline--"I could probably have beaten his time but it would have to be downhill..."

    I love it!

    As great as he was, one still has to ask "what might have been?" After he achieved his trifecta in 1987, he suffered injuries and became a shadow of what he was.

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    1. Yay! Trifecta, not often I get a new word, then again I never bet and only watch TDF so may never get to use it, darn...

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  9. Coline--I have never been a bettor. But an uncle of mine was. In fact, he was part of what is now a dying breed, at least here in the US: a horse racing fan. I learned the word "trifecta" from him.

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