Shell Shocked: Who Cares about the Tour de France?
The following sequence would be hard for me to imagine. You’re stirring in your sleep because you’re anxious to find out who is in the lead following the previous day’s mountain leg of the Tour de France. You hop out of bed and go to your computer. You quickly log onto ESPN and find out that a Belgian named Pierre deCroissant is ahead by seven tenths of a second.
You’re deeply disappointed. Pierre is not your choice to win the Tour de France. Your favorite is a cyclist from Luxembourg named Sebastian a la Wheelhouse. He’s in twentieth place because mountain riding isn’t his forte. You’re waiting for the marshland sequence of the race to begin because Sebastian is a true marshland rider.
In the annals of sports history I would contend that the Tour de France, especially among U.S. sports nuts, is about as low on the totem pole as gecko racing. Or antelope roaming. Or the progress of freckles growing on withered skin. Or watching paint dry on top of a teenager’s tattoos.
Who amongst my vast legion of fans out there is a devout Tour de France enthusiast? Do you really follow every twist and turn of this annual endless race through French hills and dales? Do you even know the names of any previous winners or participants other than Lance Armstrong?
Every year there is an official winner. And every winter the official winner is stripped of his trophy because of alleged doping. And we thought that baseball and football were rife with steroid use. It seems that almost every participant in the Tour de France must get doped up in order to qualify. The Tour de France is by far the dopiest of sports.
Here’s the essence of this 21-day event. It covers 2,000 miles and alternates between clockwise and anticlockwise circuits of France. The New York Times said the “Tour de France is arguably the most physiologically demanding of athletic events.” The effort was compared to “running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks,” while the total elevation of the climbs was compared to “climbing three Everests.”
If that’s the case then why does anyone climbing Mt. Everest just once get front page headlines in newspapers throughout the world while Tour de France winners, excluding Lance Armstrong, find their coverage right after the daily dog racing results?
I think we should start our own marathon cycling event and call it the Tour de Sanibel. It would be open to participants of all ages. All you’d need to do to qualify is to be able to ride a bike. We’d have our own daily sequences but make them less demanding.
For example, one leg of the event could start at Doc Ford’s and finish at the Recreation Center. And another would start at Bailey’s and end at the Sanibel Cinema a mere thirty yards. We’d have adoring fans line the routes and root for their favorites. At least the Tour de Sanibel would get front page headlines in the Islander/Island Reporter.
But back to the Tour de France. Here’s an example of recent coverage of this year’s race, going on right now as we speak: “Thomas Voeckler of France led a five-rider breakaway to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France as the race entered the Alps yesterday in Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine, France, while Bradley Wiggins retained the overall lead.
“The 120.9-mile ride from Maconsur-Valserine marked a return to racing after Tuesday’s tumultuous rest day in which a Cofidis rider was suspended by his team following his arrest by police in a doping probe.”
Personally, I think the doping probe is more interesting than the race itself. You never know when yet another rider will be jerked out of the race because his bike is swerving all over the road.
Since 1975 the finish has been on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Sure beats ending the race in the marshlands of central France. The Tour de France is a team sport with about twenty teams consisting of nine riders each competing. I’m told that the Tour de France is almost as popular in Europe as the World Cup. If that’s the case, take me out to the ‘ole ball game any day. Boring.