Out in California, the coverage for the Tour starts at 3 am. And it goes for over 6 hours. That is truly amazing. It’s a huge change from what it was just a couple decades ago. I guess we have to thank Lance for that???
I was talking to Tom Schuler, ex-7-11 Professional, about things he might regret in his career. He said first that he never rode the Tour. Tom was US Pro Champion and won lots and lots of races. But, he said he gets little respect from the young riders because he never rode the Tour de France. And he could have, very easily. Like so easily that he actually had to strategize or lobby how to NOT ride the race.
Back then, other than Andy Hampsten, Davis and a few others, no one wanted to spend a month in France racing a 3 week stage race. There was no media coverage and it really did nothing for a rider’s American contract. Plus, you lost out on thousands of dollars of prize money you would have won racing here in the United States.
Back then, I too, was never really interested in racing the Tour. One year, between my Levis Team and Schwinn days, I made a few phone calls to try to get on a Tour team. I called Phil Liggett, who was the point man of British Cycling at the time. There was a British team, sponsored by, I forget the exact name, maybe ANC or something. It was a trucking service I think. I knew that Malcollm Elliot and Adrian Timmis, guys I’d ridden the British Milk Race with a couple times, were on it. Phil told me that he thought it wouldn’t be a problem to ride the race, but there was something screwy with their support, pay or something. I decided to drop the whole thing and ended up riding for the Wheaties/Schwinn team for the next 3 seasons. I think most of the British guys riding the Tour that year race quit the race early, so it would have been just survival, at best.
The Tour wasn’t what it is now. It was shitty hotels, with only cold water. No team buses, just a couple team cars. It was a completely different deal that the race is now. The race is as much an made for TV entertainment segment as an athletic event. I guess that’s okay. Whatever it takes to get a bicycle racing main stream is alright??
Watching the Tour today, I was surprised how many people were out for the race. It was amazing. It seems like Britain has really signed off on the bike racing thing. I guess having the last two winners of the Tour coming from your country gives it a real boost.
The finish today was indicative of what field sprints have become. The riders started the ball rolling and the officials never did anything to stop it. Head butting, elbowing, leaning and contact seems to be the current state of field sprints. And the guys laying on the ground is the result. I didn’t watch the replay too many times, but it looked like Cavendish was at fault. He seemed to be behind Gerrans and initiated the contact. It was intentional contact for sure. The sport needs to address it, like I wrote here a couple weeks ago. The sport is dangerous enough on its own. This needs to stop.
And, how about Chris Froome finishing 6th on the stage. Maybe he is going to go for the Green jersey later on in the race? It’s been awhile since the GC riders participate at the front at the end of a sprinter’s stage. I’ve always thought, if you get to the end of the race, why not put out the energy the last minute to get a result. Plus, at the front, you are usually out of trouble a little more than further back. That might not be true now.
Okay, anyway, I’m glad the Tour is on. I’m still sleeping poorly and it is always something to look forward to. I’d much rather just be out riding my bike myself, but if that isn’t possible, then watching the Tour de France isn’t a bad alternative.