Wednesday, June 26, 2013

About That Long Ride In France

Image by W. Kilburg from T.I.V8
There's this big ride happening in France soon. Guys that make some pretty good money riding bicycles full time will be arranged in teams and all will duke it out over three weeks running around France and some nearby nations trying to put one guy in a yellow jersey.

It's kind of a complicated scene, really. There's this "race within the race" for "points", and "best climber", and "best young rider", and who knows what all. In fact, it is so intricate, with time bonuses and team points that you usually find a "Legend' on many sites that will guide you to be able to understand it all.

What happened to a race where the fastest guy wins? How easy is that? Guess it had to be made "more interesting", for whatever reasons. And in that vein, if you actually go to see this event, there is even more layers to this thing. There is a huge "race caravan" of sponsors. Call it a speeding parade. Brands and manufacturers that give support to this deal roll by the throngs of spectators hawking their products and tossing out promotional materials for the people to wear and use during the event. When the riders go by, hopefully the T.V. cameras catch some of those icons for a bit of free advertising. Maybe some people will take these sundry items home and have a reminder of the race, (and in turn a brand). Marketing is a big deal at this event for sure.

It wasn't always like this. It used to be that merely knowing about the event and the riders and how difficult it was to accomplish the route was "interest" enough. Man against the terrain and the clock. self-supported over country roads. Miles and miles of them. Gravelly passes through uncertain mountains. Weather. Mud. The human spirit put to test against seemingly insurmountable odds. That was really riveting stuff back in the day for this event, but then it all changed.

Now there are support vehicles, team cars, race radios, and all in the name of speed and safety. The race has become something totally different than it had been. You may like it. You may even love it. However; there are a lot of folks that have grown tired of the hoopla, and the rules, and the breaking of the rules. Count me as one of them.

Here's a bit of an out take from Zach Dundas' book entitled "The Renegade Sportsman". This is a book about under-the-radar sports and the folks who have rejected the "sports-entertainment industrial complex". Zach felt Trans Iowa fit this mold and this is where Zach is quoting my take on Trans Iowa and how it relates to the big July race :

"All the big European cycling events have their roots in things like this, (gravel road racing), The difference is, they've been totally transformed by money and T.V. They've been sanitized for mass consumption to the point where they're no longer recognizable as what they were. I'm not saying the Tour isn't a great athletic event and a spectacle, because it obviously is. But c'mon- it's kind of become a sick joke, hasn't it? Even if you ride, you can barely relate to it because it's become so detached from reality."

From "The Renegade Sportsman" pg 68-69

 Maybe you don't agree, but if you do, there are things happening, right now, that hearken back to the original spirit of the event that we know now as "The Tour". Just check out what is going on with Tour Divide. I'm following a friend that has done over 1500 miles in eleven days already, all on his own recognizance. Man against the terrain and the clock. self-supported over country roads. Miles and miles of them. Gravelly passes through uncertain mountains. Weather. Mud. The human spirit put to test against seemingly insurmountable odds. You know.......some really riveting stuff! (For me, at any rate.)

10 comments:

Velocodger said...

I love it all. To me the answer is not a,or b,or c,or d,but abcd.

Velocodger said...

I love it all. Everything on a bike.

Rob said...

Great post! I agree wholeheartedly that the "hoopla" has overshadowed the riding

Leslie said...

GT,

Have you watched this before?

https://vimeo.com/21306164

The TdF from 51 years ago, showing the sponsor caravan, talks about doping, etc.

Have to admit, I liked the bikes' style better then...

Max said...

The TDF has definitely become a media motivated race, and had been that way from years. I have very little interest in the event because it's so far from reality and isn't nearly as interesting as many of the lower key, self supported races.

On the other hand, one could argue that cycling needs a "big event" as many other sports have. It surely brings tons of money and publicity into the industry that can ultimately be used for things we'd have more interest in.

That said, if they made the event self supported, and back to the basics - it'd be interesting to see who came out on top and how spectators reacted.

Doug Goodenough said...

self support TDF would be great....never happen though.

rideonpurpose said...

In a self-supported TDF would the best rider be more likely to win? I say no. Think about it. Self supported is great, but when it comes down to it at the highest levels it is quite silly.

GravelDoc said...

It seems to me the corporate world complicates just about everything in which it involves itself, including cycling. Long live the renegade sportsman!

Bruce Brown said...

Great History of the Tour playing on NBCSP this evening which may or may not shed the true light into some of your comments...

Guitar Ted said...

@rideonpurpose: The best self-supported rider would win. Different race than maybe what you would like/are thinking of. That's okay.