|Image by W. Kilburg from T.I.V8|
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.
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.)