In recent years many changes have been suggested and implemented in the selection process for the TDF. The “Top Club” is definitely a step in the right direction, insuring many of the best teams and riders are
competing in July for the many honors, and prestige of racing in the Tour, as well as the Giro, Vuelta, and the World Cup races. In the past the month of July has placed the best teams and racers on display for the world to see, and this is as it should be. Recently however, it is my belief that the TDF is becoming something of a popularity contest, with a predominance
of French teams being selected over obviously better prospective entrants.
With all the posturing and politicizing occurring between the respective organizing bodies, I believe something has been left behind. The Tour de France has become bigger than France. It is a gift that France gives to the
world at large, and it should be recognized and organized to be the “Worlds Tour” that it has become. No disrespect intended to France or the French,
but the Tour de France is no longer simply France’s national tour.
If we look at the selections for the other major tours (and this is in no way intended to marginalize either the Giro or the Vuelta), we see a predominance of nationally based teams making the cut. Both the Giro and Vuelta are outstanding events that no true cycling fan wants to miss, but do they carry the same prestige as the Tour de France? I think not. Alfredo Binda’s Giro stage win record will fall this spring, and Lance Armstrong may well equal the consecutive Tour victory record held by Miguel Indurain, and join a club whose other 4 members comprise perhaps the greatest cyclists of all time. I ask you, which of these events will be remembered by more fans? (Sorry, Cipo)
Many have said that French cycling is in trouble, and with good cause. The French have not had a tour winner since Bernard Hinault. This is partially because other nations, such as Germany, Denmark, and the US
have seen increased interest and support for the sport of cycling in recent years. Arguments have been made that in order for French cycling to succeed, French riders and teams need the exposure of the worlds greatest race. This is a valid argument, but let me play devils advocate for a moment. How much enthusiasm for cycling will the French people have if they
see their heroes being beaten by riders from other nations? Granted, if the race was monopolized by constant French victory, it would cease to be an
“event”. Every nation goes through peaks and troughs of cycling talent and enthusiasm, as the Italians witnessed no so long ago. They can now lay claim to a Champion du Monde, and a World Cup winner.
The TDF should place the best cyclists in the world on stage in the greatest cycling event there is. We should be allowed to see the “Top Club” teams compete against each other in the TTT and in the mountains. We should be allowed to see the World Champion compete against the best sprinters in the world in the flat stages. The Tour de France should be comprised of the best riders, on the best teams, period. To put anything less before the public would be a crime.
The Tour de France, cycling’s pinnacle event, is on the verge of becoming “just another race”. We as fans must do all we can to ensure that it retains it’s place as “The Grand Boucle”.
Michael S. Marine
New York, USA
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