Are You Watching the Tour?

I wasn’t going to. All the doping cases have me fed up with the world of pro cycling. For the past three years, I’ve done posts about the different teams in the Tour, and who their sponsors are, and what they do. This year, I didn’t. I just don’t care anymore.

But now the Tour is underway…and every day, I find myself tuned in a little longer, absorbing a little more detail about the race…

Saturday, I was at a friend’s birthday party, and lots of other cyclists were there. Sure enough, one of the most commonly-asked questions was, “Are you watching the Tour?”

Not one person I talked to hadn’t seen at least some of it. One fellow said he’d missed the day’s action, and asked me what happened.

“Oh, Vinokurov decided to go for it,” I said. “He tried to catch the breakaway. Almost did it, too. It was really something to watch him attack.”

I caught myself. I knew as much or more about what was going on as my friends did, even after vowing that I was through with pro cycling.

“But I was yelling, ‘Doper! doper!’ all during his run,” I quickly added.

How did I get sucked into the Tour again this year?

It was innocent enough. My summer school teaching duties ended last week, and I now have some time on my hands. I didn’t try to tune in. In fact, I missed the first two days.

Then I started sneaking peeks. You know, the fabulous aerial shots of the French countryside — the castles — the chateaus. Then when they were passing through farm country the farmers created a large bicycle mockup with those huge round hay bales. And the wheels of the bike went round and round. And the wheels were formed by tractors driving in circles. Big tractors. It was terrific. I called my wife to come see.

So then we sat and watched. And watched until the end.

“That’s Mark Cavendish,” I told her. “He’s the best sprinter in the world. He’s British, but he rides for the American team HTC Highroad, so we can root for him.”

“So who do you want to win?” she asked.

I caught myself again. Don’t forget, I’m anti-pro cycling.

“Uh…I don’t know,” I replied. “I guess I don’t have a favorite. Any of the American teams would be fine with me.”

“Who are the American teams?” she asked.

“Well, there’s BMC…”

“Oh, from Houston. I’ve been by their place lots of times.”

“No, we went over this last year,” I said. “It’s not BMC Software. BMC is a Swiss bicycle company. But the team is based in Santa Rosa, California.”

Then I went through the other American teams: Radio Shack (she knew about them, from last year’s Tour), HTC Highroad, and Garmin-Cervelo. I ticked off the top riders on each team.

“Who are you rooting against?” she asked.

Team Sky's Xabier Zandio

“Team Sky,” I said. “They’re sponsored by BSkyB, the British satellite TV company. Rupert Murdoch owns 39 percent of BSkyB, and wants to buy the rest, but that phone hacking scandal is holding him up. I’ll root against anything with Murdoch’s name attached to it.”

“Anyone else?”

“I’m not crazy about Alberto Contador,” I said. “I’d like to see Andy Schleck get his revenge this year.”

“Is he American?”

Andy Schleck

“No, Luxembourger. He and his brother Frank started Team Leopard-Trek this year. It’s based in Luxembourg, and is kind of an all-star team. My favorite rider, Fabian Cancellara, is on that team.”

“So you’re really for a foreign team.”

“No, like I said, I’m for any of the American teams.”

“Who’s going to win?”

“I think it might be Cadel Evans this time.”

“Is he American?”

Cadel Evans

“He rides for BMC, but he’s Australian.”

“Good grief,” she said.

“What can I say? It’s an international sport,” I answered.

During Sunday’s melee, Vinokurov wound up with a broken pelvis after a horrific crash that kn0cked several big names out of the Tour.

Monday will be a rest day. So I can get out and ride my bike, and maybe go a little longer than usual, coming off a weekend. Then I can get as much yard work done as possible, so there’s free time during the rest of the week to watch the race.

“Hey, did you read on Velo News what they said about…” called out one of my friends at that birthday party.

“Nah,” I told him. “I’m not that into the Tour this year. I haven’t read anything about it online.”

Then I reminded myself that Velo News’s coverage is pretty good. I’ll have to check it out — and even bookmark it.


  1. says

    I can’t not watch but can’t help but wonder when the first positive drug test will show up. I also said the same thing as you when Vino attacked. I’m not sure whose going to win this year but Cadel does look good. Pistolero looks like he’s riding scared.

  2. Steven King says

    As a cyclist, it’s impossible not to watch the Tour – it really is the greatest race in the world. Nobody likes the doping legacy of recent years, but hopefully the younger generation won’t repeat the mistakes of the past – I cannot imagine a doping scandal involving Cavendish for instance.

    Having rooted for Wiggins ’til his premature exit, I’m hoping it will come good for Evans or Schleck this year, but considering the number of crashes they’re having, it will be miraculous if anybody makes it to Paris!

    Also, what is it with Spaniards making the best villains in sport? Contador in cycling, and Fernando Alonso in the Formula 1 world. Just me?

  3. says

    I have been watching bits and pieces but don’t know any of the riders or what’s really going on. I watch mostly for the beauty of the countryside and just to see the people riding. The results don’t interest me in the least.

  4. Jeff says

    Unlike you, this is the first year that I have really watched.
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now; mostly catching up thru the archive (I’m up to 2010!)

    One of the main reasons I started watching TdF was to time their cadence. I almost had a heart attack when you wrote about a year ago about cycling at 85 or 90. Like you, I started cycling several years ago (again, like you, on my old Raleigh) for fitness. Then came the heart monitor and training by zones. Fat burning heart zone and 85-90 cadence are mutually exclusive.

    I like the blog and the info it provides. It gives me something to shoot for

  5. says

    Generally, I’ve found that when a cyclist on the Tour has a bad day and comes back storming up a hill the next day with Phil Liggett proclaiming, “HE LOOKS LIKE A NEW MAN!” that’s the cyclist that will ultimately fail a drug test. I don’t see Cavendish doping since he needs a mule to get him up the hills but he’s on my fantasy team so maybe I’m biased.
    You need to explain to your wife the pecking order goes: American cyclist wins, American Team wins, the only guys that we think can beat Contador win and with that animal, Spartacus, on their team, they’ve got a shot. So if anyone beats Contador and doesn’t test positive, it’s a good win but it’s even better if there’s any American associated with it.

  6. says

    They’ve been doping for 98 years and there’s no reason to believe they won’t continue to dope. PEDs are an issue in virtually every professional sport where millions of dollars are on the line. Cycling is no different. Take it for what it is but recognize what it is not. The same is true for MLB, NFL, NHL, etc…

  7. says

    I’ve been watching The Tour simply because I really enjoy bike racing. However, I’m finding it really difficult to keep up with the various stages since I travel and the usual websites can’t seem to understand that I (and I’m sure many other viewers) don’t care about anything involving the word “live”. I don’t care about watching the stage live, or real-time live GPS tracking of individual riders. I don’t want @vscycling sending me 60+ tweets in a day (really, Versus?) and I don’t want to log into only to be greeted with a page full of spoilers before I have a chance to watch the recap. is no better. I desperately avoid the news, twitter, Versus, and many other outlets because I don’t want to hear that Chris Horner has crashed and is out of the race *before* they even show the prime time replay – once again, really, Versus?? I checked out’s “total package” subscription $29, but it was all focused on live live live. How about a spoiler-free rebroadcast (Podcast anyone?) of all the live stuff they so gleefully market to us? And I don’t mean a five or ten minute recap, either. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems they are missing out on a big percentage of the market who don’t have DVR readily available for whatever reason, and can’t be glued to the computer from 5am to 11am daily to watch the stages live. Sorry for the rant, but imagine yourself in a hotel that doesn’t have Versus on cable, and I’m not available (ie, I’m working) to sit around and watch it as it happens. Arrgghh!!

    • Jeff says

      Hey, don’t feel bad. I made it a point to get to the tv for the start of one of the stages, only to discover that Versus started their coverage at 0700 Central, talked for half an hour, then joined the stage at least a third of the way into it. That’s like starting your Indy 500 coverage on lap 75. I tried to “[email protected]” but kept getting an error message.

    • Steven King says

      Sounds like we’re spoilt here in the UK – live coverage from 2pm (GMT+1) until stage finish, then a one hour highlights show later in the evening. If you ever do manage to leave feedback, tell them ITV know how to present the TdF properly!

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