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So far it’s a solo ride.

The Irrelevance of Le Tour: A Perspective

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It's not like it tried to get here

Le Tour… how did you get here?! #nopetonotour is one to get here. 104 editions down, assuming infinite more on the horizon. Not bad for a race whose origins trace back to a last-ditch effort to save a struggling newspaper. You saved the newspaper, and survived two World Wars to boot. You’ve had many good years - scratch that, great years. You’ve had your fair share of (well-documented) dark years. But really, what sport hasn’t?! Like humanity in the 1940’s, you survived.

Yet somehow, today, you have started falling out of favor with your fans. Yes, you still dictate the very survival of every World Tour team. Yes, you still rank as the single greatest achievement on the palmares of any rider. But, ask the fans and they say you have become boring, formulaic, or worse…robotic. They say the Giro is real racing. That there's more excitement on the white gravel roads of Sienna and pavé of Flanders. That the mountain tops of the French Pyrenees no longer inspire attacks and counter-attacks, but instead amount to a ride of attrition for potential general classification contenders. They point to one team’s recent domination: A single outfits ability to chew up and spit out all other competitors, to suffocate the tactics out of the race, all while staring at watt readouts on climbs. Is that really what you’ve become: A one pony race? Maybe not, but many need convincing of otherwise, signs that your best days are not indeed behind.

Same pony, new tricks

You’ve done your best to switch things up, to loosen the British death grip on the Alps, to re-energize the fans. You’ve moved stage finishes from the mountain tops to the valleys below. You’ve forced GC contenders to earn their chops not only climbing, but descending as well. Inadvertently, you spawned a generation of Cat 4-wannabes deploying their best imitation of the "Froome" tuck. Did anyone give you credit for this (do you want credit for that)? You ill-advisedly forced cobbles into our summer and it wasn’t pretty. But really, is any race perfect? If any other race drew the spectatorship you did, would we still be praising its unfettered charm? Or would we be nitpicking the route selection and narrow final kilometers like we do you?

The PBR of bike racing?

At this point, it’s just cool to rag on you for the sake of ragging on you. Kicking the world champion out of the race doesn’t help your cause. But maybe, at the end of the day, we are being too hard on you. Yes, you are the circus of the race calendar. But who, secretly, doesn’t love the circus? (RIP, Ringling Brothers) Ventoux an absolutely avoidable shit-show last year?! Yes, but it will go down as one of the most spectacular moments in the history of the sport. Irregular sprints and unjust disqualifications? Mainstream news channels picked that up! For once we actually got to talk about the spandex-clad in a general population setting! The UCI just now considering what to do with vehicles in the peloton? You were ahead of the curve on that (exhibit Johnny Hoogerland, 2011). Too many pundits, weekend warriors (you're in here too, Lance), American sports journalists chiming in with unwanted podcasts and viewpoints. Point taken, counter-point: Dutch Corner. Is there a better atmosphere in cycling than Dutch Corner?

With Acceptance, Closure

As much as we don’t want to admit it, we can’t live without Le Tour. So yes, let’s keep on ragging on it for all its faults and recent lack of suspense in the final standings, but let’s try to give it some more credit for still managing to tug at our heart strings (and elevate our blood pressure) every July. And remember: Without Le Tour, would we all be watching quasi-legal malware-infested streams of races that don’t force us to look up whether running is legal in a bike race?

ed. note: Remy Hitt is a buyer at Clif Bar, utter Europhile, Belgian beer aficionado, and committed homemade ice cream enthusiast.
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