World Cup out, Tour in

July 13, 2010

Cycling couldn’t have hoped for a better set-up then a boring Worldcup final leading into the most exciting Tour de France for years. Maybe it’s not quite the Giro-level craziness yet, but certainly the course and the riders have delivered a spectacle so far. Now let’s hope cycling can take these Worldcup fans with time on their hands and show them why cycling is the best sport in the world.

On the other hand, let’s hope sports reporters around the world don’t make the mistake the Dutch are making. Maybe out of compensation for the lost Worldcup final, they are now proclaiming a podium finish for Robert Gesink (most of the world now goes: “Who?” while some will wonder if this is the guy who won heavyweight judo gold at the 1964 Olympics (he isn’t, certainly not in the heavyweight category)). He may or may not finish on the podium, but that’s not the point. The point is that he is just a young kid, who should be allowed to race his best Tour without the weight of a frustrated nation on his shoulder. For crying out loud, he’s not even Rabobank’s team leader, Menchov is. He also isn’t the team’s best placed rider, again Menchov is.

But he’s ridden well in one mountain stage and now he’s the big Dutch hope. Never mind that there are 15 guys still vying for the podium, that the third week will be insanely tough, that if he has learned anything from Menchov he will surely fade in that last week, that it is really only his second Grand Tour where he is in this position (and the other one was last year’s Giro, where 12 out of those 15 didn’t even start).

Of course the Dutch are not alone in that, US TV must be scrambling to find a way to still push a “Lance comes back” storyline or find another reason to keep Lance as the “Ride of the Day” and Radioshack as the “Team of the week” for the remainder of this Tour. Or will they find it in their infinite wisdom to cover another hero (unlikely)? Maybe they’ll stop the broadcast altogether, they’ve already proven in Lance’s first retirement that life’s hardly worth living without Lance.

In Germany, TV coverage has been increased, but people seem unsure why. The broadcasters’ mantra of supporting a “Don’t test, don’t tell” policy by cutting coverage when cycling had positive tests and coming back now that they don’t has really killed the momentum for the sport there, and it is about to lose its only remaining ProTour team.

The only exception seems to be Spain. They can lean back and enjoy their Tennis and Soccer success and hope that Contador completes the triple (for him and his country). Only cloud in the sky is Caisse d’Epargne, where they fear they won’t have a sponsor for next year. I tweeted about this already, but it is worth repeating as it may go down as the funniest thing to happen in cycling this year. They blame the damaged reputation of cycling due to doping for their inability to find a new sponsor. Coming from the home of Valvpiti and after four years of dragging out his case, that’s precious.

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