5 answers to: “Is the Tour boring?

July 13, 2012

The always excellen Inner Ring posted a story with this title. I have five answers:

  1. Yes, it is boring. At least usually. Remember the Indurain years? A month of magazines explaining why this year, Bugno, Chiapucci or Rominger would challenge for the win. Then the start, one week of sprints, a time trial, and the race was over. Or the Lance years? A month of magazines explaining why this year, Zuelle, Ullrich or Beloki would challenge for the win. Then the start, one week of sprints, a time trial, and the race was over. Sometimes that first time trial was instead the first up-hill finish, and one year the race was even exciting until the last weekend. I think.
  2. No, this is cycling. It’s hard to create a course that keeps the GC up for grabs until the last days. Sometimes a race organizer is lucky, often they’re not. Somehow the Giro seems to be decided later than the Tour, at least in recent history (and by later I mean towards the end of the three weeks of racing, not 18 months later once CAS has ruled). So the course has something to do with it, but as they say, “the riders make the race”.
  3. That said, if it is difficult to keep GC interesting, it should be possible to make the stage wins exciting. Flat stages with predictable sprint finishes are part of the race, but we don’t need 10. I’m sure race organizers started adding uphill finishes to the flat stages to prevent Cavendish from winning everything, but of course the problem is that Gilbert (last year) or Sagan (this year) win all of those. I think the best stages in the first week would have a 3rd or 4th category climb at 5-10km from the finish. It makes it hard to calculate catching the early escape, it allows some riders to jump away and maybe stay away, it will allow some sprinters but not others to pace themselves over the top and catch back on.
  4. Focus on the other classifications. Especially the best climber classification, it rarely provides the entertainment it should. I would really like to see time bonuses at the top of each climb, so the favorites are forced to sprint at the top of each climb. That would shake things up, reveal weaknesses earlier in the stages and maybe entice some riders to stretch their sprints out on the way down and create some opportunities.
  5. Change how the race is broadcasted. Nowadays, when the broadcast starts, we see a couple of riders “who were allowed to ride away”. Usually nothing could be further from the truth, getting into the break is incredibly hard work and very exciting to watch. Those who saw the stage to Lourdes last year will remember that Hesjedal was all out for the better part of an hour, one break after another, never gaining more than 15 seconds, until finally the break stuck. It would be much better to show the first (tape-delayed) and the last hour of a race, rather than the final two hours.

13 Responses to “5 answers to: “Is the Tour boring?”

  1. Craig Watson Says:

    Good points, GV. Number 5 is excellent, well put and true.

  2. Tony Says:

    #5 is something I’ve only really been aware of recently. It’s been great watching the breakaways form and was really supraised how much work it takes to make the selection. If they are specifically televised surely it would lead to the racing to be more entertaining.

  3. Vernon Says:

    2 points. Stage wins must carry more reward, a significant time bonus, to tempt GC contenders to go for the stage win.
    And if you have 2 long time trials, 1 of them must be up the side of a mountain!

  4. Sal Ruibal Says:

    Agree with much of this. Lack of time bonifications and too many miles of TT reduce interest.

  5. Liz Says:

    1) One of the writers at NY Velocity (I believe) suggested that time trial start times should be the gaps in GC standing, in reverse. That way the yellow jersey goes out first and the other guys fight to catch him.

    2) We have been spoiled by Alberto and Andy the last few years. Right now, a Tour with neither hardly feels like a Tour at all. Whoever wins this year has to have in the back of his mind that he won the Tour on a year when the two best riders in the world didnt race. I am bored this year because Wiggo-Cadel is not even close to Berto-Andy as a rivalry!


    • I disagree with the idea that Schleck and Contador are the two best Tour riders right now. Schleck was off his form long before he had to withdraw, and of course Evans won last year beating him and Contador. Of course one could say that Contador was not at his strongest, that’s fair, but I don’t think it’s fair to diminish Wiggins’ accomplishments.

      Same with the crashes that took out other candidates, they certainly ruined some of the spectacle and suspense, but not crashing is part of what it takes to win. In short: To finish first, you must first finish. And before that, you have to start.

  6. Chris Says:

    I believe that the reintroduction of time bonuses, especially on mountain top finishes would make the race more exciting. When Contador & Andy paced each other up the Tourmalet and many called it fantastic and exciting. I scratched my head and yawned finding their commentary off and the race itself quite dull. Who wouldn’t have liked to see Cav or Sagan in yellow during the first week rather than Fabian?

  7. Andrem Says:

    First off, I really like point #4. Why not bring back the combination jersey as well? It seems tour teams these days are built around GC or points jerseys; failing that they go for stage wins. Giving time bonuses would change the scope of GC riders as it would pit them against the stage hunters and force a more active and perhaps exciting race.

    Seeing Contador gift stages in the 2011 Giro did not feel right. Would a 10 minute time bonus to the stage winner put an end to this? What about criteria that determines the size of the time bonus with a bias to punish racers giving away stages?

    On the other hand, the 2011 Vuelta being won on time bonuses did not feel right, even though those were the rules of the game.

    Time bonuses do give sprinters a chance to wear the leaders jersey, so why not give time bonuses but make them expire in the last week?

  8. Sarah Says:

    Re #5, that’s what RAI do with the Giro Donne (the women’s Grand Tour) – they show 20 mins of the early stages, when it’s attack-o-rama, and craziness, and then about the last 20 mins, on their 55 min highlight show. It’s a lot of fun – sometimes they manage to miss the key break that way, but it shows how much teams like (eg) Rabobank and AA Drink work their socks off, rather than it just seeming like Marianne Vos or Emma Pooley just do it effortlessly. It’s annoying when you don’t get that-moment-when-Vos-Pooley-and-Stevens-attacked etc, but generally they get it right, and I love it.

  9. Simon Davies Says:

    6. Another thought, when you have riders with the descending talents of Nibali, Evans & Sagan why not put the finish nearer to the bottom of a large technical descent where they can capitalise on time gains made downhill.

    Descending is a legitimate skill and the rider with the skills and courage to descend at speed should be justly rewarded.

    I truly believe the biological passport has created the cleanest peleton, probably ever, the side effect of this is riders less able to sustain attacks in the climbs.

    Perhaps the only rider capable of taking the sky train single handedly in the mountains Contador is not here either.

  10. Jon Holmes Says:

    With each passing year I become far more enchanted with the Giro and lose more interest for the Tdf.

  11. slim jim Says:

    They got rid of time bonuses because too many stage winners were getting disqualified for doping.


  12. 3 week GT races are boring. They always have been boring, they always will be boring. It’s just the nature of the beast. You can’t go balls out every day for three weeks, so you have to mete out your efforts. You have to race conservatively, and never attack unless you absolutely have to.

    You want to watch exciting racing, watch RVV, or LBL, or P-R, or Amstel Gold, or, hell anything in March or April will do. Those races spread the field out for miles, and have riders constantly at 100%, not the 90 or 95% they are for the grand tours.


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