Letters to Cyclingnews May 9, 2001, part 2
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Recent letters Tour selection special, part 2
Continuing our presentation of Cyclingnews readers' opinions on the Tour wildcards.
Equal tours and smaller teams
If I were running the Tour I'd cut the teams to eight riders each and then add two more teams. The peloton would be a bit smaller, more great riders would be included to help stir things up, and with fewer guys a team like U.S. Postal would have more trouble controlling the race. Each of which would make the race more interesting.
Nope, it's about Feed Zones.
I'm sure most of you don't know this but when it comes to feed zones teams like Big Mat and La Francaise des Jeux are simply unequalled in the peloton. So in my eyes their selections were an obvious choice.
But I can hear you now -- that's not what Le Tour is about. It's about a struggle for ultimate victory. WRONG!
You should be like me, brimming with utter glee and anticipation for the start of this year's race. The exciting moments are making my mouth water. I can see it now, THE WORLD FAMOUS Philippe Bordenaye dying like a roasted pig at the one-kilometer flag. Or maybe we'll witness a 500km suicidal breakaway by Jacky Durand (my fingers are crossed). Who'll cheer with me at the fantastic French flash Sebastien Hatton's epic 5k quest for victory when the rest of the peloton is on the side of the road taking piss. Are you with me! Stand up and cheer!
I've experience the Tour first hand and these are the types of memories I take away. Not the epic duels between "Big Tex" and "The Pirate" C'mon Super Mario only won 4 stages in a row in 1999. It's not like he won 5.
True, true a Frenchman has not won a Tour in over 15 years. But hey neither has anyone from Ethiopia. And the chance of it happening this year is slim to none. (Well, I think I'm giving them more of a chance than they deserve, but I'm in a giving mood I guess -- hey just like Jean Marie) But when "the Badger" won the Tour in 1985 it was on a purely French team with of course a few minor exceptions - Greg LeMond, Steve Bauer, and Nikki Ruttimen. But the other guys were French and those three guys weren't THAT important to Hinault's victory. (But I digress from my chastising of you ignorant fools!)
Obviously you've never witnessed the awe inspiring, sheer excitement of the Grupetto. Granted, rides from all nations and teams "get on the bus" but Jean Marie thought it needed more of a French flair. Remember folks this is their national tour.
Stop your whining and realize there is a master plan. A plan so keen it will only take a few decades to bring French cycling back to those dizzying heights of world domination!
Frankly, French cycling is in the doldrums now, so I can understand it to some extent from a French perspective. I mean how long has it been since they had a French winner? 1985? I mean, LeMond is ALMOST French, so that's OK, since he was properly tortured- ahem, developed- by the French to prepare him for his victories. But since then, nothing. And then Lance comes into THEIR house and criticizes THEIR journalists with his confident Texas attitude, which is hauntingly similar to the French attitude.
It's also a bit anachronistic and typically 'French' (if you will pardon the expression), to shut out the increasing globalisation of the sport, particularly in the U.S. I wonder what Hein Verbruggen has to say about this step back in the "mondialization" of cycling.
For me, it also brings up the doping issue, since I see the lesser teams being 'encouraged' to do well at the expense of the riders for publicity reasons. It seems disingenuous of the Tour organizers to push both agendas.
There is also the issue of a rising combined power of Europe as a whole influencing the politics of France and the other EU countries, where power is more and more being taken from the individual countries and given the EU. This may be a sign of backlash against that and the corporate powers that now run cycling.
If Mercatone Uno were to combine with Alessio maybe this might signify a strong fulfilment for getting 2 great Italian teams in.
There is no doubt that the "red train" deserves to be in on its own accord. But maybe room could have been made for them and Mercury as their own complete teams if some of the "lesser" teams were combined.
I think going to 21 teams shows great flexibility, and could even have justified going to 22 teams since the quality of Pro teams is so high. The weeding out of riders during this years Tour would surely trim down the numbers quite some time before Paris.
With the flexibility of adding more teams, and combining the lesser
teams all might have moved forward for a very interesting "Tour de France".
John W. Senkier
Santa Cruz, CA USA
This statement is crap. LeBlanc is trying to justify his exclusion of Mercury/Saeco/Mercatone by saying that he is giving the youth a chance. Great, well at the same time let's give the old man of French cycling a chance too. Nothing against Jalabert, he has been a great champion, but he's getting up there in the years and he's been laid up with a hurt back all spring. It is obvious that LeBlanc is grasping for explanations, but he's being hypocritical in the process.
I can't wait until Lance and Jan show starts, but I think three excluded teams would have all produced exiting stage wins. At least now Big Mat and FdJ will give me something to cheer against.
This comment certainly sums up LeMond's mind-set and that of American bicycle fans in general.
The letter-whiners cry out for justice, for "fairness" in the face of LeBlanc's selection decisions. Will Americans never learn? There is something besides fair-play that rules this world and nurtures the soul: that thing is Truth. LeBlanc is under no obligation to think like an American: the Tour is not and never has been organized and run like some charity race dreamed up at a PTA luncheon. Le Tour is a national institution and should be respected accordingly: that would be fair of the letter-whiners.
Just as LeMond was little-boy hurt by his team leader Bernard Hinault's aggressive riding in the 1986 Tour, he is "astonished and disappointed" at LeBlanc's decision. Greg, you have no excuse to be amazed after what you went through fifteen years ago in the Pyrenees, when Hinault attacked and put three minutes into you because he could, wanted to, and did.
There are such things still as Truth and Class. Let Mercury-Viatel show LeBlanc what he's missing, if that makes everyone feel any better. Better still, try and understand the sport you claim to love. Lay aside the American flag and take up a book. Push yourself to comprehend something Greg LeMond never has and perhaps never shall learn: humility and thankfulness in the face of history.
Patrick P. Hartigan
The French national tour is now a showcase for Grade B French talent, rather than the world's greatest bike race. In a twisted way, it's a good thing for cycling that some of the best teams in the world were left out and replaced by cheesy regional Division II teams.
Now the Classics will move back up a notch in public perception, along with the fine national tours of Italy and Spain. More top teams and riders will aim for those races as well as the World Championships. A balanced sport may be the result, and I'm all for it.
Competitive cycling has been hostage to the whims of the Tour de France promoters for long enough. I say let's move on. It's a great race, but not the only race. Bumping the "Tour" from the primary goal of the season for all teams down to a more manageable level of being just a normal major goal would be a good thing.
The current shift in perception that the Tour de France has lapsed into a politically motivated French promotional vehicle may help to mediate the excessive value placed on this event.
Look what happens when the teams are forced to put all their eggs in one basket. Some teams will probably die at the end of this season as a direct result of the decisions made by Leblanc and his cronies. The Tour de France has become the Microsoft of cycling.
Fortunately, we have other choices.
So if the organizers would like a truly "best in the world" type of race, maybe they should have ONLY national teams competing. That way the monetary benefits of fielding a team of nine riders would benefit a national cycling federation and not a company that writes off the cycling team as an advertising/promotional expense.
Of course, in a capitalist society that would never work. Since the cyclists are pros and MUST (by definition) be paid. The companies involved MUST make money. And they must get as much exposure as their money will buy. That is a reality in 2001. However, in the organizer's desire to make a more interesting race, they have excluded some great riders for the sake of presenting lesser recognizable teams. In my opinion, that is a waste of time and resources. Why put so much into the Tour if you only expect to get little in return?
Maybe the UCI could come up with a better plan, but I doubt it. Can anyone say EPO test buy the start of the 2000 Tour?!?! I would hope that if the UCI becomes part of the process (and I hope they will since the governing body of cycling should be in charge of the "greatest Race in the World") since it is their product that is on display. In the event that the UCI does take over the Tour selection then I would hope that they draw up a list of requirements for selection and (here's the catch) stick to them.
Maybe with some changes the 2002 Tour will be the best ever, but I honestly doubt it.
Anyhow, it just wasn't in the stars for these two teams. It was not Wordin's place, or anyone's for that matter, to say afterwards that the non-selection wasn't "in the best interest of the sport." Fact is, Viatel is a sponsor going globally bankrupt with or without Tour exposure (they're like PSINet, but slightly less infamous), and Mercury has no real business base in France. Coast is not 'Z' of the late '80s-early '90s. It should surprise no one that the final wild cards were given to French teams in a French race, or that the lone French star (Jalabert) and the team that proved it was passed over the year before (Euskaltel) also got invites. As for Pantani, Cipo, Dufaux, and perhaps even in Zulle's Escartin's camp, they will not be the first nor the last stars to miss the "big dance." Perhaps these events will serve to raise the competitive status and recognition of the Giro, and more appropriately, the Vuelta, as "big dances" that need not compare themselves to the TdF except as Grand Tours in their own respective right. Perhaps the only surprise would be if a rider pulls a 'Pensec' (recall this French maillot jaune ancienne's swap from Seur to Amaya in '93 when Seur got the snub), and switch teams in time to make it to the prologue.
Tofu de France - bland mush.
Watch the Vuelta instead.
The last month's letters