Vegas Vs. The Tour de France
Our American sports bias shows most prominently in the month of July. And every July, across the Atlantic, the best race in the world—the Tour de France—begins, descending upon the French countryside in mad style. But it begs the question: Why are we so keen on keeping our bias toward cycling? Please don’t say doping. It’s too easy. And don’t say Sir Lancelot either. Just say that it’s easier to forgive American baseball and football athletes of doping than it is to forgive a cyclist. There, feel better? Good.
America loves winners. No proof more evident than the craze that swept up—or skated up—the City of Las Vegas into the Vegas Golden Knights' inuagural and historic season, which culminated into a trip to the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals. As for the VGK in 2019, the newness was still palpable, but heartbreak soon followed after "the call," which helped in prematurely ending the Knights' second playoff-run. In fact, 2018 was the inaugural season for the Las Vegas Aces as well, though I’m betting you don’t own any of their (awesome) gear. The rebranded and relocated San Antonio Stars of the WNBA happily metamorphosed into the Las Vegas Aces, landing in the same sunshine as the VGK, except for the key factor that unlike the Knights, the Aces spent their entire 2018 season in last place. Yet after landing key acquisition Liz Cambage and #1 draft-pick Jackie Young, the Aces currently sit atop the Western Conference standings, accelerating from worst to first in less than a season. So what does all this have to do with The Tour de France? Plenty.
There were only five American riders in 2018’s Tour de France, and none near any contention of winning, unless you included a category for the best dry and off-kilter humor, which would’ve been easily won by Colorado native, Taylor Phinney, who did not disappoint during any of his Taylor Phinney Diaries, shown daily throughout NBC’s coverage of the Tour. Last year’s TDF was won by Geraint Thomas from the infamous Team Sky, (now Team Ineos) a British team, shrewd, smug, and dominant. Easy villians to root against but long odds to upset. Speaking of villians, I promise to not make this another bashing—albeit late—of what was once the most celebrated cyclist in American history. If there is to be a silver lining in the Lancelot catastrophe, it’s that the American public will be able to remember a true American hero: cyclist Greg LeMond.
The 2018 Tour de France included cobblestones, crashes, fan-collusion, French Police, punches, and tear gas.
Tour de France stages portray cyclists daredeviling windy mountain descents at 55mph with no guardrails, wearing only a helmet. During Stage 18 of 2018’s Tour de France, Quick-Step rider Phillipe Gilbert lost control of his back wheel during a descent and flew over the wall of a mountain! (Luckily, he was recovered.) Gilbert quickly remounted his bike and kept racing. The 2018 Tour de France also included cobblestones, crashes, fan-collusion, French Police, punches, and tear gas. The 2019 Tour de France begins in Brussels, honoring the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first TDF win, promising twenty-one glorious stages of drama, agony, athleticism, triumph, and sportsmanship.
Out of 53 Super Bowls most were busts, and they only last for three ad-driven hours, which leaves Americans deflated the day after, while still managing to remember those inappropriate and outrageous commercials, to which Cycling is actually getting close to mimicking, with Specialized’s depiction of Peter Sagan—the Tour de France’s fastest cyclist—casting him as losing a race to a grandmother on an electric bike. Outrageous, if not a wee bit humorous.
As for cycling’s steroid era, and similarly baseball’s steroid era, debates continue. Should those players still be inducted into Cooperstown? Should the records stand? The MLB is actively repairing their "greatest pastime" image, however they still suspend players for PED use and yet, they’re currently witnessing a resurgence. Can cycling draft baseball’s wheels and slip-stream back into the American consciousness? Well, that is really up to you. The peloton left Lancelot for dead and kept riding. Don’t give him another opportunity to deny you of one of the most spectacular sporting events in the world: the Tour de Force known as Le Tour de France.
The 2019 Tour de France begins July 6th and is available on NBC Sports & NBC Gold.