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Le Tour
July 17, 2001 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Le Tour So, is there any chance the Tour De France will become more popular with US viewers? Or even that our own Tour will reach the interest levels displayed in Europe? I was absolutely on the edge of my seat during Armstrong's rush today, and I'm nothing of a biker.
posted by Kikkoman (36 comments total)

 
It's hard to follow when TV coverage is nowhere to be found (at least here in SF) though a few web sites do a good job of keeping track. Expect Armstrong and Ullrich to dominate now that the tour has entered the mountain stages...
posted by birdsong at 9:45 AM on July 17, 2001


It totally SUCKS that OLN, the network showing it, is only available in most places with a satellite dish. Plus, the Eurosport still frame feed is no longer available. A contribution to the charity of your choice if you can tell me where on the Web I can watch the Tour (audio is available on several sites).
posted by ParisParamus at 9:58 AM on July 17, 2001


So, is there any chance the Tour De France will become more popular with US viewers?

No. Never. Not a chance. Ditto for soccer. Get over it.
posted by Reggie452 at 9:58 AM on July 17, 2001


I wondered the same thing about Formula One racing, but alas, it appears that it will never make inroads into joe sixpack land.
posted by machaus at 10:08 AM on July 17, 2001


Speaking as a cyclist, I am somewhat glad it hasn't ascended to the heights of popularity normally reserved for Basketball and Football in the USA. It's nice to be free of the mass commercialization other sports have fallen victim to in here in the States. It's a great sport -- a complicated sport governed by subtle rules of engagement and tactics. But it's not for everyone.
posted by jacobris at 10:13 AM on July 17, 2001


Not a chance. Ditto for soccer. Get over it.

Well, not when there's pay-per-view wrestling to be watched.

It's an utter pisser that Channel 4 isn't broadcasting the Tour this year, simply because they weren't prepared to schedule it around the Test cricket. They've even held onto the TV rights, to prevent other terrestrial channels from covering it. So, I was seriously thinking of getting cable for the three weeks, but I'm making do with Eurosport's live audio.

I've been on the Champs-Elysées for the final stage twice in the past ten years, and I plan on making it to Alpe D'Huez at some point. An event where the spectators camp out a week in advance has to have something going for it.

And, though it pains my No Logo tendencies to say it, Nike's Lance Armstrong site captures the nature of the sport perfectly: its live chats, tour diary and auctions for his cancer foundation remind you that it's a year-long preparation for those three weeks.
posted by holgate at 10:21 AM on July 17, 2001


I hate the term "joe sixpack". I thought it was just the slashdotters that used it, but now it's here, too.
posted by jeb at 10:22 AM on July 17, 2001


I agree with jacobris. I feel that it too mature of a sport for the typical sport fan. At least the Bud Lite slugging Chicago sport fans. Any one who's ever been near Wrigley Field during game time knows what I'm talking about.
posted by zeus at 10:22 AM on July 17, 2001


It seems that a lot of these unpopular sports in the U.S. (soccer, cycling, F1) seem to be very tactical in nature. People complain about the lack of scoring or action, yet these sports are IMHO not much more complicated than baseball strategy or football plays. Obviously, the lack of coverage of the Tour de France is not due to the lack of competitive Americans in the field, but what other reasons could there be for the non-coverage of such events?
posted by gyc at 10:31 AM on July 17, 2001


If you want an example of how major networks would probably cover the tour, check out CBS on Sunday afternoon. Last Sunday they had a recap of the previous 7 days of the tour crammed into one hour of coverage. (Next Sunday it will be that many more stages crammed into the hour.) In their hands it would be sketchy at best and likely to focus on the drug scandal or another contrived drama, rather than the race itself. OLN has done an excellent job of coverage. Sherwen and Liggett are enthusiastic, informed commentators. Go get 'em, Lance!
posted by SteveS at 10:36 AM on July 17, 2001


CBS plans to show highlights on July 22 at 3pm and also the last stage on july 29 at 2pm. Other than that - nada...
posted by birdsong at 10:40 AM on July 17, 2001


In NYC it is on 1 day tape delay on MSG and Fox Sports Net. They showed yesterday's stage 9 today. If I am not mistaken, the broadcast time in NYC is 9:00 AM, 9:30 AM on FSN and then at 10:00 AM on MSG. I liked it much better when ESPN had US broadcast rights. They did a same day tape delay on ESPN2 in the evening. Some times I think Bobby Julich isn't getting his fair share of media attention.

For those New Yorkers who are not professional riders, but are interested in experiencing first hand what it feels like to ride in a peloton, you can check out these three bike tours that ride through the city. For the serious riders, you can bike at the NYC Cycling Championship, when and if it gets off the ground. You can find other professional road racing and other biking competitions at the USA Cycling's website.

And if any one is interested, Velo Classic's Alpine Tour features actual climbs from the Tour de France.
posted by tamim at 10:43 AM on July 17, 2001


Don't forget that American sports fans find it hard to be interested in a sport that doesn't have American star athletes. Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong are very recent American successes in this event, but for a lot of years there were no credible American contenders. After LeMond won, ABC covered the Tour for a while in much the same way as CBS is doing it this year -- highlights on the weekend. Then in the interim between LeMond and Armstrong, American interest waned again and the Tour disappeared from TV here until Armstrong's first win.
posted by briank at 11:01 AM on July 17, 2001


Well, not when there's pay-per-view wrestling to be watched.

Hate to bust your stereotypes, but I don't find either the Tour de France or pro wrestling to be pleasurable viewing experiences. I don't like soccer, either, in spite of the fact that I don't drink beer.
posted by Reggie452 at 11:03 AM on July 17, 2001


"It seems that a lot of these unpopular sports in the U.S"
so true and sad. Bicycle racing was the rage in the u.s. before 1895(most likely after 1895) To bad the auto put a back seat to bicycle racing. The 1893 Paris-Rouen race(a test drive really) was the first auto race I believe. Of course the french pioneered auto racing. Albert Champion, Louis Chevrolet raced bikes(they got into a fist fight circa 1920. I wonder who won?)and though just two examples, thier names are said daily, many times, in many languages. Vive La France.
posted by clavdivs at 11:12 AM on July 17, 2001


I don't find either the Tour de France or pro wrestling to be pleasurable viewing experiences. I don't like soccer, either, in spite of the fact that I don't drink beer.

I, on the other hand, find both soccer and pro-wrestling enjoyable. My problem appreciating the Tour is the way it's covered here in the states. The one-hour wrap-up just doesn't do it for me.

As long as cycling is presented as second-rate by the American media, that's what it will be. To expect the American populus to find an appreciation for an unfamiliar sport on its own is unrealistic.

Soccer, I think, suffers from the same problem. While MLS games are shown regularly on ESPN and ESPN2, when's the last time you heard Stuart Scott or Dan Patrick mention the league on SportsCenter? Very very occasionally (probably when they're short on news) you'll see 15-second recaps of the day's games. That's it. Compare that to (at least) a full hour each night for "Baseball Tonight", "NFL Tonight" and "NHL Tonight".

It's a shame if you ask me--not to mention a huge mistake from a business perspective. If you've ever been to an MLS game you've seen thousands of teenage and pre-teen girls in attendance. That's a whole new demographic for a station like ESPN, and a profitable one, to boot. How much money did *NSync and Britney Spears make last year?

What, we were talking about cycling? Oh.
posted by jpoulos at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2001


> I am somewhat glad it hasn't ascended to the heights of
> popularity normally reserved for Basketball and Football
> in the USA. It's nice to be free of the mass
> commercialization other sports have fallen victim to in
> here in the States.

Bullseye. What's the word for the process by which some product is first introduced as an expensive item at specialty stores and then, having picked up that "exclusive" feel, is made more and more widely available until at last it's in K-Mart? That's what's been done to tennis and golf in the US.
posted by jfuller at 11:42 AM on July 17, 2001


what's wrong with sports that were once regarded as elite becoming more accessible?
posted by rabi at 11:44 AM on July 17, 2001


> Soccer, I think, suffers from the same problem. While
> MLS games are shown regularly on ESPN and ESPN2,
> when's the last time you heard Stuart Scott or Dan
> Patrick mention the league on SportsCenter?

Soccer, which the rest of the world knows as football, is certainly going to become more and more popular in the U.S. because of the growing Hispanic population.

The mass media doesn't start trends; it (belatedly) picks up on trends that are already under way. It won't be long before U.S. advertisers start looking for programming that appeals to Hispanics. Then you'll see soccer on the tube here.
posted by jfuller at 11:49 AM on July 17, 2001


> what's wrong with sports that were once regarded as
> elite becoming more accessible?

Large crowds of people are extremely nasty.
posted by jfuller at 11:53 AM on July 17, 2001


OLN has done an excellent job of coverage. Sherwen and Liggett are enthusiastic, informed commentators.

And OLN's gain is our loss, damn you ;) Still, we get to experience Eurosport's David Duffield, who can turn a three hour peloton freewheel into a travelogue, and Sean Kelly, with his simultaneous translations from Dutch, French or Italian, depending upon the stage winner. (Of course, he wasn't needed today...)

Cycling isn't really TV sport: especially not in the ESPN mould, where it's the biff-bang-bosh of the home run, the three-pointer, the overtime goal that drives coverage. Channel 4's half-hour a night was usually good enough to capture each stage's terrain, while describing the significant moves on the road: it also managed to make you feel as if the closing stages were actually live. Ah well.

What's the word for the process by which some product is first introduced as an expensive item at specialty stores and then, having picked up that "exclusive" feel, is made more and more widely available until at last it's in K-Mart?

It's probably in German, and 23 letters long. At least Nike is smart enough not to do that: its deal with Lance Armstrong means that it sourced its shoes from Diamant in Italy, and now from Trek in the US. Because a pair of road shoes are as specialised a bit of kit as a bike.
posted by holgate at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2001


Soccer...is certainly going to become more and more popular in the U.S. because of the growing Hispanic population.

You're exactly right. I've never had a happier two weeks than those I spent in Los Angeles a few years ago. The local cable had the Fox Sports World channel: games from England, Germany, Argentina, Brazil every day.
posted by jpoulos at 12:22 PM on July 17, 2001


This might be of interest to Seattle cyclists: The Dead Baby
I'm participating this year... I meant to the past few years but kept missing it. Only a couple of weeks left to register...
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger at 12:23 PM on July 17, 2001


Coverage of FIS Alpine World Cup skiing is similarly bad in the states. ESPN/ESPN2 will cover some of the events (pretty much all the north american ones) on tape delay, usually around 12:30 AM. The world championships last year were covered relatively decently on espn during the week and nbc on weekends (I think). But most of the other races are only on OLN, which, of course, I don't get. Time Warner, why can't I pick the channels that I want, and not need to pay for E! or TNN (oh wait, they carry dukes of hazzard 24/7, nevermind) or CourtTV but get OLN and M2.

But I digress. I fear how bad the NBC coverage of the winter olympics alpine skiing and hockey are going to be...
posted by andrewraff at 12:50 PM on July 17, 2001


A few additional thoughts: Cycling is not amenable to television: stages are too long; more than two hours long. There are no massively popular sports events that go that long, and for days and days. Also, cycling isn't compelling in person: the peloton is visible in any given place for, like, 30 seconds. Even in France, the Tour is more of a tourism gig than a sporting event: the event comes to you. And really, even a fairly avid cyclist like myself can admit that the scenery of the Tour is at least as compelling as the cyclists.
Finally, cycling is most compelling when you've tried it yourself; there's really no other way to appreciate how good Lance and Co. are. Americans are getting fatter and fatter and cycling less and less overall.

WTF doesn't the USPS not make better use of its sponsorship of a team?

All we can hope for is some decent, WIDELY CARRIED, full length coverage.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2001


I think part of the problem is that these sports don't have much of a tradition in America. Football, baseball, basketball (and even the much derided pro wrestling) all have pretty long histories on the American scene. As much as I detest it, soccer is becoming more popular which I think is tied to the amount of kids playing it (all those "soccer moms"). Also, soccer is at least somewhat tv friendly as the time constraints are pretty rigid. Cycling on the other hand is just not a tv sport, golf may be the exception but that's more of a Tiger phenomenon - when he's not in a tournament, people tune out.

(had to restrain myself after all the bashing of American sport in this thread :)
posted by owillis at 1:32 PM on July 17, 2001


No, the tour will never take off in America until all of the riders are forced to use Recumbents!

You know you want one...
posted by mecran01 at 2:04 PM on July 17, 2001



I'll speak as a US resident and light to medium level sports fan about why I wouldn't be interested in watching indepth coverage of cycling: it's boring.

X number of people get on a bike and ride from point A to point B. Whoever gets to point B first wins. What sort of coverage could there be? Sweaty people drinking water while steering with one hand? And lots and lots of peddling. Neat.

I feel the same way about auto racing, too. Cars go fast. Cars go in circles. Zoom. Some one wins. Great.

I'm not saying the sports themselves aren't full of all the things I like about competative sports: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the amazing feats of strength the human body can accomplish but blow by blow coverage of who is first (Bob. Now John. Now Bob again. Still Bob. And... it's Bob. No wait, John!) doesn't translate well into television. Or at least US television, which would undoubtedly pad all the peddling, sweating, and one handed steering while drinking with lots of human interest stories about how Bob had to get over a great fear of spiders before he could get his bike out of the garage and train from this year's race.

But this is just me.
posted by jennyb at 2:23 PM on July 17, 2001


Hey... just found an absolutely brilliant Flash presentation on the Tour at the official site... To get there, go to the route index and use the pulldown (upper-right) to access the flash presentation.
posted by silusGROK at 2:27 PM on July 17, 2001


I'm a little surprised at the comments regarding television coverage of cycling. Like others, I'm finding OLNs coverage to be excellent, with extremely good commentary on what the cyclists are actually experiencing and doing from former racers. (In my office, of course, we also have an avid bicyclist who has a lot of good insight as to what is happening, too...)

At any rate, this would seem one of the better sports to televise since the peleton moves so quickly and the entire passage of the field past any given point lasts only a few minutes. Television can stay right with the riders -- as often as not in and among them where you can really grasp the internal struggles to keep up. It's brutal, and far more entertaining than auto-racing, IMHO.
posted by Kikkoman at 2:38 PM on July 17, 2001


I have been missing the television coverage this year, as I do not get OLN on cable or digital for either of the options I have that come into my apartment. I have been known to tape the whole of the Tour in past years. Which I have not needed to do the last three or four as they were on ESPN at times that were viewable.

I agree with Kikkoman that cycling is a great sport for television, particularly when compared to seeing it live. There is a lot of strategy that takes place in each day of the Tour race and there is a lot of long term strategy also, which really makes a daily recap of 30 to 60 minutes full of action. The scenery on the Tour is also incredible. I am missing it greatly this year.
posted by vanderwal at 2:57 PM on July 17, 2001


mmmm calf muscles
posted by spandex at 3:48 PM on July 17, 2001


with all the product placement and branding opportunities you'd think it would be made for US television...

having seen stages of the tour in person a buncha times there really is nothing like the massive peleton screaming by even if for just a minute or two.

sure it may be boring to some but have you tried watching two hours of golf or billiards or swimming or bowling or tractor-pulls... (to be honest I have and often enjoy them, well except for golf which is still beyond me)
posted by birdsong at 3:55 PM on July 17, 2001


The Trek Bikes web site has a great interactive map of this year's tour.
posted by cfj at 4:22 PM on July 17, 2001


blow by blow coverage of who is first (Bob. Now John. Now Bob again. Still Bob. And... it's Bob. No wait, John!) doesn't translate well into television. Or at least US television...

With all respect, jennyb, that really just sounds like a rationalization of why you don't like to watch cycling. You could easily say the same thing about most sports. ("Bob swings the bat. He misses. He misses again. Oh! He hit it. It's foul.")

There's much more to it that "who's winning now?". If you don't like it, that's fine, but to suggest that somehow millions of Europeans (many of whom watch it on TV) are mistaken, and that there's really nothing to it, is just plain wrong. And I have no idea what you mean by "US television".
posted by jpoulos at 6:07 PM on July 17, 2001


With all respect, jennyb, that really just sounds like a rationalization of why you don't like to watch cycling.

That's exactly what it is, which is why I said "I'll speak as a US resident and light to medium level sports fan about why I wouldn't be interested in watching indepth coverage of cycling" as opposed to "I'll speak for all US residents". That's also why I closed my remark with "But this is just me." (additional italics mine. I mean, mine.)

Because, well, that's just me. Some of the posters seemed amazed that people might not enjoy television coverage of cycling, and I was telling them why I personally wouldn't.

I'm pleased that millions of Europeans enjoy watching cycling, and don't think they are mistaken for that at all, nor did I say they were anywhere in that post.

By "US television" I meant "United States television coverage of sporting events which seems to focus too much on sappy human interest stories and hence would load up coverage of a sport like cycling with lots of pap."

But, to be clear, once again, this post, like my last is only my opinion and is not meant to represent the POV (point of view) of any one other than me, nor is it meant to insinuate that millions of Europeans are wrong.
posted by jennyb at 6:26 PM on July 17, 2001


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