Are time bonuses the solution to Tour’s dour problem?
Cadel Evans punctures as saboteurs hit the Tour de France (Image: AFP / Fred Mons)
As most of you well know by now, the General Classification (GC) within the Tour de France is done and dusted for another year, barring of course the extreme circumstance of Bradley Wiggins being beamed up by UFO and never returning.
Admittedly, I’ve turned off the TV early most nights and returned to bed at a still modest time, knowing the result would be predictable. So, to put it in one word, the tour has been, well, disappointing.
There are certain problems with how the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) have managed the tour this year, which has brought it to the disappointing level.
Firstly, within the peloton, there has been little or no motivation to attack on any of the climbs. While I give full credit to Sky for dominating and setting a tough tempo for others to follow, it almost felt like teams were scared to do anything, just so they did not leave their team leader isolated against the black and blue train.
While that is an understandable excuse, the boring racing that ensues is not. Pre-2008, when there were time bonuses at the end of stages and at sprint points along the course, there was a motivation to be the first man over the line. Even if it was only for what could have been a few meaningless seconds.
If the ASO decide to backflip on their decision and reinstate time bonuses, the question arises of “How much time should be given?” I’m of the opinion that it should, in essence, be a sliding scale, based on the difficultly of the climb. Even using the current King of the Mountains points system and converting it into time gaps is a feasible idea that would be simple to follow and would cause some form of attacking racing, none of which has been shown in this year’s tour.
This year, the case is that attacking riding is being punished and, as such, frowned upon by the peloton. That isn’t in the spirit of the sport. As Thomas Voeckler showed last year, watching creative and flamboyant riding leads to a better, more exciting tour.
While adding time bonuses might be seen as ‘artificial’, as a fan, I pose this: Which tour would you rather go back in time and watch. This year’s supposed bore fest, or a tour in Lance Armstrong’s era?
If I were to choose, I’d go with the man who ran through a field to avoid a crash, and still had the dexterity to keep going.
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