Le Bore de France 2012
The 2012 Tour of France was a great bore. It was the tonic for the hardened insomniac. It hurts to say this as I am, in fact, a big fan of le Tour. We saw some 200 riders parade, not cycle around the picturesque countryside for 3500km, not in thrilling competition with each other.
In three weeks we could sadly count on just one hand the amount of serious legitimate attacks that were made by general classification contenders against Bradley Wiggins.
Cadel Evans tried once and unfortunately for all Australian fans, he failed. At best you could argue that Vincenzo Nibali tried twice, but I think all in the know would probably prefer to say he attacked once.
Bradley Wiggins assumed the yellow jersey on stage eight and rode the next two weeks defending just two (rather limp) attacks and the only serious threat coming from a teammate who was contractually obliged to finish second to Wiggins.
Of course, significant credit must be paid to Wiggins, he dominated both time-trials and probably demonstrated that even if Christopher Froome was given freedom to attack, he may have been able to hold onto the yellow jersey anyway. Wiggins deserves the applause he has received for his spectacular transition from the track to the road.
However, his victory was nonetheless a great bore. And we must address why this year’s tour de France appeared to be nothing more than a 3 week jaunt around France?
There are two simple answers here: riders now to concerned about contractual obligations for their team, and time bonuses. I’ll discuss the team argument first.
Christopher Froome, if he rode for any other team, would have been a serious GC contender, instead he was reduced to the newly appointed styling of ‘super-domestique’. Twice he demonstrated that he could outfox and outride Wiggins on the hills, and each time he had to slow down. Why?
He was riding for his team captain – Wiggins. Should he win the tour de France, he would have arguably broken his contractual obligations and eroded any credibility within the cycling fraternity.
However, I argue that for Team Sky, the winner of the yellow jersey was irrelevant, so long as it was a Team Sky member (the winner’s cheque is distributed evenly among the riders anyway). From a financial perspective, Froome and Wiggins were both the same commodity.
It really doesn’t matter who won, just so long as the Sky brand was standing atop the dais in Paris. So why not have Team Sky allow them to fight it out?
It sure would have been a much more exciting race, and given Wiggins the chance to truly show his talents. It’s happened before. Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault famously duelled for the yellow jersey while being on the same team. And it was exciting!
The second argument as to why the Tour was a bore was the recent elimination of time bonuses. The past few tours has seen the yellow jersey winner actually win few stages. Wiggins won two (both time-trials), Evans last year won just one, Contador/Schleck in 2010 won just one.
Remember riders like Armstrong, Ulrich, Indurain? They would need to win four. Armstrong called one of his victories disappointing when he won just two! Why?
Because back then, the riders had to compete for time bonuses. We were privilaged to witness attacking riding on the mountain stages. Who can forget in the early parts of the last decade when Ulrich and Armstrong fought it out on every hill, scrapping for that extra 20 seconds at the line?
It encouraged exciting racing. It encouraged the leading cyclists to challenge each other and themselves. It didn’t allow for a breakaway to build a 16 minute escape.
Sure, time bonuses have their drawbacks (the rider who came second could technically have completed the 3500km quicker than the winner) but their up side was thrilling riding up the Col de Tormalet, Mont Ventoux, Alpe de Huez etc.
This year we saw processions, not cyclists, make their way up the famed Hors Categorie climbs that we stay up at 1am to watch.
Any change for 2013 is unlikely, but lets hope for a more exciting 2014 Tour! The thrill of competition demands it.