Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Canberra’s Leading
Relationship Lawyers

Why I will never watch the Tour de France again

By Kim Huynh 28 July 2016 25

Col de Manse, France- July 16, 2013: The peloton pedaling on a plain road after the ascension to Col de Manse in The Alps during the stage 16 of 100th edition of Le Tour de France 2013.

Despite being an eager cyclist, I’ve never really watched the Tour de France until this year. And unless something radically changes, I’m unlikely to ever do so again.

While there are many reasons for Canberrans and Australians to enjoy the Tour, here’s five reasons why I don’t.

Firstly, remnants of the feudalism upon which European medieval castles were built can be found in this race. There’s a hierarchy of athletes in every elite sport, but road cycling is peculiar in the complete servitude that riders are expected to show to their designated team leader.

The “domestiques” (servants) are not just there to provide a human shield or set the pace. In treacherous conditions they will survey the road ahead and ensure a safe line of travel for the leader, only to drop back once the finish line emerges. If a leader is low on food or drink, then his domestiques will give up theirs. Team leaders who don’t like being weighed down by clothes or provisions have several porters close at hand. And when a leader’s bike is faulty or broken, then his underlings will offer up a wheel or his entire bike if need be. Any domestique who exerts 1,000 calories and sacrifices 1,000 seconds so that his lordship can save 1, has fulfilled his duty.

Secondly, there are very few triumphant underdogs in road cycling. It’s impossible to pull off a Stephen Bradbury over a 21-day grand tour. But on flattish stages there’s always an exuberant breakaway that teases the naive cycling fan with the prospect of a bold and unexpected victory. I know now that the peloton almost always reels in the breakaway, often only just before the finish. Modern technology and sports science means that team managers are like engineers who know exactly how much fuel is left their riding machines and when to press “turbo”. An animal simile is also useful: the peloton is like a giant python that toys with its prey before invariably consuming it.

Thirdly, there are many customs and conventions in the Tour that are perplexing and frustrating, not only to the newcomer, but also to many experts. The array of jerseys, points systems and time bonuses means that it’s often not clear who’s racing whom for what.

Like most age-old institutions, the Tour is governed by vague conventions. There’s the unspoken rule that if the yellow jersey suffers misfortune or needs to answer the call of nature then all those who are nearby and in contention should stop and wait. This year during stage 12, Australia’s Simon Gerrans tragically fell and took out three Team Sky riders who were supporting Chris Froome, the race leader. Froome signaled to all that he needed to relieve himself, which allowed his teammates to collect themselves.

Later that day in what was the most famous and farcical incident of this year’s race, Froome’s bike was crushed by a motorcycle near the finish line. This time everyone rode on leaving the yellow jersey desperately running up the mountain. Eventually the commissars compensated Froome, which allowed him to maintain his lead. But make no mistake, it was utter chaos.

Fourthly, in many ways the outcome of stage 12 was exceptional in that a measure of justice was meted out. Most injustices and misfortunes are left unaddressed.

On the first stage, Aussie favourite Richie Porte suffered a flat tire that arguably cost him a place on the podium three weeks later. Crowd insanity or inadvertence, mechanical failure, road debris and a myriad of other examples of bad luck can change or even end the Tour for a cyclist and hand victory to someone less deserving. And then there’s an embedded injustice whereby the smallest mistake or ill-focused moment over 3,000km and 90 hours of riding can change everything. There’s no fair go in the Tour de France.

Finally, there’s something distinctively un-Australian about Le Tour. This is a dangerous term that is best confined to sport and explained in context. To this end, the Tour represents an old sport and old culture that does not sit well with Western frontier countries like Australia and the US.

Big new countries tend to esteem rugged, pragmatic, outcome-oriented individuals. Notwithstanding the incredible strength of heart and mind required to ride the Tour, many Aussies are simply opposed to lycra, which they regard as effete. Nor do they appreciate any cycling notion of “attacking” when compared more stark examples of scoring points on a court or crashing into opponents on a field.

Australians tend to be aspirational about sport, viewing it as a means to advance the human body, spirit and society. Sport should thus be fair and ordered, precisely because life is not. Older sports and cultures tend to accept sport-as-life, which means that along with all the good things that the Tour de France celebrates, it also incorporates boredom, bastardry and calamity.

What do you think of the Tour de France? Would you rather watch paint dry or is it worth staying up for? And what about blokes in lycra?

Kim Huynh teaches international relations at the Australian National University. 

Pictured is the peloton pedaling on a plain road after the ascension to Col de Manse in The Alps during the stage 16 of 100th edition of Le Tour de France in July 2013. Photo: iStock


What’s Your opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
25 Responses to
Why I will never watch the Tour de France again
Filter
Showing only Website comments
Order
Newest to Oldest
Oldest to Newest
Holden Caulfield 9:13 am 01 Aug 16

Mysteryman said :

pink little birdie said :

That, and they’re all on drugs.

… Because cycling is the only sport that has had an athlete test positive for drug use.

You make it sound like a cheat in this sport is a rare thing, haha.

You can’t pretend the widespread and storied history of cheating in this sport has not had an effect on its appeal. I just can’t believe in it.

It’s easy for me to lose faith in pro cycling because I’ve never been into it. If you dig it I can see why you want to believe in the sport or appreciate other aspects of it. I won’t begrudge you, it’s just not for me.

I’ve tried watching Le Tour, have wanted to to learn more about it, but I don’t understand the nuances and the commentary (that I have heard) has done little to explain the sport to me. All I’m left with is some pretty pictures of France. I don’t need to watch a cycling/doping event to enjoy some pretty scenery.

Kim Huynh 7:48 am 01 Aug 16

One more point from me on this: I never said that anyone shouldn’t watch it. Note, “While there are many reasons for Canberrans and Australians to enjoy the Tour…”

There are indeed cultural practices that I would stridently oppose as being violent, oppressive and distasteful (foot binding for instance). The Tour is not one of them.

So what I’m trying to say is that there are aspects of the race that are instructive in terms of understanding both French culture and in turn, oneself.

It’s a think piece. Not a ‘do this’ or ‘be like me’ manifesto.

I’m quite enjoying this to-and-fro. K

gooterz 10:34 pm 31 Jul 16

There is nothing here that actually address why someone shouldn’t watch it. I find this odd given what it says that you do.

You seem to well understand some concepts of the event but lack linking back those observations to why it shouldn’t be watched.

Perhaps its missing a line or something, will the viewer die after 7 days akin to watching “The Ring”?

Kim Huynh 11:59 am 30 Jul 16

I’m finding this topic and RiotACTing in general quite demanding, in a good way.

Masquara asks as follows…

” …many Aussies are simply opposed to lycra, which they regard as effete”.

Kim what is your source for this claim please?

“Australians tend to be aspirational about sport, viewing it as a means to advance the human body, spirit and society.”

.. by contrast with other countries, whose populations view sport in a different way? Please expand and explain!

And, if you refuse to engage with anything redolent of feudalism, or any hierarchical institution, what on earth are you doing at the ANU? Or watching tennis? Or buying a coffee?

I’ve got a partial response…

In the US the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson on self-reliance align with Russel Ward’s classic ‘The Australian Legend’ in celebrating the pragmatic, rugged, tough guy. In terms of pop culture, this goes some way to explaining the popularity if Mad Max in the US and Australia (note the brooding rugged heroes and aggressive car culture). I’m not sure about the ANU, tennis and coffee questions I’m afraid. K

Queanbeyanite 9:38 pm 29 Jul 16

ANU ‘international relations’…

Masquara 7:59 pm 29 Jul 16

“Big new countries tend to esteem rugged, pragmatic, outcome-oriented individuals.”

As opposed to, say, the UK’s esteem for their “rugged, pragmatic, outcome-oriented” documentary maker Rod Kemp?

” …many Aussies are simply opposed to lycra, which they regard as effete”.

Kim what is your source for this claim please?

“Australians tend to be aspirational about sport, viewing it as a means to advance the human body, spirit and society.”

.. by contrast with other countries, whose populations view sport in a different way? Please expand and explain!

And, if you refuse to engage with anything redolent of feudalism, or any hierarchical institution, what on earth are you doing at the ANU? Or watching tennis? Or buying a coffee?

pajs 1:57 pm 29 Jul 16

It’s not sport, it’s transport.

dungfungus 12:23 pm 29 Jul 16

Rare photo of the 1940 Tour de France. This team dominated for several years.
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1079382

Zan 10:39 am 29 Jul 16

ACT resident said :

gbates said :

3. On a more meta point, I think that a lot of the critiques of my stuff are based on a view that I’m trying to make slam dunk cases. I don’t view cultural analysis in that way. It’s more like throwing up a three pointer and appreciating the arc of the ball and the uncertainty of outcome..

As a basketball player, I feel compelled to tell you that the other players would much rather watch the slam dunk than someone air-balling 3-pointers.

Not so. To me slam dunks are just show offs watched/preferred by other show offs whereas 3 pointers show skill and finesse.

Mysteryman 10:19 am 29 Jul 16

gbates said :

3. On a more meta point, I think that a lot of the critiques of my stuff are based on a view that I’m trying to make slam dunk cases. I don’t view cultural analysis in that way. It’s more like throwing up a three pointer and appreciating the arc of the ball and the uncertainty of outcome..

As a basketball player, I feel compelled to tell you that the other players would much rather watch the slam dunk than someone air-balling 3-pointers.

Kim Huynh 10:02 am 29 Jul 16

Allow me to add a few points.
1. Roksteddy: good point. There is a contradiction there.
2. CJ: thanks for the idea about why not to watch the Olympics. If you don’t write that article I will.
3. On a more meta point, I think that a lot of the critiques of my stuff are based on a view that I’m trying to make slam dunk cases. I don’t view cultural analysis in that way. It’s more like throwing up a three pointer and appreciating the arc of the ball and the uncertainty of outcome.
4. Overall, I rate RiotACT comments very highly in terms of incisiveness and insight (much better than the more popular media). Better to stay about from making personal assumptions though; they’re almost always unbecoming in relation to the assumption maker and inaccurate taboot.

CJ 11:15 pm 28 Jul 16

And they spread out all over the road and none of them pays registration. I died in the war to prevent un-Australian events like this.

Next week, Why I won’t watch the Olympics anymore.

Thank you and good night.

Roksteddy 7:33 pm 28 Jul 16

What a rubbish article. I haven’t got the time to pick it all apart so I’ll just point out the massive contradiction. You say “it’s impossible to pull off a Stephen Bradbury” and then go on to say “Crowd insanity or inadvertence, mechanical failure, road debris and a myriad of other examples of bad luck can change or even end the Tour for a cyclist and hand victory to someone less deserving. And then there’s an embedded injustice whereby the smallest mistake or ill-focused moment over 3,000km and 90 hours of riding can change everything.” So, what is it? The favourite always wins or anything can happen?

Leon 6:14 pm 28 Jul 16

Bicycle racing is particularly boring on flat stages because, unlike any other form of wheeled sport, it prohibits the use of “aerodynamic devices” such as those are so common on motorbikes that a motorbike without one is called a “naked bike.” It also prohibits the use of bicycle frames whose layouts were designed more recently than about 1910.

As a result, any rider who sits behind another rider gets an aerodynamic advantage until he/she tries to lead. So in a 100 km race the riders spend the first 99 km in a big peloton, and the real race doesn’t happen until the last kilometre.

If racers were able to use modern bikes, a strong rider could have a reasonable chance of staying ahead of the peloton even on a flat course, and the whole race (not just the final sprint) would become interesting.

There would also be flow-on effects that would improve the speed and efficiency of normal bikes.

Ezy 4:53 pm 28 Jul 16

I agree with everyone here – ban the Tour. What a load of nonsense it is.

Let’s promote and get behind sports that are more Australian and fit in with our culture… where the athletes take part in orgies and film it, put fingers in each others rear ends during a game, get in bar fights, urinate in their own mouths, perform sexual acts with dogs, assault your girlfriend and wife, drink drive etc.

Get around it people! This is what you all love and want!

Rollersk8r 4:01 pm 28 Jul 16

devils_advocate said :

Finally, there’s something distinctively un-Australian about Le Tour. This is a dangerous term that is best confined to sport and explained in context. To this end, the Tour represents an old sport and old culture that does not sit well with Western frontier countries like Australia and the US

Cricket, rugby, and AFL are all older than the Tour.

I’ll agree with you that ‘un-Australian’ is a dangerous term, in that it is inane and subjective.

Final three paragraphs are complete nonsense. Drawing a massively long and general bow to say Australians dislike the sport. We’ve had more than our fair share of champions.

Ezy 3:50 pm 28 Jul 16

MareaFatseas said :

Couldn’t agree more. Also look up mechanical doping on google, its the new drug cheating. They are all on drugs and they are also using batteries and motors hidden in their bikes as well these days.

Their tin foil hats are all carbon these days too.

Postalgeek 2:30 pm 28 Jul 16

Finally, there’s something distinctively un-Australian about Le Tour. This is a dangerous term that is best confined to sport and explained in context. To this end, the Tour represents an old sport and old culture that does not sit well with Western frontier countries like Australia and the US

Cricket, rugby, and AFL are all older than the Tour.

I’ll agree with you that ‘un-Australian’ is a dangerous term, in that it is inane and subjective.

Mordd 1:34 pm 28 Jul 16

Couldn’t agree more. Also look up mechanical doping on google, its the new drug cheating. They are all on drugs and they are also using batteries and motors hidden in their bikes as well these days.

Ezy 1:21 pm 28 Jul 16

pink little birdie said :

That, and they’re all on drugs.

… Because cycling is the only sport that has had an athlete test positive for drug use.

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2019 Region Group Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
the-riotact.com | aboutregional.com.au | b2bmagazine.com.au | thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site