A while back I made an offhand statement pertaining to the fact that in my opinion the Giro has always been a much better race than its bigger Gallic cousin the Tour de France. My observation whet the interest of at least one reader who alerted me to a comment made by Lance Armstrong during the Tour of California. The anonymous reader asks, “what are your thoughts on what Lance Armstrong said recently claiming the Giro is becoming insignificant compared to the rise of the Tour of California?”
Thanks for your comment/question anonymous. Let me begin by saying that to me the Tour de France is the busty blonde bimbo with plenty of "upgrades" who your male friends lust after, while the Giro d' Italia is the natural brunette beauty with plenty of substance who you want marry and spend the rest of your days with. I think that makes the Tour of California the incredibly drunk forty something I saw on her hands and knees, missing one shoe, wearing a cheap taffeta dress, with a friend holding her hair back as she vomited in the gutter after the Melbourne cup last year. Now I don't even want to think about what that makes my local club criterium!
What may have motivated LA to make such a seemingly absurd remark? Of course the simple answer is that for good reason professional sportspeople are always doing their best to keep fans and sponsors happy. But here at Cyclingmuse we like to dig deeper…
Let’s look at the fans first. I’m no expert but I would say that Lances fan base is definitely much stronger in his home country than elsewhere in the world and I would also say that his most fervent fans are most certainly American. What better way to curry favour from the fans than to make them feel special and include them in the thrilling world of professional cycling, how sophisticated and “European” they must have felt after hearing that the Giro is becoming insignificant compared to their home race. Of course now that they have been validated by the person they look up to all those fans will now feel even better about buying Lances books, giving money to his charity, maybe voting for him when he moves into politics and becomes the megalomaniac ruler of us all (just kidding Lance). While we are on the subject of fans I would like to know what it is about spectating at a sporting event that turns some people into complete imbeciles?
Sorry about the picture quality but due to my laziness its the only footage I could find.
Fans aside a rider and team has a responsibility to their sponsor. Lances team has an American sponsor so it would make sense for the team to race wherever the sponsor will have the most exposure to its potential customers, in this case at home in the USA. Pretty simple, in fact Johan Bruyneel (the team manager) said exactly this when asked why the team was racing in California and not in the Giro. Now it seems that Lance and Johan have conflicting ideas because in addition to this Bruyneel also had this to say. "Many people wonder if the Amgen Tour of California can be – in the future – a competitor for the Giro d'Italia. Personally I don't think so. California currently has only eight 'big' teams. The rest of the field is completed with domestic or regional teams. Many riders prefer to stay in Europe as opposed to travel to the US in May and get accustomed to the 9 hour time difference.” Sorry about that California.
Of course we can dig even deeper than this when we mull over the fact that the TOC title sponsor Amgen happens to be the company manufacturing the EPO which if you believe crackpot conspiracy theorists is the very drug used by many professional cyclists. It strikes me as rather sardonic that the company selling the performance enhancing drug responsible for more doping scandals than you can poke a stick at actually sponsors a bike race. Who are they advertising to?
Now I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and accuse Lance of any doping practices, for starters his hematocrit is nowhere near the magic 50% mark and secondly he scares me a little, I can just imagine that he has a team of lawyers wearing grey suits scouring the Internet for defamatory remarks aimed in his direction. I CANT STAND THOSE AWFUL SOCKS YOU WEAR LANCE! Oops was that defamatory? I think there's somebody at the door.
We all employ such subterfuge in our lives from time to time. Take me for example, I spent some time living in Belgium, times were tough for me and so hungry and thirsty as I was I employed a particular ruse which would garner me with free beer. You see Belgians have a bit of an inferiority complex due to being surrounded by bigger more impressive neighbors who tend to look down their noses at poor little Belgium. Due to this Belgians are extremely patriotic and keen to show off whatever it is that they feel they do better than their snooty neighbours. All I had to do is walk into a bar and say “wow I had no idea Belgian beer was so good!” At this any local within earshot would take me under their wing and insist I try all their favorites. I of course was happy to oblige thereby receiving the nourishment I needed with the locals taking delivery of the validation they crave so much from foreigners. We all walked away merrily inebriated and comfortable with our symbiotic relationship just like Lance and his fans.
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