Dear Christian Prudhomme and the rest of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO),
I know you must all be very busy as you make final preparations for the 2008 Tour de France (TdF), so I’ll try not to take much of your time.
I can see, Mr. Prudhomme, that you have been working overtime to bring us a Tour unlike anything we have ever seen before. A Tour that defines the premier road racing event on its own terms. A Tour that takes charge of the racers, rather than letting the racers take charge of the race. A Tour that clamps down on excess and eliminates rash behavior. A Tour with dignity above all.
A Tour, in short, that looks and feels as if it were produced by America’s Public Broadcasting System and moderated by Jim Lehrer.
I for one can hardly wait.
And I’m certain others are just as excited as I am. I haven’t actually met any of these excited people, but I remain hopeful.
Your zeal for reducing the unnecessary excitement that normally surrounds this race is admirable, Mr. Prudhomme, but I think there’s more that can be done to design a Tour de France that will — at long last — let the citizens of France (and other countries, though I do not necessarily approve of the TdF ever exiting France or even approaching its borders) be able to have some peace and quiet, even as the cyclists pedal by.
What You’ve Done Right
Before I get to my suggestions, Mr. Prudhomme, I want to make it perfectly clear that I recognize and applaud the efforts you have made thus far.
I shall enumerate.
- No prologue. The prologue is a ridiculous spectacle that does nothing more than introduce us to racers we may not be familiar with, lets us see how our favorites are doing, and gives us a preview as to who brought their A-game and who has not. Why would anyone want any of those things? The prologue is a stupid tradition.
- No time bonuses. In times past, I’ve seen racers duke it out at the top of a brutal climbing stage because finishing a quarter second ahead had a huge strategic benefit: a significant time bonus that could change race standings. Sure, it was exciting and a massive motivational tool to make contending racers really give it their all, but it sent the wrong message to the kids. You can’t give people time. Once a moment’s passed, it’s gone forever. Live with it.
- Shorter stages. Your thinking on this is brilliant. As everyone knows, the reason pro cyclists have been doping is because the stages are so punishing. Now that the stages are shorter, there’s no reason to dope. No reason at all. In fact, I’ll bet that the people who have been doping have stopped doping, because now they know they can finish the race without that illegal boost. That’s awesome!
- No team time trials. These stages showed the potential for elegance and beauty in cycling, rewarded teams that don’t have riders drop out, and emphasized the importance of a balanced team roster. What a stupid idea. I’m glad you got rid of those.
- Fewer mountain stages. I’ve always thought that mountain stages are too dramatic and disorderly. Plus, they’re not fair to people who don’t climb well. I’m glad to see that you’ve cut these stages back. Let’s keep the riders together. Nice and orderly please. Single-file when possible.
What You Have Overlooked
In spite of your considerable accomplishments toward bringing a much-needed air of sobriety to the sport, Mr. Prudhomme, I feel there is more you could do.
And I am here to help. Please accept the following suggestions with my compliments.
- No drafting. If taking drugs to go faster is wrong, how could leveraging somebody else’s effort be right? My question is rhetorical, so don’t feel obligated to write back explaining how much you agree with me. There should be a required gap of 20 feet between each rider. Finish the ride under your own steam, or don’t finish it at all.
- No money. Why do dopers dope? Because they want to win (I realize this seemingly contradicts the “Shorter stages” point, above, but I’ll ask you to overlook that for the moment). And why do they want to win? Because they want money. Eliminate the cash prizes for the TdF, and you eliminate the doping problem. What you have left are people who are racing for pure love of the sport. I propose we give the winner of the Tour de France the following:
That should be sufficient, don’t you think?
- Announcers required to speak in hushed tones. Phil and Paul are quite simply too rambunctious for this, our most sacred of sports; there have been times when their enthusiasm has grabbed me and made me become excessively interested in what’s going on. Tell them they need to speak in hushed tones, as if narrating a golf game…in a library.
- No bright colors allowed. The racers in the TdF are adults, and it’s high time they act that way. The outfits they wear are outrageous and completely unbefitting the high seriousness our beloved sport requires.
- Roller stages. By removing and reducing the most exciting types of stages — TTTs and mountain stages — I can see that your heart is in the right place. It’s time to go to the next level and introduce stages where there is no movement whatsoever. Give each rider a set of rollers and have the racers ride on those for 45 Km. This will further reduce the risk of crashes, breakaways, and other shenanigans that detract from the calm, orderly sport we both want to see.
- Speed limits. Each year seems to produce a new “record-setting average pace.” Why do you think this is? Dope, that’s why. There can be no other reason. And I say, “Enough is enough.” Let’s cap the racing speed at 22mph on the flats, 35mph on the downhill, and 7mph on the climbs. These are all safe and sane rates, adding a new measure of safety to the race, as well as negating the advantage that those nasty dopers otherwise have.
- Disqualify Team Garmin-Chipotle. Mr. Prudhomme, I recommend you immediately disqualify Team Garmin-Chipotle from the Tour. For one thing, changing their team name so late in the year can only mean they’re trying to hide something. For another, the Director, Jonathan Vaughters, once had to abandon the Tour under a cloud of suspicion. To others, that cloud of suspicion may have looked like a blinding bee sting that the Tour would not let him take medication for, but we know better. Doping is doping.
- Disqualify Team Columbia (High Road). While we’re disqualifying suspicious-looking characters, let’s get rid of Team Columbia Sportswear (formerly High Road). Once again, here you have an Astana-esque situation: riders you know, but with a different team name. Ergo, they are evil. And to be honest, that “Columbia” name doesn’t sit right with me.
Mr. Prudhomme, I again want to thank you for all the work you have done and are doing. Together, we’ll make this year’s Tour a race to remember. At least, it will be for the five or six people left who care about it.
The Fat Cyclist