I Was Hoping the TdF Surprises Would be More Surprising.

01.24.2011 | 2:29 pm

I like surprises. For example, if someone were — for no reason at all — to tap me on the shoulder and give me a White Chocolate Chip and Macademia Nut cookie, I would be both surprised and delighted.

Or if a person were to surprise me with a hilarious pun, I’d be delighted, and very surprised. Mostly because I have a hard time believing there’s such a thing as a hilarious pun. (While slapstick may be the lowest form of humor, puns are the lamest. Which gives rise to the question: is it worse to be lame or low? I’ll let you decide.)

Or if, right as I were to finish writing this paragraph, a person were to suddenly appear in my office door and throw a pie in my face, I’d be surprised and extremely delighted. I’d be surprised because my office is in my otherwise empty house and I’m not expecting any pie-bearing pranksters at the moment. And I’d be delighted because a pie in the face at that moment would be ironic slapstick, which is in fact the second-highest form of humor (fart jokes are the highest).

Also, I would be delighted, because I really like pie.

By the way, I am disappointed (but not surprised) to announce that no pie-throwing people materialized as I completed either of the preceding two paragraphs.

Anyway, I believe I have sufficiently proven that I like surprises.

Wherein I am Promised a Tour de France Surprise

Since — as I believe I have convincingly described — I like surprises, I was very excited when, on January 14, I read in Cyclingnews that the Tour de France wildcards would shortly be announced.

Why would this excite me? Well, because, according to Cyclingnews:

Traditionally, the attribution of wildcards was done in spring, to give the teams some time to prove their worth. But this year, ASO’s technical director Jean-François Pescheux revealed to Cyclism’Actu that the organiser wanted to designate the participating teams as soon as the end of January.

Moreover, “several surprises” could be on hand according to Pescheux.

You see that last paragraph in that there block quote? According to Pescheux, there could be several surprises revealed as part of the 2011 Tour de France!

Not just one little surprise. Several of them. How could I not be excited?

I began to wait, eagerly. Intrigued. Excited for what would surely be a delightful surprise.

Several delightful surprises, I mean.

Wherein I Fail to Be Surprised by ASO’s Surprises

I did not have to wait long. On January 20th, ASO — the organizer of the Tour de France — announced which teams would be racing in the 2011 Tour de France. Here is a list of the things that could maybe be called surprising from that announcement:

  • All four of the “wildcard” teams — teams that are invited at ASO’s discretion, even though the teams are not one of the ProTeams — are French teams. Specifically: Cofidis, FDJeux, Saur-SojaSun, and Europcar.
  • Geox-TMC did not receive an invitation, even though Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov — two heavy-hitting pros — are on that team.

I confess: I was disappointed by the calibre of these surprises. Sure, I was mildly surprised that ASO would be so openly jingoistic as to invite only French teams as its wildcard selections, but it was more of a single eye-roll than a triple-take with a “whaaaaah?”

And honestly, I wasn’t at all surprised that Geox-TMC wasn’t invited; this move was a direct parallel to the way Astana wasn’t invited the year after they got chucked out, mid-tour.

Though I will confess: I was a little bit bummed out that ASO didn’t have the courage to admit that it this non-invitation was actually in retaliation for the Footon-Servetto kit debacle of 2010.

“That’s it?” I found myself asking. “That’s the several surprises you promised me? Pffff.”

Surprises I Wish I Had Been Surprised With

I spent the rest of the day moping, surprised at how melancholy I felt about how unsurprising ASO’s surprises were.

What a wasted opportunity. A chance, as it were, to truly do something surprising and fresh and exciting with the Tour.

They could have, for example, surprised me much better with any of the following:

New Wildcard Selection Technique

Suppose ASO had announced that the four wildcard teams had not been selected using team nationality as its primary metric, and randomness as its secondary metric. That, instead, it had decided to choose teams based on something interesting. Such as:

  • Team with most awesome mascot
  • Team sponsored by company most likely to throw really cool schwag out to the spectators
  • Team made up entirely of celebrity impersonators
  • Team made up entirely of clones of Eddy Merckx (What? You think they’re not out there? You just haven’t heard of them because Eddy’s been training them in seclusion for the past three years, every since he sold his bike company)
  • Team that’s demonstrated it’s really, really fast and has demonstrated that it deserves a shot at racing against the ProTeams.

OK, I admit. That last one was kind of nuts.

New Rules

Sure, I enjoy the Tour de France. Sure, I enjoy tradition. And sure, I love all the action that happens at the front of the field in each stage.

But honestly, I get a little bit disgusted with those guys dogging it at the back of the peloton. The “Well, I’m not in contention today, so I think I’ll just save my energy and cruise today, even though I’m in the middle of a race.


Hence, ASO needs to bring in the “voted off the island” gameplay in reality shows. On sprinting stages, I suggest that the last sprinter across the line is out of the race. On mountaintop finishes, the last climber to the top of the mountain: out of the race. The slowest team on a TTT stage? Out of the race.

I guarantee that we’d see new urgency at the back of the pack.

Oh, and also there needs to be a stage where they have to eat live polligwogs or something before they can proceed.

New Course

Alpe d’Huez. Uh huh. Galibier. Sure. Mont Ventoux. Mmm hmm. Champs Elysees. Whatever.

When’s the last time we’ve been surprised by a Tour de France course?

I’d like to see ASO announce that there’ll be a cyclocross stage. And a mountain bike stage. And a track stage. And a BMX stage. When we get to Paris, we’ll know who the real best cyclist in the world is.

Which would be kind of a cool surprise.


  1. Comment by NYCCarlos | 01.24.2011 | 2:40 pm

    they already have a cyclocross course… it’s the stage in Gap.


  2. Comment by Elizabeth | 01.24.2011 | 2:53 pm

    In defense of puns:


  3. Pingback by Twitter Trackbacks for Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » I Was Hoping the TdF Surprises Would be More Surprising. [fatcyclist.com] on Topsy.com | 01.24.2011 | 2:56 pm

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  4. Comment by bikemike | 01.24.2011 | 3:01 pm

    i’m not surprised…surprisingly. i might be bemused, though. if i knew what bemused meant, i’d know for sure.

  5. Comment by KanyonKris | 01.24.2011 | 3:20 pm

    I could go for a track stand stage.

  6. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 01.24.2011 | 3:47 pm

    Those TdF boys are too steeped in stodgy tradition to take any interesting chances – they need to add you to their board.

  7. Comment by Neil | 01.24.2011 | 4:13 pm

    LeMans style stage start.

    LeMans style stage start but preceded by 6 rotations around a bat (dizzy-bat).

    LeMans style stage start but preceded by 6 rotations around a bat (dizzy-bat) with Win-and-Out lines at 100m, 200m and 300m. Winners of the dizzy-out would get the same time (plus time bonus?) as that day’s stage winner.

  8. Comment by Skippy | 01.24.2011 | 4:43 pm

    Last month your competition found many who shed 10lb in the proscribed time !
    Perhaps with these candidates you could create a “Fat Cyclist Team ” which would make the 23rd team , imagine the surprises for the media !
    Each day this team would be given more and more time bonuses so that they arrive at the same time as the Pro racers. People having to arrive 3hrs ahead of the race will enjoy applauding these “have a go heroes”!
    Of course at present there is a “Vittel” team pretending to ride the course whilst on floats in the caravan. Perhaps these folk should be allowed to make a more realistic appearance !
    Failing that some people could come ride with me as i go out for the 14th time.

  9. Comment by Jim | 01.24.2011 | 5:04 pm

    You want surprises of any kind at all, watch the Giro. You want same-ol, same-ol, watch the TdF. It’s gotten too big to allow itself to be surprising.

  10. Comment by roan | 01.24.2011 | 5:07 pm

    I was hoping the TdF surprises would be more surprising. Like Team Fatty.
    With the most awesome mascot…hummm Fatty. and certainly the the best kits.

  11. Comment by axel in texas | 01.24.2011 | 5:10 pm

    how about these surprising stages

    a 24 hour race style stage – riders from a team take turns on a 20 mile loop.

    or a Randoneur style stage – 1200k, done with the whole team

    or a RAAM team style stage – say 500 miles, switch out riders how ever you want.

    then the rest days would be well earned…

    or maybe simply a normal time trial stage – they seem go be going out of style

  12. Comment by MikeL | 01.24.2011 | 5:15 pm

    They need to include a “150 miles to Nowhere stage” run by Fatty’s rules.

  13. Comment by SydneySS | 01.24.2011 | 5:39 pm

    make them do a day on unicycles. that would be a surprise to both us AND the riders.

  14. Comment by Bisso | 01.24.2011 | 5:55 pm

    loving the thinking. some of the guys i ride with already “compete” with each other as to who’s better on road and off road. reckon we need to get a couple of bmx’s/unicycles/pennyfarthings and race head to head to settle any disputes

    thanks fatty

  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.24.2011 | 6:12 pm

    (fart jokes are the highest).

    Proven by the fact that this true statement surprised and delighted me.

  16. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 01.24.2011 | 7:03 pm

    Love your wildcard selection criteria and the voted off the island concept. I’m with SydneySS about the unicycle day, too. I’d definitely watch!

  17. Comment by Nogocyclist | 01.24.2011 | 7:03 pm

    Need a hipster stage so Bike Snob can really comment on the tour. Bonuses rewarded for the best YouTube of the stage. Also allow only half the field to be professionals and the rest to be from the general public. Bonus: Snob and Fatty battling it out for the fastest blogger on a mountainous stage riding brakeless fixies.

  18. Comment by Susan Tomlinson | 01.24.2011 | 7:18 pm

    They should throw in a canoeing stage. Now _that_ would be surprising.

  19. Comment by Stephen | 01.24.2011 | 7:39 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks that Menchov looks like he would be a good Doctor?

  20. Comment by 3d brian | 01.24.2011 | 8:48 pm

    What did the daddy buffalo say when his little buffalo left for the first day of kindergarten?

    Bye son.

  21. Comment by Richard | 01.24.2011 | 8:57 pm

    Whoever comes last has to ride nude the next day.

  22. Comment by Richard | 01.24.2011 | 8:59 pm

    On a more serious note – I think next year there is no radios = a lot less break aways = less frogs off the front to get TV coverage but rarely winning, therefore last chance for the frogs this summer.

  23. Comment by Jenni | 01.24.2011 | 9:06 pm

    I TOTALLY vote the track stand stage.

  24. Comment by ChefJT | 01.24.2011 | 9:28 pm

    Let’s retro 20 years or so to a TTT stage in the morning and a 50 mile crit in the afternoon….as I recall the riders Loved (not) it. I think Roy Knickman became the only person t ever win and lose the yellow jersey on the same day

  25. Comment by larry | 01.24.2011 | 10:22 pm

    I am boycotting the TdF until they give last years title to Schleck…if I can lose 12 pounds in a month before xmas then Contador can too without Clenbuterol!

  26. Comment by Jenn | 01.25.2011 | 2:30 am

    Maybe they could do a donut-eating stage like that race you were in this summer, where you get time deducted for each donut you consume. They could use croissants.

  27. Comment by HappyBiker | 01.25.2011 | 6:41 am

    How about we go really retro: – the 1911 TDF was 15 stages and a total of 5344 kilometers. This included both the Alps and the Pyrenees.

    I’d love to see our current talent – better trained, better kitted, do something this challenging.

  28. Comment by Cardiac Kid | 01.25.2011 | 7:08 am

    What if they took the slowest team from the TTT and as a last chance to stay in they had to run the first course on Wipeout? Picture Cadel Evans trying to run the big balls…..awesome and funny.

  29. Comment by Gilbert Keith | 01.25.2011 | 8:58 am

    Hidden shark pits and random rolling rings of fire!

  30. Comment by a chris | 01.25.2011 | 9:35 am

    I thought last year’s cyclocross stage didn’t really go over that well.

    Surprise me with a stage in Canada. To avoid the worst of the jetlag, this would have to take place at night, of course. That should make things more interesting.

  31. Comment by Dr. Lammler | 01.25.2011 | 9:37 am

    Merely getting kicked out of the TdF for coming in last at the TTT doesn’t go far enough.

    The penalty should be something really humiliating.

    Like being forced to wear the Footon-Servetto kit.

  32. Comment by Brian H | 01.25.2011 | 9:52 am

    These extra French teams should act as some blend of jester and rodeo clown, we need some carnage on the flat stages.

  33. Comment by George | 01.25.2011 | 10:51 am

    How would Phil call the recumbents up a mountain stage?

  34. Comment by MattC | 01.25.2011 | 11:56 am

    I agree w/ a ‘retro’ stage. And I mean RETRO! As in: NO SUPPORT WHATSOEVER! And NO ASSISTANCE! You carry your own food and water, or stop and buy it at a store on the way…a little cheese and wine en-route anybody? And if something breaks, you fix it YOURSELF using only stuff you are carrying (there was a guy who won the tour but was disqualified…. on a stage his fork broke and he carried his bike to a blacksmith shop and did the ‘welding’ himself, only the blacksmith pumped the bellows for him cuz he was doing the ‘welding’ (using a hammer and such…pre-ox/acetylene days)…and he was disqualified czu this was considered ‘help’). Your bike breaks, no taking a teammates bike, or wheel…you fix it or carry it. I’d LOVE to see a ‘no support’ stage. Riders sitting by the roadside changing a tire…ahh, that would be sweet!

  35. Comment by zach in a cubicle | 01.25.2011 | 12:29 pm

    Suprising would be a US Stage race that would not suck and could be as dramatic as all the french rigamoral… complete with a reality TV show and carnage…. carnage is always necessary.

  36. Comment by Eric L | 01.25.2011 | 12:50 pm

    I’d like a stage featuring Didi Senft – the Tour Devil. He jabs you with his pitchfork and you get a time penalty.

    If Team Fatty were in the Tour, you’d have to change the name to something that would take Phil and Paul a few seconds to spit out every time. Like Team Fatty-Twin6-Shimano-Bratwurst-Lammler. Now that would be a suitcase…

    the sheer thought of the entire pro-peleton on recumbants has me in giggles….

  37. Comment by Philly Jen | 01.25.2011 | 2:14 pm

    Where is Fatty, and what have you done with him?!?!

    The real Fatty would never have missed National Pie Day

  38. Comment by Niall in Brisbane | 01.26.2011 | 4:41 am

    +1 for fart jokes. Especially those accompanied by “special” effects.


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