Friday Group Ride #67

I was going to writing something witty and trenchant about the smaller Tours that dot the UCI calendar, but everything I came up with was too obscure, cruel or unfunny to waste your taxed eyesight on. The Tour of Romandie is on now. Then comes the Giro (and Tour of California). The Dauphiné and Switzerland are after that. Then le Tour. Tour of Poland and the Eneco countries are in there next. Then the Vuelta, and then it’s fall, and we’re back to watching Phillipe Gilbert write his legend.

For me, Tour season is tiring. There is a lot to keep up with, lot’s of racing, with very few results. The calculus of controversy becomes more abstruse. We go from reading the novellas of the Spring Classics to the Russian Epics of the Grand Tours. Oodles of characters to remember. Someone always going “mad.”

I am a Classics man myself. The races are smaller, easier to digest, like comic books…um…excuse me…graphic novels. They appeal to my sense of drama and brutality, my impatience. Four hours (roughly) to watch, four weeks to digest and debate.

Padraig is a Tour-a-holic. This is his season (quite literally) in the sun, and these are the races that quicken his pulse from its normally zombie-like cadence. The man loves an epic. Ask him how many Yes albums he owns. King Crimson. Pynchon novels. You get my drift.

This week’s Group Ride asks the question: Which are you, Classics or Tours? Perhaps there is a sub-species of one-week tour lovers, but I have not met one of these. Perhaps you love any and all racing. You’re poly-velo-amorous. You freak me out, but it takes all kinds. Tell us about it.

Say what you are, and why you are that way. Solve the problem, but show your work. Open our eyes to your unique and very valuable point-of-view.

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  1. Paul

    I like all racing, but if I have to pick I will choose the sweeping narrative arc of the grand tours as the ultimate fix for me. Plus I am a small skinny guy, a climber, so the mountain stages are the ones that speak to me most.

  2. RevLovelace

    Ok, I’m a freak…I’m “poly-velo-amorous.” The Spring Classics inspire me to train like the men on cobbles, thumbing their noses at bad conditions to suffer for glory. But the spectacle of the Grands is just so other worldly. I love all of it, some more than others of course. I’ve constructed a “tri-perspectival” approach. Watching and studying the Grands through the lenses of the sprinters, climbers and GC’ers. This helps me break them down and enjoy them like a seven course meal. The Fall with Lombardia gives me the inspiration to keep the training up, setting my vision for the following spring. I need all of the racing infusion I can get because it keeps my training/racing spirits high. A final point is this: after almost 3 decades of suffering with no real TV coverage in America of the world’s greatest sport until OLN/Versus/NBC Universal/Internet I will watch as much as I can! What can I say, I’m a freak!

  3. cormw

    The Classics! I find the build up to the one day events makes each event so dramatic and magnifies each and every second of the race.

  4. ben

    When I first started following pro-cycling (Lemond’s days in the sun) all that you could see on TV was the TDF (ugh. John Tesh)…so I pretty much just followed TDF and then the Tour duPont/Trump when that was on. Now that more cycling is on TV and w/ internet…I find that I like the spring/fall 1-days a bit better. I like short rock songs (guided by voices, thank you). I like short novels (of the nongraphic type). I still follow and watch the grand tours though…b/c nothing beats being able to watch cycling daily like we can now during the Giro, TDF, and Vuelta. And often times you can get some “one-day” drama on those days. And the climbing stages are awesome.

  5. Souleur

    hi…my name is Souleur. I am a polygamist…I love all these, or as Robot said, I am a poly-morphous-velomass.

    I love them all, little ones…big ones…short ones, long ones and all in between.

    I admit it, I do, but I am not sorry, I do like it. I run to my little office at home when Omloop starts like a little 4 year old boy runs to the the christmas tree on xmas morning at 4am. I brew my capo, turn on steephill and dive in.

    After the classics, the crescendo continues, because I love everything Italian. I personally think its the grandest, due to the vigor and demands it places on riders. The maglia rosa is beautiful, the country side, the climbs, the little towns, and the access to riders and lesser-formality appeals to me. I know, I know, its not the prom and its not Kate Middleton whoever now, but it is the Giro.

    And truth is I love le Tour, after all, it is what it is.

    And the Vuelta, sort of the lost child in the family, is still family, just forgotten sometimes is also equally loved.

    Worlds, and all, I love them and as the season closes out there i go into a seasonaly affective dysthymia and pull out fixed gears, phat tyres, wool and ride without a helmet in rebellion until the next spring.

  6. todd k

    I generally prefer the classics, regardless of the time of year. I love the Giro at almost the same level, though. I’m not so much of a le Tour or Vuelta fan. They are important races and I follow them, but I just don’t prefer them.

  7. Lachlan

    the classics are awesome to watch but ask yourself if either The Tour was to disappear or the Tour of Flanders. Which would be sadder and more shocking?…. guess that makes me a Tour guy when it comes right down to it.

  8. Clark

    I prefer the longer races for a lot of reasons, but mostly it’s that there is guaranteed to be a race on TV (or a stream or recap on the Internet) every day for one to three weeks straight. Sure, some days are relatively uneventful, but the next critical stage for the GC riders is never more than a few days away.

    My two favorite races are in direct conflict with one another scheduling-wise: The Tour of California is great because its May time slot draws some big guns gearing up for the Tour, plus it showcases American teams on the international stage. Then there’s the Giro. Insane, beautiful, and less formulaic than Le Grande Boucle.

  9. Author

    @Lachlan – I like your question as a litmus test for the sort of race you prefer. I can honestly tell you that I would give up the TdF before the RvV. In a way, I feel as though the TdF has already disappeared, given what’s transpired over the last 15 years.

  10. armybikerider

    Wow……”we’re” coming out of the proverbial woodwork, because I too, fear that I am of the poly-theistic bent. I sing the hymms of the cobbles and hard men riding in the early season classics, kneel at the altars of the grand tours and late season races…and dare I admit it – throw up my arms in praise to the skinny tired, knobby treaded bikes during the ‘cross season when the snow flies and even obscure track events get my full attention. (I’ve even caught myself watching fat tired bikes racing around on single track!)

    Like most on here, I’ve suffered far too long waiting for Winning magazine’s coverage of races that finished months prior to the arrival of that long lost magazine….or suffered through dreadful network TV coverage of the Tour with idiot announcers.

    I’ll take any and all the bicycle racing that I can possibly get…just don’t try to limit my access to SteephillTV!


  11. michael

    I prefer to think of myself as an opportunivor – i will watch and and all forms of cycle racing that opportunity will provide – road? my first love. MTB? why yes please and thanks. Cross? i can get just as drunk and rowdy at home as the belgians on the live internet feeds are as they yell at riders. BMX, RAAM, competitive unicycling? If it`s on somewhere, i`ve watched it.

    1. Padraig

      I have to admit, I’m of several minds on this subject. Ask me my favorite race and I don’t flinch before saying the Tour. Give me a chance to watch video of any great race and I’ll take a mountain stage from the Tour. That said, on a day-to-day basis, my favorite race is the one unfolding at present. I’ve got a present-tense passion for the Tour of Romandie, though in six weeks I couldn’t give a rat’s tail about it. The season I’m in definitely influences what my preference is.

      Thanks for sharing everyone.

  12. al b - madison

    tour de france.

    guess it dates back to when the euro road racing scene first sparked my imagination and the only info i could really easily get was about the tour (and that was only b/c that dude from minnesota was winning it… what was his name? Gary, Gene, Grady? you know, the guy who went insane).

    the cool thing is how as time passed, i started to learn how nuanced the race calendar is, and really enjoy whatever cycling season it is currently.

  13. Marco Placero

    Although I enjoy the tours, grand and petite (California because it happens live, on my home roads), since I must choose I must choose Classics because they’re more like my own competitions. I wrap my mind around 1-day Ronde because I race 1-day Copperopolis.
    The Classics are brutal, the tours are finesse.
    But can’t wait for the Giro.

  14. dacrizzow

    love them all for different reasons but watching the giro last year was very inspiring. almost like several one day races in a row. adding the “cobble” stage in last year’s TDF really shook things up a bit also. i think we all have to admit as beautiful as the tour can be it can also be somewhat sterile. nothing like cobblestones to cure that. but you know, sometimes you don’t want to watch the godfather trilogy. you just want to watch a sienfeld episode.

  15. Howard hesterberg

    yeah.I am another poly-velo-amorous guy. The Classics are for the “real devotees” which I aspired to be so many years ago. we got no reasonable coverage here in the wasteland and then came the TdF which made it easier to fall in love with a cycling with more fulfilled senses. I really enjoyed the track worlds on Universal Sports TV last week. Why isn’t track more popular? Then there is ‘cross, the new Classics, obscure and only for the aficionado. I don’t care as much for the show stuff and stunts, give me a finish line for drama and no subjective judging. I mountain bike but find no convincing way to capture the sport for spectators.

  16. K

    I’m also a tour tragic. I put it down to upbringing. The classics are great, an adrenaline pumping joy but it’s Le Tour that is still the greatest to me. I have come to appreciate the tragedy in the tour. The knowledge of what these riders do to their bodies just to survive the distance, let alone win. The training and and dedication. The days spent traversing a country at breakneck speeds.

    And then in the space of ten minutes you get to watch as one by one their hopes and dreams evaporate on an alpine road. These days we don’t tell stories of tragedy like the Greeks used to. I no longer watch Le Tour to see who wins, I watch to see the hearts of men break. It has a cathartic beauty.

  17. Jim Morehouse

    I just love racing. If the road goes up, all the better. If the race goes on for days, that’s good too. If it’s snowing, so what (Tour of the Depot in Utah this year…)? A crit? Only if it’s at least an hour long (what happened to 100K criteriums?). As for the Pros? I like it all if it involves men and/or women on bicycles. But then, I’m a simple sort.

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