By the way, I should point out that wearing cycling shorts with your sumo loincloth is the equivalent of wearing underwear with your cycling shorts, which makes Froome a total Sumo Fred.
Anyway, if you didn't follow the race this year you're not alone (hi!), and Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay (who is the only remaining mainstream journalist who continues to take the sport seriously) suggests this could be due to the sport's financial inequality:
Chris Froome won the Tour de France on Sunday, his third in four years. This was not a big shocker. Froome seized first place on the first day of the Tour’s second week, and, outside of a Three Stooges-style fiasco in which he lost his bike in a crash and briefly ran up Mont Ventoux in his yellow cycling shoes, that was pretty much that. Presumed competition never materialized. Once more, Froome and his team, Sky, were too deep and dominant, suffocating all challengers and turning the final ride to Paris into another ceremonial, soft-pedaling coronation.
Hmm, a dominant rider with an illness backstory and a strong team powering to yet another unsurprising Tour de France win? Where have we seen this sort of thing before? I seem to recall similar scenarios playing out back in the early aughts (right down to the thrilling "fiascos"), but when I went to check out the results from those years the winner's name had been stricken from the record books:
I'm sure there's a pretty juicy story there, maybe somebody can fill me in.
In any case, Froome knows those "marginal gains" don't come cheap:
Still, Froome acknowledged something significant the other day. He admitted that if he rode not for the well-funded Sky, which can afford to surround him with well-paid lieutenants, but for a smaller, lower-budgeted outfit, he probably would not be in the running for the yellow jersey. “If I was riding for a small team, it would be different,” Froome said.
Indeed, Sky somehow manage to spend €35 million on racing their bicycles, while other teams like Cannondale-Drapac are forced to scrounge the contents of Sky's half-eaten gel packets and hoard Nashbar coupon codes:
During the Tour, the French sports newspaper L’Equipe estimated Sky’s budget at €35 million, or $38.4 million. There are a couple of teams in that financial orbit, but many others with less than half or even a third of that budget (L’Equipe estimated the budget for the well-liked American Cannondale-Drapac team at €10 million, or about $11 million.) There is worry that this disparity is draining excitement out of the Tour—at least in the overall yellow jersey competition—because the have-nots do not have the personnel. Froome possesses a phalanx of teammates who would be leaders on other squads, giving Sky staggering ability to control the race. If you include Bradley Wiggins’s yellow jersey in 2012 (for which Froome was Wiggins’s top domestique), Sky has won four out of the last five Tours. ( 21st Century Fox Inc. owns 39% of Sky PLC, the major sponsor of Team Sky. Until 2013, 21st Century Fox and The Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. were part of the same company.)
See, here's how it works: In this sport, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the jersey. That's why Sky is the Tony Montana of cycling teams:
And what could be simpler than that? Indeed, what could be more American than that? Rapidly-growing income inequality and real power concentrated in the hands of the very few is what this country's all about. If anything, between that and the fact the riders keep getting hit by motor vehicles I'm surprised pro cycling isn't America's national sport. Alas, this has not happened, and ironically the handful of Americans who have weathered the scandals and remain in the sport want socialism:
The push for financial leveling has been kicking around the sport for a while. Advocates include Cannondale-Drapac boss Jonathan Vaughters, who thinks some version of a budget cap will not only improve competition, but also bring badly-needed stability to the sport. Cycling’s every-team-for-itself approach is undoubtedly chaotic—teams open and shut every year on the whims of sponsors, donors and even governments.
"...said Vaughters as he combed the road shoulder for discarded bidons."
But is the financial gap really what's taking the excitement out of the Tour? Or is it the fact that the race is fucking long?
Meanwhile, a budget cap is not the only suggestion out there to spice up the Tour. There are also appeals to reduce the number teams, or the number of riders on teams (from the current nine to maybe six or seven) or tinkering with stage formats and distances. Stapleton thinks a lot of Tour stages go on way too long and favors “shorter, more intense” races. Velon is using technology like on-board cameras to change the way the sport is seen.
This makes good sense--until you realize that nobody gives a shit about the shorter races either.
And yes, I'm looking at you, ironically-sponsored bike race:
Meanwhile, in parenting news, a former pro skateboarder wants your kid to wear a helmet:
In skateboarding, as in life, no kid wants to be seen as uncool — even if being “cool” means a broken arm and 3 hours in the emergency room. And in a sport where wearing safety gear is shunned, few pieces of equipment are considered as uncool as the helmet.
Okay, sure, but what the hell do helmets and broken arms have to do with each other?
I don't know, but here's his reasoning, and if you're anything like me when a pro skater gives you life advice you listen and you listen good:
“In the end I had 3 good reasons: My wife and my 2 daughters,” says Vallely, “I wanted to be around [for them]. When I step on my skateboard today, I wear a helmet.” And while he calls his decision a “personal” one (and doesn’t want to be seen as hoping on — and probably grinding off — a soapbox), that hasn’t stopped him from joining forces with safety gear company Triple Eight to launch the Get Used to It campaign, aimed at raising awareness for helmet use and head safety. In the end, he hopes helmets are treated like seat belts (“It should be intuitive. Just click it and go.”) and has strong feelings about getting kids to wear one, as well as why not having brain damage is better than being cool.
Wait a minute. 30 years of pro skating and now suddenly he's worried about not wearing a helmet? I mean, I don't begrudge him at all for "joining forces" with a safety gear company (I certainly hope they're paying him to do this), but it seems to me that if he got this far without a helmet he's in the clear.
But it's not just about him, it's also about the children, won't somebody think of the children:
Get Them While They’re Young
Convincing teen skaters – especially serious ones – today about the virtues of wearing a helmet is pretty much a lost cause, says Vallely. “They’re just entrenched against it.” That’s why it’s critical to slap a lid on your youngest before he or she even knows what cool means. Inevitably, they’re going to face pressure to ditch the helmet, be it from friends (or corporate sponsors). You want the idea of not getting brain damage to be so deeply ingrained in their undamaged brain that they don’t give it a second thought. “Families need to be steadfast in their commitment to protecting their heads,” says Vallely. “Kids need to be encouraged to keep the helmets on [as they get older].”
Sadly, this entire paragraph is completely undermined by the photo that follows it:
That's not a helmet, that's a choking hazard.
I wondered if this same publication had any cycling-specific advice for neurotic parents, and indeed they did:
Wow, talk about idiotic! It's true bike fatalities are down for kids, but the reason for this is that kids' don't ride anymore:
The article then immediately goes on to explain why kids falling off their bikes is no big deal:
The Smaller the Kid, The Shorter the Fall
Because your child isn’t named Johnny Knoxville, you understandably get upset when they take a nosedive into the pavement. But you also should realize that falling hurts less for young kids. “When they’re young, they don’t have a long way to fall, they don’t carry a lot of speed, and they don’t have a lot of mass, so they bounce right back up,” says Wells. “When they’re young, they bend.”
But somehow if they're not wearing a helmet they're an idiot and they're going to die.
Still, I do agree that you should always wear one when robbing a bank:
His parents obviously raised him right.