Pierre Rolland, a genuine, born in France, Frenchman, said it straight out, no punches pulled: The Tour de France is dull. “You could do a power test on all the riders and you’d come out with the exact GC, pretty much. It’s so bland,” said Rolland.
Sacré Bleu. Vraiment? The most famous, celebrated, watched, prized cycling event on the UCI calendar is “bland?” Hey, it’s one thing for some guy from Spain or the United States to say the Tour is dull; it’s a another thing when a native son, one who made his reputation as a pro cyclist in the Tour, to say that he’s rather ride the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta.
Then again, after watching the Tour these past few Sky-dominated years, you’d have to say that by comparison and without real argument that the Tour de France has lacked excitement. To put it in Rolland’s words: “You know exactly what’s going to happen beforehand,” says Rolland. “You know how a certain climb will be ridden, you know it’ll pick up, then a descent, then the final climb it will just be ramped up. It lacks a bit of dynamism.”
The Cannondale-Drapac rider went on the compare that to the rain and snow and crappier roads in Italy where attacks can be launched anytime, anywhere. Then there is the Helta Skelta Vuelta, a grand tour that’s hard to control and exciting to watch. It’s like the bulls in Pamplona dressed in lycra and charging down the street.
All that to say, yes, we’d have to agree with Pierre Rolland’s assessment. Which is sorta sad and disappointing. For the last few seasons, we went into the Tour with high hopes of epic battles, constant attacks, surprise ambushes and opportunistic aggression.
Instead what we got was eight guys from Sky on the front over every mountain in France, dragging Chris Froome to victory. It was formulaic, underwhelming and monotonous. It was relentlessly bad TV.
Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme has made efforts to break up the race route and introduce new climbs and fresh spots for an attack but really, nothing seems to have worked out. Sky and their massive budget have the riders to dominate any changes in course design. Viewers wait and wait and wait for something to happen and if, in the last 2K, somebody tries an attack, it’s brought back or brings only a handful of seconds gained. To quote twitter president Donald Trump: “sad.”
It’s sort of an indictment when even the French admit the Tour has become dull. We’d guess if you put Thomas Voeckler on the spot, he’d be forced to agree with Rolland. Perhaps only Romain Bardet has positive feelings about the Tour de France based on the one stage where his attack succeeded. An attack that worked only because, as Rolland noted, there was rain and crashes everywhere.
We wish we had a solution to the dull Tour conundrum but the only only one we can see that would have any impact is never going ti happen: cut Sky’s budget in half.
Allez, Pierre, enjoy the Giro.