Sport vs. Narrative

I would like to discuss the dynamic of the Tour and how it lends itself to being more of a narrative than other sports. It’s fairly obvious that the Tour de France is a sporting event. 22 teams made up of 9 riders compete for a varying number of prizes and prestige. At the end, there is a clear winner, though unlike other sports, there may not be a clear loser.

The Cast: The Tour is made up of 198 characters. Some of them are more important, more archetypical, more sympathetic than others. Some never get mentioned.  

The Setting: Contrary to other sports, the Tour does not play itself out in only one location. As a spectator, it’s impossible to see the entire race from start to finish in person. Therefore, we have to rely on second hand information to fill in the holes of what happened

The Rules: There aren’t any rules, really. Not in the out-of-bounds or penalty-shot sort of way. Each stage of the race is races, and whoever crosses the line first is the winner. At the end of the 21 days, the time from each stage is added up (aggregate time) and the guy that did it the fastest wins the whole Tour, even if he never won a stage.


The problem with predicting the race, or picking a favorite to win, is that you’re writing your own narrative independent of the race itself. Not only are you hoping that the story ends a certain way, but there are certain events that you want and expect to happen.  This sort of projection changes the focalization (the perspective). It’s hard to talk about how this type of assumed focalization limits and changes the types of narratives one can make without addressing the problems that focalization presents in general. And now that the race has begun, we can evaluate it in practice. Before I actually do any research, I would assume that each article is written from the perspective of the “ideal spectator” and they are rarely focalized on one rider in the peloton.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who wins or how they did it, only what happened on the course.


About ashlealebrisket

living and learning and teaching in france, exploring the narratology behind cycling journalism,
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