I’m not day to day on my journalistic analysis, but I am day to day on my article-reading, race-watching, and rumor-mill-churning. I’ve read a few articles and blogs that have called this year’s Tour de France BORING. They’ve raised questions such as whether or not the TDF is in fact the most boring of the grand tours and if the organizers have done anything to fight the monotony. I would say yes to both, actually.
The TDF is closely tied to the patrimoine of France. It is less of a bike race and more a display of a long running cultural showcase deeply embedded in the hearts of the French. The tour de France IS France. It is traditional, maybe even tradition itself. As INRNG has pointed out, this year’s Tour isn’t like those of the 90’s which produced expected outcomes, but I don’t think that it makes the race boring.
I’m going to go ahead and throw out this quote from The Rider by Tim Krabbé, though I’d like to not be so cliché, but it’s incredibly fitting and exactly upon what my thesis is based:
“’You guys need to suffer more, get dirtier; you should arrive at the top in a casket, that’s what we pay you for,’ I say. ‘No,’ Knetemann says, ‘you guys need to describe it more compellingly.’”
In the first 7 days, we saw 3 flat sprint finishes, two uphill classics-style arrivés, an ultra long time trial, [and of course the prologue], the rest day drama and the first classified mountain stage. What stands out here? the two stages that end with a kick…. of which the winner was expected. But as for individual events themselves? no one is talking about that. Crashes? Predictable, though their magnitude and who they affect is not so much. What about “surprise performances”? if you tried to anticipate who would perform them, then it wouldn’t be a surprise. The inherited yellow jersey wearer shined where expected, increasing his lead exactly as much as expected over some. I’ve even read that certain people think they should just let him take the jersey home right now.
If you think the Tour is boring, stop trying to decide who is going to win what stage. The critics have been right so far as to who would win what. Of course the prologue specialist won, wore and kept the Maillot Jaune until the stage on which everyone expected him to. Of course the young prodigy has been flourishing in his first tour, over shadowing his predecessor. Of course the former teammates of the fastest man on two wheels have been incredibly successful in their roles as leader on new teams. All of these things are par for the course based on speculation and betting-odds.
But the articles? They’re not at all the same. And there have been some very entertaining narratives written so far. From a narratological and literary standpoint, or at least how I see it, the race is merely a playground of events about which narratives can be written. It’s the influence and inspiration for stories. Therefore, yes the Tour is boring because every parcours provides more or less the same equipment. It’s up to those who watch and write to make it what it entertaining, to make it worth watching, to make the events worth reliving in the journals. I’ve been able to see the “sport reporting” style versus the more “literary” articles, and how these two distinct story telling approaches produce narratives for a varying audience. You can probably assume which I find more entertaining.