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Tour de France: How the World Saw Rest Day
 
By Podofdonny
Date: 7/17/2003
Tour de France: How the World Saw Rest Day
 

100 Years of the Tour de France

The world's press have descended upon France for what is the biggest annual sporting event in the world.

We look at how three papers across the world - in England, Germany and the USA  - covered the event on its rest day.

First from the UK, The Manchester Guardian takes a traditional view of the rest day concentrating on race leader, Lance Armstrong, and how he spent his rest day in Narbonne.

To read the original article click here.

Armstrong checks out vital time-trial

Richard Stevens

Thursday July 17, 2003

The Guardian

Lance Armstrong spent yesterday's rest from Tour action looking forward to what he described as the "most important time-trial of my life". That happens tomorrow following today's stage from Narbonne to Toulouse, and Armstrong said: "I have already reconnoitred the time-trial course, but I will Do again on the morning of the race."

Armstrong is taking no chances after his slip-up in the prologue time-trial in Paris at the start of the race when he decided against inspecting the course and Produced a disappointing performance.

"It will be the most important time-trial of my life," he said, "but in the meantime I will be spending time with my family in Narbonne."

Armstrong, the four-times Tour winner, is the man in possession of the leader's yellow jersey, but Germany's Jan Ullrich, who won the 1997 Tour and is in sixth place in the current standings, just two minutes and 10 seconds adrift, believes he can haul in the American.

Ullrich reckons Armstrong may be vulnerable to an attack in the Pyrenees and said there was a chance he could win his first stage of cycling's premier race in five years in the mountains of south-west France.

"If I'm on good form and I'm feeling good on the day then it might be possible," he said. "The Pyrenees this year are tougher than the Alps and a lot can happen there." Ullrich is also looking forward to tomorrow's 47km individual time-trial to improve his overall position before moving on to the Pyrenees. "I hope I can gain time on some of the mountain specialists and get a morale boost for the stages the Pyrenees," said the 29-year-old.

Ullrich, who was second behind Armstrong in 2000 and 2001, thinks the American has never been in a trickier position going into the second half of the Tour. He said: "Lance had certainly expected to be in a better position at this stage. In the last few years you never saw his main rivals just a few seconds behind him after the first mountain stages."

Armstrong, from Texas, leads the second-placed Kazakh, Alexander Vinokourov, by a only 21 seconds.

© Copyright Daily Peloton 2003

Meanwhile from the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA, Bob Ford, rather than use the ubiquitous World Press, releases has an excellent effort at explaining to the non cycling USA readers the atmosphere and dynamics of the Tour de France.

For the European reader, the paper is a strange affair, apart from our featured article, David Whitely seriously asks the question “Is Armstrong an athlete?” However, Bob Ford seems to capture perfectly the atmosphere of the Tour and its mysteries to the average “Eagles” fan (apparently a USA Football team).

To read the original article click here.

Covering Tour de France can be a rat race

By BOB FORD

Philadelphia Inquirer

ABOARD THE TGV Train in France - The orchards and farms and fields of bright sunflowers roll away quickly beneath the scorching sun, transformed into a travelogue that gathers and unfurls beside the train route. Back along the Mediterranean, the Tour de France has paused for a rest day, and there is time to consider the question asked by everyone who has not tried to chase this competition for a few days as it circumnavigates a country the size of Texas:

What is it like?

A working life, somewhat misspent perhaps, of watching sporting events should at least provide a point of comparison, some way to express how the storied bicycle race is similar to - what? A Super Bowl? An Olympics? A marathon? It is like all of those, but none of those, particularly to the people of the country who gather along the course to watch a small bit of history roll through their towns, past their blinking cattle, and then away again.

Approximately 80 percent of French men and more than half of French women see the Tour in person at least once in their lifetime. Those who come out to view the procession spend an average of five hours waiting. There are the crowds you would expect in the large cities and at the start and finish of each day's stage. There are also big gatherings on the steep mountain climbs, where the riders will slowly suffer past and the race might be decided. More striking, though, as you drive the course madly in advance of the bizarre parade that includes the sponsor caravan and the race itself are the people who step out of their houses and place lawn chairs at the curb. On a given day, the Tour's journey will take it through a dozen or maybe two dozen tiny villages.

The people wait, wave their flags, then go back inside.

It is as if the World Series were to stop at your neighborhood ball field for just a couple of pitches, assuming that most of the U.S. population would still walk across the street to see a baseball game. Or as if the NBA Finals were played on parking-lot courts in rapid succession, a shot here, a rebound there, fast-breaking from Conshohocken to Norristown to Allentown and on.

Covering the event is stranger still. While it sounds like a decent gig - how many writers would cover it if it were the "Tour de Bulgaria? - it is an amazing grind for the oddly diverse pack of journalistic and semi-journalistic gypsies who encamp and decamp with this circus every day for nearly a month. They arrive at the start town, try to do an interview or two where the team vans are parked or as the riders roll to the starting line. Then they leap into their cars and steam toward the finish town, often more than 100 miles away.

At the finish, they pray that the organizers can handle the traffic, pray that the team vans are findable again, and hope that they can locate the often humble media center and watch at least part of the stage on television. The stars of the race are mostly unavailable afterward, and the writers trade quotes, usually of dubious origin, with the cheerfulness of check-kiters swapping one bit of bad paper for another.

Sometimes the Tour is organizational chaos, and sometimes it is chaotically organized. It is not unusual to find intense road construction taking place near a small town on the very day that there will be thousands and thousands of cars trying to get through. It is not unusual for the many cars carrying fans and spectators to clog the roadways so that the huge team vans cannot get to the start on time as the local gendarmes scratch their heads. The competitors simply get out of the vans, get on their bikes, and ride past the traffic jam.

There are charms to the race, no doubt about that. When Jakob Piil and Fabio Sacchi were dueling for the lead in Tuesday's stage, which ended in Marseille, they paused and clasped hands with less than a mile to go, like boxers touching each other's gloves at the bell for the final round. Then they sprinted for the line, with Piil winning the 136-mile stage by half a wheel.

The organizers do what they can to keep the event honest and well-run. There is drug testing for the stage winner, the overall leader, and a few random riders every day. Sometimes a rider is fined if he grabs onto a team car, getting a brief tow, as the car zooms alongside to hand out water or tubes of protein goo. Riders are also fined for urinating where spectators might see, and that goes for the riders who dismount, preferably along an empty stretch of road, and for those who simply do their business while still in the saddle. Again, there is no obvious equivalent in the World Series or the Super Bowl.

Going into Thursday's 11th stage of the 20-stage race, 171 riders remain from the 198 who left Paris. Each of the 22 teams begins with nine racers, and it is bad luck to lose someone to fatigue or injury or a lack of will. That adds to the burden of the other worker bees who service the lead rider, the boss of the team. They ride ahead of him to divert the wind, fetch water when necessary, even offer up their bikes if his malfunctions.

The blue train of the United States Postal Service is still forming at the front of the peloton, protecting the yellow jersey of Lance Armstrong and hoping to help him build upon his slim lead.

So the Tour de France is all of that, without mentioning the terrible heat, the turbo-fueled coffee, and the constant fear of the burned-out clutch.

What is it like?

Well, first imagine all of the Eagles on bicycles ...

© Copyright Daily Peloton 2003

Finally we go to Germany and the Deutsche Welle, which is published in English.

The focus on their article is on the financial aspects of the Tour, and what an attractive proposition it is to potential sponsors.

To read the original article click here.

Tour de France Is a Financial Tour de Force

The Tour de France: Brought to you by Credit Lyonnaise, PMU, Champion, Nike, Fiat...

The Tour de France attracts over 15 million spectators to the streets with a further billion happy to watch at home. No wonder it's become one of the sporting world's biggest businesses.

It's unlikely that Maurice Garin could have envisaged how the Tour de France would change in the hundred years that followed his victory back in 1903.

The French rider, known as "The Chimney Sweep," was the first-ever winner of the world's most famous cycling race when the field consisted of just 60 riders who rode through the night in pursuit of the prize. Now, in its centenary year, the Tour boasts 22 teams, totaling 198 riders in a race that dwarfs the original 2,500 kilometer race by pushing the athletes to go a further 850.

But it's not only the sheer size of the modern Tour which would astound Garin these days. The Tour de France has developed into more than just a sporting spectacle over the last hundred years. The Tour de France is now one of the most lucrative and expensive events in terms of business and finance with a staggering array of sponsors, partners, merchandisers and suppliers all paying for the privilege of being associated with the Tour.

24 sponsors vie for audience of 1 billion

The Amaury Sport Organization, the tour's official organizer, makes 70 percent of its EUR110 million annual turnover from cycling. The Tour de France in turn makes up between 70 and 80 percent of its total cycling turnover every year. Most of the money comes from the television rights and the advertising revenue that is ploughed into the Tour by the army of 24 associated businesses that pay to have their logos beamed into the homes of over 1 billion people worldwide.

It appears to be money well spent. The organizers claim that for every euro invested in the Tour de France, a sponsor is guaranteed ten back. That goes some way to explain the masses of T-shirts, hats and umbrellas that colour the 20 stages of the Tour, sporting logos ranging from those of the main sponsors to official partners. Considering the global reach of the Tour, sponsorship in any capacity is an attractive proposition for many businesses. But as in any serious venture, the sponsors must reflect the event's standing.

"You can't just come to us and say 'I have a product, I want to sell that product'," said Daniel Bal, the Tour's deputy director. "If it works with our product, our logo and our colors, then we have a deal and we can work together."

Jerseys are most sought after items

The most sought after items for sponsorship have been firmly in the hands of the giants of cycling patronage in France for many years. The jerseys -- awarded to the winners of the most-prestigious stages, the best newcomer and the overall Tour winner -- have long been coveted as the most lucrative vehicles for publicity hungry institutions.

The fabled Yellow jersey of the overall victor has been sponsored by French bank Crédit Lyonnais since 1987, while the Green jersey, awarded to the best sprinter, has been the reserve of the PMU, France's horse racing association, for the past 13 years. The best young rider of the Tour will be presented with the White jersey, now back in the hands of the Conseil général des Hauts-de-Seine social help organization after a ten year gap.

Only the King of the Mountains' Polka Dot jersey has been wrestled away by a new sponsor. Supermarket chain Champion will now be paying for the privilege to be on the winner's podium after the grueling stages in the Alps

© Copyright Daily Peloton 2003

 
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