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From an American perspective, the Tour de France is the World Cup of cycling: not only is it the most prestigious race–it’s also the only race we’re aware of. Forget the Vuelta de España and the Giro di Lombardia, though I’m sure they’re quite entertaining–for non-Europeans, the Tour de France is the competition that matters. This is reflected in the results: only one country outside of Europe has ever produced a winning rider (you’ve got one guess as to which country that is).
It’s easy to see why world athletes might stay away from the Tour. It’s an insane event, spanning more than 2,000 miles over three weeks. To quote the New York Times Magazine, “riders climb a vertical distance equal to three Mount Everests” and eat 10,000 calories a day. And the pace certainly isn’t leisurely.
Nothing leisurely about this Tour, either. It started with jarring news, as thirteen riders were kicked off the Tour due to a doping investigation. The first Tour of the post-Lance Armstrong era began without the five top finishers of 2005. With so many missing stars, U.S. viewership is barely half of last year’s, and Deadspin wonders whether Americans can accept a guy named “Floyd” as a cycling hero.
So, the question: