Not sure when this happened but I care about the Tour de France and pro cycling now. For the past week I’ve been getting up early and putting on the race so I could see the finishes in real time. I’ve spent weeks reading and watching cycling content. I’ve been following podcasts and watching documentaries. I actually know a bunch of the names and history of the riders now. I am still very much a newbie fan, but I haven’t gotten this invested in a new sport in ages. Hell, I’ve even managed to formulate a hot take already: I don’t think Jasper Phillipsen is that bad. Dude has been painted as a complete villain thanks to some aggressive tactics in last year’s tour and all the forums and comment sections I’ve wandered into act like he’s personally kicked everyone’s dog. I think pro cycling has a big unwritten etiquette culture and anyone who actually does whatever they can to win what is a race is now public enemy number one. From what I can gather Sprinters are the diva Wide Receivers of the sport and everyone hates a guy with cockiness and attitude. Jasper is definitely egotistical but I don’t think he’s that bad and most hyper competitive athletes at that level tend to either be insanely humble or douchey.

I’ve actually been a hobby cyclist for a long time, since college. I got it from my dad, who’d always go riding off on his own after work. He bought me a basic mountain bike for college and I rode that thing up and down the eerie canal trail in Rochester during a lot of my free time in school. At least when the ground wasn’t covered in 2 feet of snow. But I never cared about the actual sport. I inherited my dad’s lone-wolf nature of just going out and riding for hours in a sort of zen state. I mostly ride not for fitness but for exploration and have spent the years since Covid hit trying to ride every road in the city and keeping track on a map. I still have my cheap mountain bike. After 16 years it’s become a Frankenstein of new parts and adjustments and I now use it as my commuter/errand bike. I use a classic road bike for the good stuff now.

So how did this happen? Why do I suddenly care whether Jonas Vingegaard lost time on Galibier to Tadej Pogacar because maybe he’s still nervous on fast descents after his horrible crash a couple months ago? I was wondering about that. The answer is the Netflix show. As well as some other factors, but it’s mainly Tour De France: Unchained. I highly recommend it. 

I remember giving Netflix’s QUARTERBACK a middling review last season and I’ve spent years dunking on bandwagoners like any proud sports gatekeeper but I’ve always been fascinated by what brings people into sports in the first place, and I firmly think the answer is having someone to root for. Not a team and certainly not the sport itself. A person, and their story. When I was a kid and actually liked baseball, it was because of Cal Ripken Jr, with his legend of the streak and how he changed the position of shortstop. When I got seriously into football beyond just sorta growing up with it, it was mainly due to Eli Manning and his struggle of being the younger brother of the guy on my nerf football packaging. When I moved out west and started watching the NBA, it was because of Damian Lillard’s heroics against the Rockets to finally lift the Blazers into the playoff series win column after 14 years. Once you break in through someone’s story, you can often find so many more to follow.

I haven’t connected to the story of any MLB player in a long time. It’s not that there haven’t been worthy stories out there, but it also doesn’t help that the Orioles haven’t been worth watching for 2 decades. Even last year all that hype to get swept in round 1 like chumps. I’ve been trying my butt off to get into hockey but I keep having trouble finding that person and story that latches me like a fish taking the bait. Basketball hasn’t been much fun for a couple of seasons now as the Blazers slowly imploded and Dame left. I guess I do love Jokic and how he doesn’t give a shit about being the best player in the world compared to his horses. But I have been watching the WNBA this year, and that’s because we got some people and stories that are captivating. As for soccer, I think my body physically rejects it like an allergic reaction. I will die on the soccer is bad hill and nobody will ever touch me because they can’t use their hands.

This brings me back to the Netflix Tour de France show. Like I was with QUARTERBACK, any long-time snob follower of the sport will find plenty of faults with the show. How it omits a lot of nuance. How it fails to adequately explain or brushes over things that deserve more recognition. How it edits events and interviews to paint broad narratives for easier viewing. How it will bring new viewers to the sport who are still pretty ignorant and ask dumb questions that we have long internalized the answers to and could not be bothered to explain. Bandwagoners can be annoying when you know your stuff. But we all started somewhere and it’s easy to forget how exciting it all is when you first break into a new interest. The technical know-how can come later. The arguments about strategy and equipment can wait. Intricate deep knowledge about historical trivia will come as it may. We need more stuff like Unchained to bring us into the sport as it currently airs. 30 for 30 type documentaries are great for stories that have already happened, but something that tells you what is important and worth following right now? We need more of that.

I’m probably going to find the RECEIVER show pretty mid when it drops. But for some folks out there it’ll be the breakthrough. Bandwagoners are like puppies. They really can test your patience but the fresh burst of energy and new love they offer is worth nurturing no matter how many times you come close to losing your mind.

That got weirdly introspective but it’s July and christ every year I debate just taking this whole month off. Anyway if any of you are Touries (that’s what I’m going with you can’t stop me) here are my Tour opinions:

-Team Pogi. Jonas is very good and Visma is a great team but they are boring. Wout Van Aert is the coolest Visma rider by far. Pogacar is just extremely likeable and more fun to watch
-Jasper gets way too much hate but I do prefer seeing Biniam Girmay in green this year, Jasper had his turn last year
-I’m glad Mark Cavendish got his record so everyone can shut up about him now
-I actually hated the gravel stage. It was chaotic fun but it felt extremely unsafe for the riders with how much dust the security motorcycles were kicking up into their air. It’s probably really bad for you to be breathing in all that dust while huffing and puffing for 5 hours.
-NBC’s coverage is kinda shit
-There is a dude nicknamed Tim The Tractor because he’s extremely steady and pulls the peloton a lot. He is now my favorite guy
-I think it’s stupid that the first few stages every year aren’t even in France. They started in Italy this year. Fuck off, Italy already has its own grand tour. Keep it in France.
-The green jersey color sucks now, bring back the Kelly Green. Also the white jersey sucks, you can never really tell who it is in a crowd either.
-It cannot be understated how much of a douche Lance Armstrong is. Not even for the cheating but for how horrible he was to everyone. Perfect example of a guy who used his unique and amazing story to sort of betray everyone.
-INEOS Grenadiers is the coolest team name
-The other main reason I’m invested in pro cycling now is probably due to an anime of all things, Yowamushi Pedal, which taught me how cycling as a team sport generally works and just makes me feel really happy when I watch it. It should also still be on Netflix.