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July 19, 2009

Designing An Integrated Tour De France

At WWVB, we are loathe to criticize without offering an alternative, and it may be that our Myers-Briggs Personality Index leaves us too inclined to (re)organize things, but I would like to offer an alternative design to today's Tour de France.

The criticism I've offered of the Tour De France comes down to two words: White Guys. And to perhaps make it a more nuanced and fair criticism: the Tour de France is the premier event in European cycling, drawing participants from a Euro cycling scene that develops white guys. In that perspective, the TdF is paradoxically both the pinnacle of, and a victim of, the white-guy system that feeds it.

The very high level of competition at the TdF presents high barriers to entry to outsiders, or non-white non-guys. There's over 100 years of competitive sharpening riding in today's Tour. There's no way that a rider or team in Hong Kong can break into that circuit - but imagine the benefit to world cycling (as an industry and a sport) if a team from Hong Kong could have the advantage of experience at this level, and imagine the benefit the ASO would reap if the TdF was being watched in Hong Kong, India, and Africa by people cheering for local riders.

We can increase the participation of both non-whites, and non-guys, in professional cycling without diminishing the cachet of the ASO's Tour de France. The TdF is a European marketing event with larger aspirations, and expanding it's global reach has to be profitable for ASO.

How do we do that? I believe there's very little new under the sun (VLNUS). How have other sports dealt with increasing their span? Put another way, what was once a "white-guy" sport that has successfully grown beyond that, and how did they do it.

Golf : The Other White-Guy Sport

Golf has made the transition. To the arguments, ladies can't play those long holes, they gave us front tee's and offset greens. Does anybody believe that Tiger Woods has been bad for golf?

Profile of an Integrated Stage

Just like golf uses extra tees and greens, the Tour De France can present another event along the same course, on the same day, separated by a time interval. The images below are two stage profiles from the 2009 Tour De France, with an added red line indicated a course segment that could be used by the Femme or World event.

Let's restate our criteria, present an alternative, and then check it against our criteria. We want to:
  • increase participation from around the world
  • increase women's participation
  • enhance the TdF/ASO position

Redesigning the Tour De France ala Golf

We're going to have quasi-simultaneous three tours. Focus groups will develop the final names, but for now, let's talk about the Tour de France (yellow), the Tour de Femme (pink, sorry), and the Tour de World (UN-helmet blue).

Tour De World

The Tour de World is a men's cycling event. Regional teams compete. A rider must have lived in their region for five years at some time in their life to compete for that region. Regional teams may have corporate, government, or NGO sponsors.

Regional Teams will be eligible from: North Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, Central America, South America, China, Eastern Asia, Central Asia, Western Asia, Middle East, Oceana, Russia. Six riders to a team.

For team time trials, four riders ride for each team. For individual time trials, two riders ride from each team. The fastest keeps his own time. The rest of the team gets the time of the slowest of the two.

Tour De Femme

Every team chosen for the men's TdF can field a woman's team for the Tour De Femme if they choose to. Other teams may be invited, up to a maximum of 20 teams. Teams may have corporate, government, or NGO sponsors.

Six riders to a team. For team time trials, four riders ride for each team. For individual time trials, two riders ride from each team. The fastest keeps her own time. The rest of the team gets the time of the slowest of the two.

Tour De France

The Tour de France operates just as it does today, with two exceptions.
  • If a Tour de Femme or a Tour de World stages starts at a downstream point along the Tour De France route, any Tour De France rider who has not passed the secondary start by the designated time has failed to make a time cut.
  • Tour de France, Tour de Femme, and Tour de World riders may commingle along the course. The same rules for drafting and pacelines apply.

Stage Schedule for an Integrated Tour de France

StageTypeDateStartTour de FranceTour de FemmeTour de World
1Indiv. TT 4 JulyMonaco15.5 km15.5 km15.5 km
2Plain  5 JulyMonaco187 kmrest120 km
3Plain 6 JulyMarseille196.5 km100 kmrest
4Team TT 7 JulyMontpellier39 kmrest39 km
5Plain 8 JulyLe Cap d’Agde196.5 kmrest 100 km
6Plain 9 JulyGérone181.5 km100 kmrest
7 High Mtns. 10 JulyBarcelone224 kmrest100 km
8High Mtns.  11 JulyAndorre-la-Vieille 176.5 km 60 kmrest
9High Mtns. 12 JulySaint-Gaudens160.5 kmrest rest
Indiv. TT 13 JulyLimogesrestrest40 km
10Plain 14 JulyLimoges194.5 km120 kmrest
11Plain 15 JulyVatan192 km60 km120 km
12Plain 16 July Tonnerre 211.5 kmrest50 km
13Med. Mtns. 17 JulyVittel200 km 60 kmrest
14Plain 18 July Colmar199 km rest rest
15High Mtns. 19 JulyPontarlier207.5 kmrest199 km
RTeam TT 20 JulyVerbier rest30 kmrest
16High Mtns.  21 JulyMartigny159 km 80km - finisrest
17High Mtns. 22 JulyB-S-M169.5 km--90km
18Indiv. TT 23 JulyAnnecy40.5 km--30km
19Plain 24 JulyBourgoin-Jallieu178 km--60km finis
20High Mtns. 25 JulyMontélimar167 km----
21Plain 26 JulyM-F-Y > Paris164 km----

If you examine the schedule, you'll see that there are no days without racing - television and newspapers will have at least one event each day. The Femme and World schedules are less demanding that for the Tour De France.

There is enough money within the ASO and the Tour De France today to accomplish this schedule. The development of alternative start and finish locations provides additional income - the Tour De France does not ask these towns, May we start in your village? The Tour De France says, who will pay us the most if we start in your village? This brings extra cash into ASO's hands, for roughly the same operating expense.

Sometimes, these riders wear white sleeves to keep you guessing.

Anyway, that's the proposal. If you review our three stated goals - increase global participation, increase women's participation, enhance the TdF/ASO position - I think it meets those criteria. Feedback and comments are welcome.


steevo said...

I guess you are including all of South America in "white guys?" South Americans have participated with force in the tour for the past 20 years. Santiago Botero. Hello? He won the world championships in 2002 for the ITT.

South Americans are very prevalent in cycling. Also, there is a Japanese rider in the tour this year.

This is the biggest event in the world for cycling. If people are not good enough to participate, do what those who are participating have done: work hard and move up through the ranks in order to participate. There is no glass ceiling, if a team could get a strong rider, they will.

Calling cycling a "white guy" sport is pretty cheap. I am sure there are people in the tour this year making the minimum 60,000 euro salary. A lot of these guys are going to work in factories or other such low end jobs when they retire.

Nettie said...

I disagree with Steevo, little male chips on shoulders count for nothing in the bigger scheme of things... after all, all you have to do is turn on the telly and open your eyes! Does 1 Japanese guy tip the scales that far? I believe there should be more celebration of the efforts put in by the riders - and Vannevar's proposal offers a fantastic opportunity for just that! Celebrate the ability of each group of riders and stop this arrogant exclusion attitude; it's so outdated and BOOOORING!

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