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July 16, 2009

Racism at Tour de France Charged by French Cyclists

Tour de FranceEvents. Sometimes events hurt you, sometimes they help you. For instance, last week I had a post in the can, ready to publish the next day about the guy whose guitar was broken by United Airlines. Just before I posted it, United decided to make it right. I posted that one anyway, but my takeaway lesson was that time, tide, events, and the blogosphere wait for no man. Publish it or eat it.

     Lots of White Guys in Paris. Sometimes they wear black leggings and sleeves to fool you.

Yesterday the cycle went the other way - early Wednesday morning I put out a post about racism and the Tour de France. Later Wednesday, after the stage, some anonymous French riders are accusing British rider Mark Cavendish of being a racist and of making racist comments. "Cavendish is racist, he's anti-French", one courageous anonymous cyclist threatened, "He should be careful. We're not going to put up with his attitude much longer."

Anyway, that's what I believe he said, it's hard to listen to a guy whose teeth never completely close all the way when he's speaking. Comments like that are usually seen as the promise of rough treatment in the scrum peleton; maybe somebody drops a mussette bag into your spokes in the feed zone. It could happen. An ugly threat coupled to an ugly accusation of racism.

What is truly remarkable, though, is the nature of the charge of racism.
Q. Who is the offended racial group? A. The French.
Q. Is "French" a race? A. They seem to think so.

Q. What did Cavendish do? A. He won the stage on July 14th.
Q. What's wrong with that? A. July 14th is Bastille Day.
Q. And? A. Sometimes they let the French win on Bastille Day.

So what was said? No specifics. It seems like one of the host riders, as they say in the press meaning one of the French fellows, said to Cavendish - "hey, why don't you back off a bit, and, heh heh, be a sportsman, and let one of us have Bastille Day?"

And I'm guessing Cavendish said something like, "Sod off, you pissant! Do you think I'm going to gift you a stage because it's the Frog's 4th of July? Not bloody likely!" Or words to that effect.

And as Cavendish rode away, leaving them in the dust, he probably said something British like, "And wasn't Bastille Day rather a sort of a prison break? Makes for an odd holiday, eh? Well, God bless the Queen!, got to push off now. Cheerio!

Cavendish's failure to let the French win is then attacked anonymously in the press as "racist". This is what they think is racism. They think they embrace diversity by letting the Italians ride.

A few points:
  • We're selling newspapers with controversy, that's what the Tour is about.
  • This shows how the peloton really doesn't see racism clearly.
  • BTW, Lance announced the winner to a reporter before the day's riding had begun, which probably put the French in a snit.

What probably really happened was: some of the teams had come to an arrangement that Cavendish would get delivered to the front with some help from ostensibly competing teams, and all things being equal he'd probably win. That frosted the French riders who wanted a present on their birthday.

The broker of the deal was probably Lance, who's known as "The Boss" in the peleton because of just this sort of - well, leadership. Sometime later in the tour, Cav's team will owe the broker some accommodation. That's the way the peleton works.

The Tour de France: Racist. Anti-Semitic. Yellow journalism. Sexist.

(Sorry, Sexist is tomorrow's topic.)

                 All Colors, No Brothers


GregC said...

When Cav, or any other sprinter, wins a stage in a bunch sprint do you not see the other competing riders nearly bust a gut to beat him? The teams in the peloton may agree to collaborate to deliver thier spinters to the front; they don't decide who wins a stage.

In Europe we do regard negative comments against people of other nationalities as racism. May not fit your definition but there you go.

How many black cyclists are there on the US Cycling team(s) do you think?

btw Cav is a Manxman and proud of it; not British in the strict sense

Thought provoking blog btw if some of the logic is a little muddled

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