By Josh Wawrzyniak
Cyclists have been racing through the mountains and valleys of Europe in the Tour de France for 114 years. It is widely known as the greatest cycling contest on Earth but its popularity in America has been struggling.
So why isn’t this legendary race so interesting to American viewers?
American riders have not necessarily had a successful history in the sport of cycling. Only two Americans, Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong, have ever won the sport’s biggest event, the Tour de France. America rarely has a rider that is truly in contention for the yellow jersey, so it leaves American fans with no one to root for. The biggest hero in American cycling history is perhaps the person that ruined the sport forever.
Lance Armstrong used to be an American sports hero. He seemed like such an amazing story, as he came back from cancer to win seven straight Tour de France titles. Armstrong dominated cycling in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He drew swarms of fans from America as they appreciated his fighting spirit.
Everything changed for Armstrong when doping allegations on him spiralled out of control. Throughout his career, he had dodged many accusations of doping as many other riders had, but it soon became clear that there was a reason for Armstrong’s dominance. After many trials and denying, Armstrong finally gave into the allegations, which there was evidence for and in 2012, it became official that Armstrong’s career had been enhanced by blood doping and all seven of his Tour de France yellow jerseys were stripped.
“Lance Armstrong is seen as really the worst cheater in sports,” USA Today columnist Christine Brennan said.
Clearly, the way Armstrong had cheated for so long left the world appalled by his actions when everyone found out.
Brennan also explained how Armstrong’s cheat left Americans and the entire world with a horrible view on cycling
“If you can’t trust what your eyes are watching, why would you watch,” Brennan said.
Armstrong, the man who had drew an entire generation to the sport, is perhaps the reason that the sport will never be viewed the same.
There are many other reasons that Americans do not appreciate cycling as much. For example, the amount of team sports that are offered to the athletes, fans and media, much outweigh other individual sports such as cycling.
Brent Bookwalter, an American cyclist for BMC Racing Team, explained how he and others are not necessarily encouraged to move towards cycling at an early age.
“Cycling is quite popular in USA but as kids, we participate in many other sports,” Bookwalter said in a tweet.“Most kids dream to be a pro basketball or football player.”
Bookwalter brings up a great point that children in America do not think of cycling as one of the popular sports. As an American child grows up, they do not see cycling on television and their friends do not participate in it; instead they are surrounded by many other, more popular sports.
Americans also consider cycling as more of a leisure activity or hobby. This view can be attributed to the lack of major races that are held in America. Americans have hundreds of team sports stadiums to go to anytime of the year and there is only a few major cycling races across the country every year. A lack of exposure to this great sport is certainly a strong reason that it is unpopular in the United States.
For Europeans, cycling is a lifestyle. It is a major form of transportation and the amount of people that have a bicycle is much more than in America.
According to Krista Driscoll of Summit Daily, “European culture embraces cycling and soccer much like Americans hold dear football and tailgating.”
The U.S. clearly has a variety of other sports that take fans away from cycling whereas Europeans appreciate much more. This prejudice against cycling makes complete sense as they usually do not have a top contending cyclist, America’s biggest cycling hero turned into a most repulsive cheater, and America’s views are clouded by other sports.
Despite a lack of support from the majority of the United States, cycling remains a very popular sport worldwide and an exciting sport to watch on television and especially view live.
Photo Credit: The Guardian