2019 Tour De France Observations

2019 Tour De France Observations

I am a fan of the Tour De France and decided to purchase an NBC Gold Pass to watch the race this year in its entirety. Viewing this much of the Tour exposed me to a lot about the race I did not know, and gave me an opportunity to really get down into the drama of it. Here were some key takeaways after my three week sojourn.

The Race

  • Chris Froome’s absence might have made this race more interesting. Many riders probably won stages that Froome would have dominated if he was present. I initially thought that the Tour without Chris would be disappointing for me personally, but I was wrong. It was a great event.
  • Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot gave everything they could to win this race for the French. Pinot ultimately abandoned the race because of injury, but I’m curious if the last few stages would have played out differently for Alaphilippe without that freak hailstorm.
  • Egan Bernal’s youth and maturity make me wonder if we’re looking at the next all dominating professional cyclist. I can’t imagine how excited Columbia is to have him win this race.
  • How much longer will Peter Sagan be the best sprinter in the field? He’s still fast, but are others catching up?
  • I can’t help but think Nairo Quintana winning stage 18 was a middle finger to Movistar. I know he’s moving teams next year, but after his current crew dropped him earlier, winning this stage completely without assistance spoke volumes. I have wondered if Quintana could race at the level of expectations most have for him, but am even more curious what will happen with some fire lit underneath him.
  • The Time Trials are boring to watch but have massive consequences for the general classification. Not sure if teams will hit the snooze button on this one again given what Team Jumbo-Visma did on Stage Two and JA in the individuals.
  • Looking at the list of stage winners is like looking into a bowl of vegetable soup. It seems every rider won a stage including Ewan, Nibali, Viviani, Groenewegen, De Gendt, Van Aert etc.
  • American cycling was underrepresented again with TJ Vangarderen being the highest ranked rider. Unfortunately, with his injury and abandonment of the race, we had no one else to watch for our country. What can American cycling do in the future to increase its talent pool?
  • I’m glad to see the race doing something about the spectators on the mountain rides. They were getting out of control and mobbing the riders. I’m sure none of the riders appreciated the constant yelling into their ears and butt spanks they got. You’d think they’d get sore after awhile. This time around the spectators kept more of a distance and seemed to police themselves better.

NBC Sports

  • Watching these races on demand is the only way I could make it happen this year given how long the stages are. I usually just let them play in the late afternoons as background to help me advance through my lower value, busywork tasks.
  • I was floored to see Lance Armstrong give race observations. I don’t foresee cycling fans wanting to let him back in the discussion though, so curious what NBC has planned for him in the future.
  • I found watching the first and last hour of the NBC sports feed and everything in the middle on the commercial free feed the best way to watch the event.
  • The aerial views were decent this year and showed a part of France I did not know existed, including remnants from the wars of religion. The historical portions are always a great add-on for the Tour. Also, I didn’t realize that it was cover for the cyclists when they stopped to relieve themselves!
  • NBC did a good job celebrating Paul Sherwen’s life. Bob Roll moving to the broadcast booth worked and I’m glad because I like him. Chris Fournier joining the analyst’s table worked well despite a few awkward encounters between him and Christian Vande Velde. The addition of the computer animated graphics board was pretty neat too.

My package also gives me access to bike races throughout the year. I’ll watch the Vuelta for sure, although I’d love to also see the Giro. My understanding is the latter is only shown on a specific European cable package and I don’t see me subscribing to that as well.