|We're shocked and saddened to announce this, but Christian Prudhomme and Jean-Marie Leblanc, directors of the Tour de France, have announced that Americans will be banned from the 2006 and following Tours de France. It appears that recent American domination of the Tour, as well as other European road races has led Tour organizers to offer a French win in the only way possible — by banning the most dominant competitors!|
In fact, the Tour organizers have actually banned all riders from nations where French is not the first or second language spoken. That means that riders from France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Tunisia, and the French-speaking part of Switzerland will be allowed to compete. Pro Tour stars such as George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer and Danilo Di Luca will not be permitted in the '06 Grand Boucle. Here's what the Tour organizers had to say:
On the 24th of July, 2005 we turned the page on a long, very long chapter in the history of the Tour de France. And one month later, current events made it clear to us that it was just as well that this was so. Does this justify closing the entire book and erasing all the emotions that, for so many years, the Tour and its champions have provided us with? Taken as a whole, judged on its lifelong worth — like an artist or a poet — and in particular on its future productions, we want to believe that the Tour de France deserves a better fate. The dream that it embodies, the values that it is capable of generating mean that it has a duty to be able to hold its head up in pride and to allow its host nation to hold its head up in pride.
It is towards this goal that we are working, as of now, on of this 2006 edition which will feature only French-speaking riders. This will allow French viewers to finally experience the joy of French victory. No longer will French riders be beaten by American, Texan, Canadian, Australian, Kiwi, British, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, Italian, German, Austrian, Portugese, Russian, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Tajik, Mexican, Colombian, and Venezuelan riders. Now the French public will see French victory and be able to relate to the victors. No longer will they see the victory of obsessively focused athletes who train night and day, devote every waking minute to victory and don't have an ounce of fat. Now they will see true French victors: athletes who train every now and again, drink a little too much wine in the off season and have a belly to match. These French patriots will provide a true display of the human spirit.
Whoa! We were a little shocked by this but there's much more. When we contacted the Tour organizers by email, they were even more candid. Christian Prudhomme commented, "We just got tired of seeing Lance Armstrong stomp everyone else. It was boring and we didn't like him. I do not want to say it is political but we are not big fans of Americans right now. This is a French race, it is a cultural treasure. We need to ensure the sport's health in France to ensure the future of the Tour. In our dream scenario the Tour would be won by a Frenchman named Fabien Cool — because that would just be very, how you say, cool."
After this slap in the face, we had to contact Lance Armstrong. The 7-time Tour champ had this to say from his home in Texas, "Now you know why I retired. I'm so sick of dealing with these guys. Look, I've proved beyond any doubt that I was the strongest rider in the Tour for 7 years straight. When Bernard Hinault proved he was the best they loved it. With me, they hate it. Look, I can't change their cultural prejudices. Frankly, we tried to be diplomatic. I mean, we gave the French riders gimmes every Bastille Day. I mean, when else have you seen a French rider win in the Tour, or out of France for that matter? Sometimes I wonder if these guys should even get UCI points. I mean, they only get points for minor-league races in France that don't have any outside competition. I know third-rate U.S. teams that deserve to ride the Tour more than these French teams. Well, now the Tour can be won by some Jean-Francois-Scrub rider — good for the French."
One rider who asked not to be named had this to say, "I think it's a conspiracy. They were looking at a potential 20 years of American victors. After Lance (Armstrong) you had Tyler (Hamilton), Floyd (Landis) and Levi (Leipheimer) all lined up. After that you had (Dave) Zabriskie and (Tom) Danielson. Why do you think Tyler Hamilton "crashed" in every Tour he had a chance to win? Why do you think Zabriskie just happened to "slip" while wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour? That's, how do they say it, sabotage! Then, after the Tour, Levi won the Tour of Germany and now Floyd just won the Paris-Nice race that they organize. That was the last straw. They say the ban is on non-French speaking riders, but it's really just to keep us Americans out of the Tour. Conspiracy — HELLO!"
Not every rider agreed with this interpretation. We caught up with Gilberto Simoni at the Tour of California. He thought it was personal, "Buongiorno," he greeted us with a shrug, "maaaahh, they say is to stop American riders, but I think the Tour tries to stop me. Okay, in 2004 I make a not-so-beautiful Tour, maahh, this year I win tutti i Tour. I say for many years I beat Lance in mountains. Now Lance retire, who will stop me? I want to make a beautiful Tour with attacks in the mountains and drop all the riders but now the organizzazione say I can't ride. Questa é un vergogno, e i copabile sono le Francese." He said a couple of other things in Italian but we were pretty sure they were swear words so we left them out.
So how will the Tour attract the world attention that it gained over the last 20 years? Well, the Tour organizers plan to gloss over the lack of competitive riders with unbelievably attractive Podium girls.
|Personally, we think the real key to all of this may be an incident that occurred a month after the end of the 2005 Tour. Apparently, Leblanc and Armstrong met a month after L'Equipe's mudslinging claims of EPO use. The conversation started civilly but soon tempers flared and the meeting escalated to violence.|