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Old 07-25-08, 09:44 AM   #1
Walter
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Does a US rider have to ride the TdF....

to become well known in America?

Let me set up a hypothetical and I'd be interested in some thoughts.

Lance Armstrong recovers from cancer but rather than take a new approach and try to win the TdF he throws himself back into the Classics and has success similar to what he ended up having in France. Multiple Paris-Roubaix victories, dominates the other "Monuments" as well. Let's throw in a a handful of green jerseys and few more rainbow jerseys too. Basically, he becomes an American Sean Kelly, which, as many of you know, would be an incredible career.

Americans who follow cycling are impressed and talk about him, he's still an inspiration to tens of thousands cancer patients but does he become Lance (no last name needed)?

Btw what this thread is not is some backhanded way to slam Armstrong, he's just the obvious example to build my hypothetical cyclist around so please leave that stuff out.


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Old 07-25-08, 09:47 AM   #2
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No one outside of cycling knew who Lemond or Armstrong were before the TdF wins.

Winning the Tour is a North American rider's only shot at getting people to give a damn.
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Old 07-25-08, 09:58 AM   #3
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Probably because we do not have a Tour de USA? And the fact Americans just don't pay much attention to cycling. Unfortunately, One day races just do not seem to catch on outside of the cycling community. One day races seem to catch the immaginations of Europeans , as an example; all pay attention to who wins the Tour de Giro or Roubaix. A better comparsion might be comparing the US to countries where there are no nation wide bike tours. Australia. Would an Australian cyclist get attention before he signed on with an EU team?
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Old 07-25-08, 10:04 AM   #4
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If it doesn't happen on TV, it didn't happen. I think any cyclist that does not perform well in the TdF will not be well known in the USA.
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Old 07-25-08, 10:13 AM   #5
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Probably because we do not have a Tour de USA?
Nah. Ask the average Californian who won the Tour of California. Ask the average Missourian who won the inaugural Tour of Missouri. Most won't have a clue.

Ask them what Armstrong won, or who he is, and they will say Tour de France. They won't have a clue he won the World Championship in 1993 or a couple of Tours du Pont stateside prior to his cancer.

The TdF for casual sports fans is like the Kentucky Derby or the Indy 500. Sure, they will watch those races, but probably don't realize how many other events make up those sports.

So, to answer the OP question, yes, an American pretty much has to win the TdF to become 'known' to the public at large.
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Old 07-25-08, 10:16 AM   #6
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With Lance I think it was sort of turned into an industry what with the bracelets and all the commercials and his generally photogenic appearance, the "heroic comeback from cancer" stuff, and all that. I don't really look for cycling in mainstream advertising or media (and I gave up my TV years ago), but I saw Lance being commercially pushed all over the place anyway when he was big. I don't see that with any other riders at all.

Hell, I lived in Santa Rosa, California, where Leipheimer lives, and I didn't see a damned thing about him even there. I'd bet most Americans don't know who Floyd Landis is either, and he sort of won a TdF.
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Old 07-25-08, 11:08 AM   #7
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Basically yes. Davis Phinney has won more races than any modern american cyclist, and very few non cyclists know who he is.

Chris Horner dominated american races for several years and ditto.

Hampstenwins the Giro, and a stage on L'Alpe de Huez and ditto.

Perhaps if we had an American Tom Boonen consistently winning classics and world champinships, those would start to get a bit more American TV attention, and the rider would get some American noteriety, but it wouldn't approacvh Armstrong, or even Lemond.
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Old 07-25-08, 12:05 PM   #8
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Perhaps if we had an American Tom Boonen consistently winning classics and world champinships, those would start to get a bit more American TV attention, and the rider would get some American noteriety, but it wouldn't approacvh Armstrong, or even Lemond.
So if an American rider would someday duplicate Kelly's impressive palmares he may become known but the general public won't be referring to him by just his first name?

You're probably right. Wonder if that'll change?


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Old 07-25-08, 12:54 PM   #9
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It's not that a "U.S. rider has to ride in the TdF to become well known in America", but also has to have the talent to win/contend and be the team leader or #1 rider for that team. Then there is interest on how well they do in GC. Fame comes with winning and in this day and age, their personal looks and personality that is marketable and recognizable beyond the cycling world.

TV exposure/coverage is also important. Before cable, a "minor sport" had to hope ABC Wide World of Sports covered one of their events and when Greg Lemond emerged as a viable TdF contender, the coverage increased from a one-day highlights of the entire race, to recaps of the week of racing, to actually showing the final few stages on weekends. The TdF drug busts of recent years isn't helping to increase the popularity of cycling and VERSUS isn't covering the other 'majors' like they do with the TdF...although I have seen more coverage of the U.S. based races, in particular, the Tour of California, which has recently gained ASO as a partner to get more worldwide coverage.

It's no different than Tennis or Golf and contending or winning one of the majors, or the Indy 500 (before the IRL when it was open to all comers), or even the Olympics. How many really know the people on their Olympic teams before and remember them after the event...even if they win?
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Old 07-25-08, 12:55 PM   #10
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I agree with everyone else on this. No he would not have the kind of fame he has now if he hadn't won in the tour. I dated a girl for a few months and she came over while I was watching one of the spring classics and a few riders that she heard me talk about before were mentioned, she asked what I was watching and I explained, she then explained that she thought that the people who ride in the TdF only ride in that race and spend the rest of the year training for it. I've met other people that are the same way; they think that there is only one real pro race each year. So without winning that you couldn't (in the US) possibly become a household name outside of cycling fans to the point of Lance or Lemond. Same goes for soccer in the US, most people essentially think that there is the World Cup and the rest of the year they just practice for that one tournement.

I think another part of it too is that it seems like Americans are the ones that the race itself dislikes to a point. I think that is more of public perception and not a fact though. But it's similar to Bobby Fischer, he could have won every chess match he entered and not been a household name, it was beating the Russians at their own game so to speak that got him his fame (and subsequently his insane antics and absurd statements that kept him famous (... Greg Lemond?))

Those are just my opinions on it,
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Old 07-25-08, 01:11 PM   #11
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Sadly, I doubt the average American (ie - one who is not specifically a cycling fan) could even name another race other than the Tour de France. The exception would be if they had a big local race such as the Tour of California, the Philly race, etc.

Becoming famous by winning a lot of races that no one has heard of will be a challenge, since it won't be on the 11 o'clock news. If by some odd chance it would make it on, then it would be out of the person's mind by 11:30.
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Old 07-25-08, 02:06 PM   #12
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Unfortunately I have to agree. Lance is Lance because he won 7 in a row. Beating the French and everyone else at a European dominated sport. Americans of which I am one will follow things that get tv coverage. If every EU soccer match or Englands A and B leagues were on TV every night I am sure we would be rabid soccer fans by now. I think most of us on these forums are better informed than most, and honeslty even my wife has no idea who Eddy Merckx is or what he did, or even who Floyd was or what contrversy is still swarming around the man. I am lucky that I have the Tour of California in my backyard, litteraly.. I plan to take time off and watch the 2009 in person. Hopefully we will see more and more coverage. VS has been steadly increasing their coverage of the major tours. It isn't perfect but it is a start. Maybe we will see fans arrise. And from a marketing stand point lets face it Rock Racing has bling to no end. If they keep thier noses clean and place well who knows...
But Lance is Lance no way around it. He came back from cancer and was dominant. He captured the attention and hearts of the public because of this. And of course winning the TDF sky rocketed him to stardom.
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Old 07-25-08, 02:23 PM   #13
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There are some fundamental differences between Tours and one day races which make tours much more marketable to a neophite audience in a country that has a hopeful.

Tours last several days, you can build on yesterday.

The hopeful is much more likely to at least accomplish something. One mistake in a one day and you are middle of the pack. Unless a contender crashes out he still is going to be top 10 almost surely top 20.

But perhaps the biggest thing is that because a tour lumps things the chance to look outstanding is far higher. Win a major tour (any major, any combination) and you are sellable as a great rider. On hte classics end it is much harder. There is more random influences, the best rider does not always or even usually win. Look at the 5 monuments and the worlds, the top 6 classics. What comes out as special? Winning 2 in a year? Don't think so. Winning 2 each year for 2 years? Don't think so. OK 2 or more 3 years in a row, yes, but it has to be sold, and not that many have done it. Win Worlds and Paris-Roubaix in the same year? I'd say so, but it has to be sold and only 3 riders have ever done this. Win 3 out of the 6 in a year. I'd say so but again a sell and only 3 have ever done this. 4 out of 6 in a year. I'd hope this is an easy sell. But selling Eddy as great always has been easy, he is the only one to do this.

Oh and the great year for classics doesn't have the nice warning of tours. Most tour contenders show warning, clear and easy. And if you miss the first year the next looks good. In classics it is still clear who the good riders are, but it is not at all clear just which year things will fall right, and having a great year one year seldom indicates that the next will be great.
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Old 07-25-08, 02:33 PM   #14
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Most interest in Lance never translated into a genuine interest in the sport of cycling anyway IMO. I'm sure there was more interest among Americans in cycling as a sport during the bike boom of the seventies (during the Merckx era) than there is now post-Lemond and post-Armstrong. The current bike boom, fueled by gas prices (like the last one) will inevitably mean a little bump in interest because of all the newbies, some of them will get into it more seriously and develop an interest in the sport, both participating and watching.

But who cares if an American cyclist ever gets famous in the US again? It's not the measure of a cycling superstar.
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Old 07-25-08, 03:07 PM   #15
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Not only would an American rider have to win the Tour de France, he would have to do it twelve times in a row. And he would have to have come back from cancer, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and ricketts. And he would have to be better looking and better on camera than Lance, i.e. not Floyd.


So no.
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Old 07-25-08, 07:52 PM   #16
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Keith, your points about the differences between the Classics and the GT are valid. My hypothetical Lance would've enjoyed success in the Classics comparable to what the real Lance enjoyed at the TdF. This would have been unprecedented success, surpassing even Merckx and he would've competed for and won Green Jerseys as well. My original comparison of Kelly was inadequate for my hypothetical model.

Now such a level of success in the Classics is probably impossible for many of the reasons you point out but if it had happened would Americans be going ga-ga over ancient cobbled roads and green jerseys?

I'm doubtful but maybe..?


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Old 07-25-08, 08:22 PM   #17
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an american could win paris - roubaix like 7 years in a row but if he didnt win the tdf a few times to go with it most people would never know him. elsewhere in the world though...
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Old 07-25-08, 08:46 PM   #18
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an american could win paris - roubaix like 7 years in a row but if he didnt win the tdf a few times to go with it most people would never know him. elsewhere in the world though...

Just a little bit of Devil's advocate here. Lemond, and then Armstrong winning multiple TDFs gave the event what popularity and recognition it has in the US.

If an American was dominating the classics year over year, those races would gradually get more US coverage and recogntion. It wouldn't rise to the level of the TDF, or Armstrong's recognition, but there gradually would be more recognition.
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Old 07-25-08, 09:34 PM   #19
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If an American track rider won three Olympic gold metals he’d be a huge media star. A great classics rider could never get really famous here because very few Americans have heard of the classics.
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Old 07-25-08, 10:20 PM   #20
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I wonder if the classics getting famous would have been better for the sport in the US. I don't think most americans have the attention span to watch a month long race...
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Old 07-25-08, 11:25 PM   #21
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One big difference today is that the YouTube, streaming Web generation has much more access to cycling events - as they happen.

How many of you older guys ever saw Roubaix, Worlds, Flanders et al as they happened?

Nowadays, you hear younger guys laughing about Schleck getting launched into a tree - the day after it happened. That kind of stuff was the secret, unseen 'Legend' of cycling. You had to dream what Milan-San Remo looked like. Hardly the case anymore.

I think cycling (racing) is still a 'Time/Money' sport for most of us. Like sailing. You have the extra T&M and you race. The rest of buy the best toys we can afford and hit the roads hard. Lots of us out here.
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Old 07-26-08, 03:24 AM   #22
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If every EU soccer match or Englands A and B leagues were on TV every night I am sure we would be rabid soccer fans by now.
I wonder how many people subscribe to Fox Soccer Channel or Gol TV. I have both.

I can watch five Premiership games, three or four La Liga matches, Serie A, Bundesliga, matches from the Argentinean league, Brazil, and other places.

MLS is all over network and ESPN, plus the soccer channels.

It's there.

Lance is famous because he won the hardest sporting event in the world and defeated cancer. His fame was made even larger due to marketing by Nike, Oakely, etc...that's where he became a household word. You know, where people yell at you when you are riding, "Hey Lance! Get the f**k off the road!!"

I met Lance right after he won in 1999. It was an awards event. He was up for an award, and did not win. I still chuckle about that. Some snowboarder who won a couple of gold medals won, believe it or not. Afterward, he was at the reception, and hardly anyone really knew who he was...talked to him for a good ten minutes.
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Old 07-26-08, 03:29 AM   #23
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How many of you older guys ever saw Roubaix, Worlds, Flanders et al as they happened?
I guess I am an older guy.

I saw Flanders and LBL "as they happened." Because I used to live there.

But I get your point.

Since the advent of satellite transmissions, we can now watch things live we used to have to wait for on Wide World of Sports. With technology advances comes more availability.

For me, because I was racing at 8 years old on a team back east that was run by people that had immigrated to the US from Belgium, I was introduced to the big events by them. And it was possible to get magazines and the like to look at and read about events after they occurred.
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Old 07-26-08, 03:37 AM   #24
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How many really know the people on their Olympic teams before and remember them after the event...even if they win?
Eric Heiden

Mark Spitz

Michael Phelps

Carl Lewis

Edwin Moses

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Rafer Johnson

Bruce Jenner

Bob Beamon

Wilma Rudolph

Jim Thorpe

Jesse Owens

Connie Caprenter

Nelson Vails

Mark Gorski

to name a few. I can do more if you like.

Phelps will be up there twice once he disposes of the pretenders in China.

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