The Tour de France: The Worst Sport That's Worth Watching

#2. Crashes

Just like a game of Mario Kart, it doesn't matter how phenomenal a racer is in the Tour de France, objects in the road are always the great equalizer. While riders will never tumble over a fake prize box or an errant green shell, the things they do trip over are equally bizarre. Most notably: dogs. The tour has seen so many dogs wandering into the path of bikers and causing massive accidents that logic would suggest France invent some sort of leather or nylon cord an owner could attach to the dog's collar while holding the other end in order to restrict its movements.

Something like this, except for dogs.

Even though the dogs bend bike rims with their bodies, they generally end up just fine after one of these crashes. The riders, on the other hand, never fare as well and often leave the race with broken collar bones and busted faces. Crashes on the Tour can be career-ending and the fault can lie with something as simple as a Coke bottle. With consequences that high, accidents are the most memorable parts of a Tour, and they become the main reason why people tune in to watch. The irony then, is that sometimes the media coverage is exactly what causes the accidents.

While that particular accident almost looks intentional, the French media car was trying to avoid a tree and instead clipped a biker since human bodies are more forgiving to car hoods than tree trunks. The car was trying to get ahead of the pack to get a better shot of the leaders and instead changed the entire outcome of the stage, and the career of at least two racers.

Still, it's the prospect of disaster that makes a sport like bicycle riding compelling. If long distance runners could bump into spectators and careen off into barbwire fences, then more people would probably watch marathons. Biking, by nature, is just boring to sit through unless there is a threat of mortal peril. The Tour de France offers that perpetual threat around every turn, manifesting itself in unpredictable animals, melting roads and especially fans.

#1. Fans

The Tour is unique in that it's one of the only worldwide events held in the streets instead of a stadium, which means anyone can go watch for free, even idiots. What's more, there's nothing separating the fans from the riders and the results are exactly what you would expect, only more absurd.

Throw "French" into the equation and the rabbit hole has no bottom.

Nothing makes sense about these fans. Many of them have outfits so far unrelated to cycling or the Tour that it looks like they just walked into a costume store and panicked. And when they can't get a costume in time, then apparently the next best option is to just go naked, because everyone does that too.

"I don't know how to focus my admiration!"

Aside from the distraction inherent to fat naked men in capes, fans will also dart out in front of cyclists with flags and move them away at the last second like a bullfighter -- or they'll run next to bikers trying, to have candid conversations with them, oblivious to the fact that the cyclists are in the most pain they've ever felt in their lives.

This fan was likely either having sex or taking a shit when he suddenly remembered there was something important he had to do.

I'm assuming this is all meant to encourage the rider, yet for such die-hard fans of the sport, it's shocking how frequently they forget how bicycles work.

"Hey, that's a cool wheelie thing you ha- aaAAAGHHN!"

In addition, every fan of one rider is an enemy to the others, heckling takes on a new meaning when spectators are within distance to punch riders they don't like as they pass. That level of intimacy with fanatics is terrifying and remarkable to witness, from the comfort of my couch.

With naked or costumed spectators pouring onto the course and acting as costumed meat hazards, the whole thing is such a hot mess of insanity that I almost feel bad for the cyclists. Still, I will encourage it all by watching it, all of it. Not because I care who wins the climbs or the sprints, but because I'm sucked in by the controversies, the pouting heroes and especially because I want to see which naked guy in a snorkel mask will ruin the race next.

For more from Soren, check out Using Charity to Help The Third World (Worship You as a God). Or learn more about the hilarity of cycling in 5 Reasons Riding a Bike Is The Most Humiliating Exercise.

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Soren Bowie

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