I can't remember if it was Cycling News or Velo News, but one of the two the other day was soliciting reader comments on the question of which of the three grand tours fans liked best. As I was looking for just about any excuse to avoid work, I responded. They didn't publish it, so I'll post my letter here.
You asked which of the three-week events is my favorite.
For my money, it’s still the Tour. The reason, more than anything else, is that everyone goes. It’s less a French tour than it is the world’s tour. The Giro is too full of Italians. The Vuelta too full of Spanish. But everyone goes to the Tour.
In my late-night fantasies, the stars, the real GC contenders, would bring their A game to every grand tour. But as I recognize that isn’t practical, or perhaps not even possible, I wish that there were some kind of tacit agreement that everyone who is anyone would race in at least two of the three events. And when I say race, I mean really race. Nothing diminishes a rider’s credibility more in my eyes than to hear him say he is doing a particular race “for training.” Sure, you can’t legitimately give every race your all, and we all race to train, but this kind of media-facilitated gamesmanship of fan expectations is disingenuous at best, and clearly diminishes the significance of the event for those who did come to compete. Yet another reason I like the Tour best—no one comes to the Tour “for training.”