A recent Wall Street Journal article about the Tour de France and the fact that the family owned company that puts on this anual event, is considering selling it.
There was speculation that Lance Armstrong might be interested in buying, however, Lance immediately rejected the idea saying. “I love the Tour de France, but I am not interested in owning it.”
The latest news is that a young French Internet Billionaire, named Jacques LeLad, is the latest to show interest in the event. If this happens, it will change the Tour de France as we know it. LeLad is a twenty-something French Hipster and fixed wheel enthusiast. His plans are to change the TDF to a fixed only event.
The Tour de France does of course have a fixed wheel history. From its beginnings in 1903 up until 1938, the event was restricted to a single fixed gear. This was at the whim of then owner Henri Desgrange, whose opinion was that multiple gears took away from the purity and simplicity of the sport. Multiple gears had been available some years before 1938.
In the old days of the race, it took a course over the French Alps as it does today.
The single gear riders would stop at the foot of a climb, remove the rear wheel, and turn it around to a larger sprocket on the opposite side of the wheel. Repeating the process again at the top of the mountain in readiness for the descent.
In a recent interview, Jacques LeLad said that if his bid was successful there would be no more mountain stages. Through a translator he said,
“Fixie Bikes are of the street, and that is where the race should be.”
It will become a series of street races held in the larger French cities. The competitors will travel from one stage to the next in tour buses.
When asked if he thought the French public would come out to watch such an event, LeLad replied that he was unconcerned about spectators, as the event would draw fixie enthusiasts from all over the world. “They will be ’ere in their millions.” He quipped.
The sad thing is that he is probably right, and in this economy the French government is not going to turn away millions of potential tourists. It is doubtful the French government will stand in the way of this move.
The UCI, (The world governing body of cycling.) is powerless in the matter, as the Tour de France organizers, are a privately owned company.
There is a website where fans of the Tour de France as we know it can lodge a protest. At this time it is all we can do.