2012 Tour de France. For many of us it is amongst the top sporting events of the year and I can honestly say that I look forward to it for months ahead of time. But others see a large shadow looming over the sport of cycling as doping scandals mount and big name stars drop like flies. I even have some close personal friends who don't tune in to watch the Tour any more. For them, Outside magazine has put together a list of five reasons we should all watch this year.
Outside's list includes some compelling reasons, at least for someone like me who is already a big fan of the sport. That list includes the following:
No Clear Favorite - The race is wide open this year, especially with Alberto Condator banned and Andy Schleck out with an injury. 2011 champ Cadel Evans will be back to defend of course.
Extreme Carnage - Not sure I agree with this one, as I'm not the kind of person who tunes in to auto racing to watch the wrecks either. But there are always nasty crashes at the Tour, although it'll be tough to top some of the big ones from last year.
Fastest Bikes Ever - The top cycling companies continue to refine their designs and as a result, the bikes are improving nearly every year. This year's bikes will certainly be the fastest to ever hit the roads of France. Speaking for myself personally, the bike porn is part of the reason I enjoy watching so much. I can't help but drool over those machines I'll probably never get to ride, let alone own.
It is a "race of truth" - This is a reference to the time trials that are always a part of the Tour de France. I know I love it when the race comes down to two or three great riders dueling it out for the Yellow Jersey. Hell, everyone loves that. Except maybe the Schleck brothers.
American Riders - Outside is an American magazine, so of course they're going to cheer on the toop American cyclists, even if there is little chance of one making the podium. The U.S. does have a very good crop of up and coming riders however and it will be fun to watch them mature and gain experience in the race. I suspect we'll see Tyler Farrar contending for some sprint finishes at the very least, although I'm not sure anyone can touch Mark Cavendish for the Green Jersey.
The article on Outside Online goes more into detail in each category and it is a good way to get the juices following for the beginning of the race next Saturday. I'll be doing regular coverage as much as I can this year. I know I for one don't need an incentive to watch. Can't wait!