Tour de Ads

By Maynard Hershon

As this is written, the Tour de France has been over for a week. I’m delighted by the length of post-Tour days, days without two or three hours of early TV watching. Tour time is the only time all year when our TV is on before 5 p.m.

Now that it’s over, I can ride my bike in the cool of the mornings!

I’m delighted that I no longer have to be subjected to hundreds of obnoxious commercials. OK, they make it possible for the Tour to be broadcast to living rooms all across this great land, but so awful are those ads, even with the sound muted and so irritatingly often they are repeated, the ads backfire. I come to resent the outfits represented in the commercials.

Those ads work as anti-ads, convincing me not to buy whatever it was, not ever.

I care about the companies represented in the ads almost as much as they care about me. It’s a three-week race after all. Mr. and Ms. Marketing, please make more than two ads. Make ads that are not insulting. Give the viewer credit for some measure of intelligence.

If the viewer can understand that the eventual winner doesn’t need to win even one stage, how stupid can that person be? If he or she can keep track of yellow, polka-dotted, white and green jersey wearers, will ads written for simpletons change his or her buying habits?

Please, Mr. Marketing, don’t buy so much airtime that I know the dialogue in your ad by heart, even though I’ve never watched it with the sound on.

I’m sure that companies feel they reach a certain juicy demographic by advertising during the Tour broadcasts. I hate feeling that I am part of some identifiable demographic, that I can be sold to effectively in short video messages repeated every few minutes for hours, day

after day.

We’re talking about messages repeated ad nauseam, especially during the loathsome lead-ups to the uninterrupted breathless segments at the ends of stages.

Does Cadillac feel that the Tour-watching public is peppered with folks longing for new land yachts? My wife Tamar reminded me that not long ago it was Lincoln’s huge Navigator featured in Tour ads. Do you know any cyclists with Navigators? Cadillacs?

Granted some cyclists will spend $10- or $15,000 on a bicycle, does that mean they’ll spend Cadillac money for a mere car.

Do bike racing fans really respond positively to slogans like Cadillac’s “Dare Greatly?” Lord I hope not. Maybe “breathe deeply,” “eat hearty” or “pedal strongly,” but “Dare Greatly?”

I should at this point mention Hannah and her horse. And her goat. So impressed am I with Hannah and her menagerie, that I promise, word of honor, never to purchase or even watch Direct TV. No matter how big her boobs are.

Next year I am, for various reasons, not going to watch the first week of the Tour. If I skip that first week, I’ll miss a week of commercial breaks, a benefit like not being beaten and robbed.

I don’t care much about watching sprint finishes. I never had much of a sprint myself so I never identified with sprinters, guys who sit on wheels for hours, protected from the wind by their teammates, waiting for the final few kilometers to position themselves for the rush to the line.


Each year, it seems, there is a sprinter du jour who wins the lion’s share of the flat stages. I never cared much about Mark Cavendish nor do I care about Andre Greipel. I wonder if Phil and Paul, ace commentators, care about stage victories won in sprint finishes, or if they are paid to generate excitement, so they fake it. I’d have to fake it.

I do care about mountain stages, however. For me, those stages are the Tour de France. Up the hills and down — I have ridden in the Motorola car in the Giro d’Italia, and I have ridden my motorcycle, carrying a photographer or a neutral mechanic, with the guys at major U.S. stage races. The speeds the pros ride are just amazing. The descending is especially crazy. It’s a war

out there.

I won’t watch the flat first week of next year’s Tour because many of the guys who would shine later on the mountain roads will not survive the first week. They’ll get caught in crashes or get knocked down by some nervous no-hoper, and their Tours are over. Maybe their seasons are too.

A week of flat stages means 14 hours in front of the TV. It means hundreds of commercials, each worse than the one before. The riders have to endure the first week on their bikes and we have to endure three weeks with our thumbs poised over the mute buttons.

On the other hand … here are two paragraphs of an email from my kinder, gentler friend Corey in San Antonio, who watches via a DVR:

“On balance, even with the obnoxious ads, there is enough that is good, noble, heroic and righteous about the Tour so that I do try to watch every day while it’s going on. And I’m sad when it’s over.

“It’s not perfect but it’s still pretty impressive on a lot of levels: the logistics, the throngs of fans, and, OMG, the scenery! Hard to sit here in Texas and look at those roads.”

Thanks, Corey!

Before you ask, no, I cannot get excited about Chris Froome. He may be, probably is, the nicest guy one could meet. He may be, surely is, a worthy winner. He may, as you have already heard, lack a certain, how you say, elegance on a bike, but that lack does not seem to make him slow.

Last year, after the first week decimated the Tour peloton, I found myself rooting for Vincenzo Nibali. I like watching him ride his bike and I like his statements in interviews. You may also like Nibali or have some other Tour hero. I hope you do.

I think that if you watch the Tour live each morning for three weeks, sans DVR, and you survive the battering of hundreds of commercials aimed right at you, you’re a Tour hero yourself.

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