The Tour of Oman is Pissing Me Off

Bryn Lennon

Yes, yes it is.

Today Cannondale's Peter Sagan escaped from an elite escape including Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador to win the second stage of the Tour of Oman, taking the overall lead. Sagan, the star of 2012, hammered on his Cannondale bike (adorned with FSA parts and wheels), distanced himself on a last-5km mini-climb and descent, and won the stage by five seconds over Tony Gallopin and other big names. I know this because lots of websites can confirm it, because they hire people to watch Twitter. Also, several hours later, I can watch a two minute video, which also confirms what people are saying.

All of this is kind of a nightmare. First off, I am ready to see some road cycling. That's not a commentary on cross. We had a great run this fall and winter. But I'm ready to get back to the big game. Secondly, we are in the middle of the Ed's League draft, as well as the open season for the Big Game. It's prime time to learn about how some guys are looking. Not that you can know all that much, but if Sagan is climbing strongly, that's a pretty good indicator that he's prepared to defend his awesomeness of 2012. Sprints will be what they will be, but even there, if he steps up a notch, nobody should be shocked. Meanwhile, Contador has come out to play. So did Tony Gallopin -- a big sign. Philippe Gilbert? Apparently not so much. That might not mean anything, but after last year's disappointment his buyers are undoubtedly nervous, with good reason.

But I don't really know any of these things, because I can't see any of it with my own eyes. Obviously they are filming, with highlights shot from a helicopter, and yet no full length video. Sorry, but this is the new millenium. If I can't watch, I can't really care. Yeah, in the 1930s cycling was all about selling newspapers, so they made up a bunch of bullshit about what happened in the race and wrote it down in newspapers, which in turn got people excited, and the riders got... well, exploited, but at least on occasion nice things were said about them. Then in the 1950s things shifted to radio, and less stuff was made up, and with practice people could listen and form images in their minds to excite them about the race. At least the parts they were told about.

That doesn't work for me. Yeah, at one point I used to read the agate type and think "Cool! Jim Rice hit a home run!" but not anymore. Now that we can see sports all the time, we... can see sports all the time! So not seeing them isn't as good. Also, it turns out, when you watch for yourself, either with a sharp eye or while chatting with people who have sharp eyes, you can pick up on all the stuff in the race that matters but that is rarely mentioned in short race recaps. Real information, about who's good at cycling right now. Frankly, some of that stuff is mentioned in race recaps nowadays, because we all saw it, and it'd be weird if the guy writing the story, who knows that we saw it, didn't talk about it. Thanks to the relentless presence of video, our connection to the reality of cycling is just way, way better, all around.

Back to Oman -- this is a relatively excellent race. You can't learn a damn thing from watching Qatar, which is as exciting as watching traffic. You can learn a little more from watching the Tour Down Under, which has increased the demands of the parcours and which is important enough as a world tour race to bring out the best in whoever can manage it so early on. But you can't really learn much about the climbers. Oman, you can for the first time this season start to see guys like Contador bringing it. The parcours is pretty excellent. The scenery is enchanting. The race lineup is... about what you'd expect from a sporting event organized by oil. [Not by people with oil money; oil itself is running the show.] It's fantastic. I want to see it. Maybe not live, I think it ends at 4am my time. But maybe live, or at least real, full replays. Why not? Why go through all this trouble and not turn on the cameras?

I want to like the Tour of Oman. Is that so wrong?

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