For the last 24 hours or so the world of cycling has been thrashing around like a Brazilian striker who just got breathed on when the referee wasn’t looking, aimlessly lashing out at itself over what to do with Chris Froome. In case you haven’t noticed, Chris Froome is the guy who has won the Tour de France four times so far, but has been living under the shadow of an adverse finding that he had taken twice the amount of salbutamol during last year’s Vuelta a España. Since that finding became known, the cycling world has been divided over the question of whether he should be allowed to continue racing while his case is resolved, between those who think he shouldn’t be allowed to race during this interregnum, and those who think he should be put to death, in case he is eventually found guilty.
Personally I have never been all that bothered by the Froome case. The real problem is that he’s been unwilling to admit what happened: that his inhaler was in a musette bag and broke, spilling its entire contents onto a bran muffin. By the time Froome understood what had happened, the bran muffin was in his stomach, and he was committed to his present course. Knowing the disaster that awaited him, Froome went and did the honorable thing, using the physical boost provided by so much asthma medication to win the race. Because if there is one thing that would upset his legions of fans more than screaming about drugs which confer unfair advantages on people, it would be finding out that we spent all that time screaming about drugs that didn’t even work.
Anyway, if the UCI had any rules, we would know what to do, but they don’t, so I am going to settle things. Now, I may be old, but I’m not so old that I don’t remember back when Tupac Shakur, a/k/a 2Pac, a/k/a Pac, was all the rage. It was last week, and a lot of other weeks, dating back to 1996 when he mysteriously disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle. My kids are all about him, as they say, and it doesn’t seem about to change. So what do they do with an intractable conflict between what people want and what they deserve? They start writing code.
This is what we need to do. Take a cue from Holographic 2Pac. Give us... Holographic Chris Froome.
This could be huge. Hear me out. How it would work is that Froome would stay home and ride his trainer during the stage. The data from that ride would be uploaded to any digital signals showing the Tour. Froome’s holographic image would be projected on the screen relative to the other riders, and we could see whether he was keeping up, attacking, or falling back. In bigger stages, or portions of stages when the TV signal is on, surely the race heli could even project the Froome holograph onto the road so fans could cheer or jeer him.
Who says no? Sky maybe piss and moan a bit about him not being there, but somebody’s ox is getting gored here. With Holographic Froome, if he’s strong enough to win, they can watch him do it and crow all winter about who the real winner was. They can even dress up Holographic Froome in yellow and have him sip champagne on the road into Paris. And if he fails, well, no harm done. Literally, since nobody will have knocked him off his bike for being a dirty cheat, or whatever people are freaking out about right now. At least he’ll have shown his sponsor colors to the fans following his ghostly image.
For Froome’s fans, his holographic exploits will still be fun to follow along, especially on the internet where the resolution will be better than that of, say, actual Vincenzo Nibali or fading Nairo Quintana. For his detractors, there will be a feature which blocks the holograph and allows you to just enjoy the race (a novel concept in cycling, for sure). For ASO, the sanctity of the race will have been preserved.
I know this seems like a longshot, but desperate times call for desperate housewives. And since they aren’t real, it’s up to people like me to come up with real solutions, like projecting a computer-generated image of a rider into the Tour de France. This is important, at least in terms of changing the conversation. Right now, here are the top five trending subjects on Twitter concerning the Tour de France, in order:
- Chris Froome is a dirty cheat.
- Chris Froome is not a dirty cheat.
- The UCI is a disaster.
- Cycling is terrible.
- This will almost certainly be the most exciting and competitive Tour in 25 years.
Why do we have to let this happen? Why can’t we actually enjoy the great race that is about to happen? More importantly, Cycling is funded entirely by public perception and the advertising opportunities that go along with that, so it would be nice if this year’s Tour weren’t just a three-week conversation about its one single, unsightly ethical wart. I have the solution to air-brush that wart out of the conversation entirely.
And frankly, this isn’t just about saving the 2018 Tour, it’s about saving the sport itself. In the future, anyone who buys my holographic projection service can insert themselves into the Tour de France, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Roma Maxima, and other great races for what will surely seem like a screaming bargain. By 2024, you and your friends can hop on your trainers and see if you can keep up with four-time Tour winner Egan Bernal as he tracks down an escaping Wout Van Aert on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez. You can project your holographs right on to the road. Or if you’re too tired to race, you can sit on the couch and drink beer while projecting yourself onto Dutch Corner. Maybe the riders will all be holographs. Maybe all the fans will too. And all those kids who honed their Fortnight skills back in the innocent days of the late 20-teens will be running the universe. Sounds like an ideal world to me.