Canadian Sports Broadcasting giant TSN (The Sports Network) announced yesterday that they acquired the broadcasting rights to the Tour de France and would be broadcasting complete coverage of the 2011 race in High Definition. This just as German broadcasters ARD and ZDF announced that they are dropping the race in 2012 due to dwindling viewership likely as a result of numerous doping scandals that plague the Tour.
The TSN news, to many in Canada, feels over two decades late as the days of Steve Bauer wearing yellow have long passed and cycling in Canada has limped along in it’s popularity as a sport since. With more recent American success in the race, headlines began to garner more attention, but since that time, the race has returned to it’s more customary European dominated roots.
I, personally, look at this with much more optimism, not only because I do think cycle racing is an excellent spectator sport, but more importantly because this is a sign of the growing strength of Canadian cycling. Perhaps TSN shook their crystal ball and saw great things for the future of Ryder Hesjedal, who I personally believe is going to surprise a number of people this year. The lanky 30-year-old appears to be somewhat of a late bloomer in part due to his mountain biking history, but also only being offered consistent opportunities after signing with Garmin in 2008. Within just three short seasons Hesjedal finished 7th in the 2010 Tour, the best Canadian finish since Bauer’s 4th in 1990, and I don’t think a top five finish is out of the question for him in the 2011 Tour or perhaps even a goal of the podium for 2012.
Additionally, Bauer himself is still a player in all of this, rapidly building Team Spidertech – Planet Energy into a
young, primarily Canadian group with tons of potential. This season, they have been awarded a Pro-Continental license and have added Svein Tuft to the roster which propels them toward their goal of starting the Tour much sooner than maybe was expected. For the lack of attention cycling gets in Canada, especially considering the attention it deserves, TSN… you’re on the ball, so thanks.