After a day off, the 2006 Tour de France is heading into its second week today, unbeknownst to most Americans. According to the Chronicle, only 280,000 Americans watch the Tour on TV. Compare that to 91 million for the Super Bowl and 17 million for the World Series.
Americans aren't interested in international sports, mostly because we don't win them. The entire run of this year's soccer World Cup has garnered only nine million viewers nationwide -- the American Idol finale had 36 million viewers, on one night. Unless the USA is kicking ass as a country, such as in the Olympics -- and often not even then, Americans care little for televised coverage of international competition in sports like soccer, track and field, and cycling.
The Tour de France is worth watching though. It is the biggest event in the sport of cycling and really highlights the sporting differences between Americans and the rest of the world. And it's very accessible. Outdoor Life Network (OLN) provides daily repeat coverage of every single stage, including extended, live pedal-by-pedal from two of the best to ever call a race: Phil Leggett and Paul Sherwin.
This year, fate and The Man haven't made it any easier for the ADD-addled American television audience to watch skinny foreign guys in lycra riding bikes for hours and hours, day after day. After an opening week dominated more by who wasn't racing than by who was, the Tour suddenly went from a peloton of favorites to a small breakaway of "other guys."
Maillot jeune graphic from Team CSC website.