A Sacramento journalist who covered the Tour de France for more than a decade is hoping the sport can regain some of its former popularity here in America.
Sacramento journalist James Raia spent 13 years covering the Tour de France beginning in 1997, even co-authoring a book titled Tour de France For Dummies in 2008.
“I love the Tour de France for the cycling, but more than that, it’s everything else. It’s the culture, people in small cities, being in the Pyrenees and the Alps,” Raia explained. “It was more of a travel writer’s trip for me, than rather a sportswriter’s assignment. I loved every minute, and then there was a bike race.”
From the Lance Armstrong era to another American, Floyd Landis, Raia covered iconic names like Cadel Evans, Marco Pantani and Jans Ulrich.
Armstrong, however, remained the biggest draw for American audiences.
Raia told FOX40 he believes Lance Armstrong is probably the biggest fraud in sports history and that his disgrace from the sport is one of the major reasons why the Tour de France has dropped off most Americans’ radar.
“I think people were fed up with the sport, and they thought everybody is doping,” Raia said. “But the young guys I’ve met, I think the sport now is far cleaner. I don’t think the sport is completely clean, but I think it’s a far better sport in the last decade or so.”
Raia now enjoys the Tour de France like most, at home on his television, and said he hopes that the race’s popularity in America picks up again.
“There’s only four American’s in the Tour de France this year,” he explained. “We’ve had as many as 13 or 14 in a year, and there’s only four. So, it’s a down year for American cycling.”
One of those four Americans is Neilson Powless out of Roseville who Raia believes could be the next big thing in American cycling.
“He could be. He’s still a young guy, Raia told FOX40. “I think for him, the physical talent is there, but to be a team leader you have to help other guys, you have to be smart with the other guys on the team, you have to be a smart rider.”