As the 108th Tour de France got on its way in Brittany on Saturday, barely anyone in the U.S. took notice. Despite a chaotic start including mass crashes, injuries and several withdrawals, the most iconic cycling competition in the world is no longer frontpage news in the country that experienced a cycling boom in the early 2000s thanks to the success of a certain Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team.
As the following chart shows, American interest in “Le Tour” was closely linked to the success of Lance Armstrong. Google searches for “Tour de France” were cut in half between Armstrong’s last tour victory in 2005 and the first post-Armstrong tour in 2006. Interest continued to fade after that until the Texan’s return to the tour in 2009 sparked some interest once again.
Having confessed to systematic doping in 2012, Armstrong was stripped of all his seven Tour de France titles and given a lifetime ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union (UCI), the sports global governing body.