You don't have to dig too deep to see that we're not cuckoo for the pro road race scene. As often as not, when it's grand tour season we'll have whichever one on at the shop, but we're not diehards about the whole thing. As it turns out, apparently we're pretty normal in this.
The challenge for bike racing has always been the monetization. Cross has it easy, at least in the Euro heartland, because it fits into places to which you can charge admission and which you can rent. It's a bit tougher to rent highways and open roads, so you have this ugly bargain of convincing municipalities to let you use their roads and disrupt their normal activities to let a bunch of skinny people in costumes ply their trade. Having done that song and dance to make the Lost River Classic happen, it's a pain in the butt for a one day race on an 11 mile loop in the middle of nowhere. Even with the resources and reach of AEG, doing this for ToC must be a nightmare. And after all that, you're selling access to eyeballs to advertisers, and not tickets, parking, and $36 hot dogs to fans. It's gotta be tenuous as hell.
Even with our blasé disposition toward pro racing, ToC was somewhat special. For everyone in MABRA who'd been pantsed by Joe Dombrowski, it was one of the first places where you saw "oh yeah, he really is that good!" You didn't need to go to Europe and have a whole bunch of logistics to ride where the race went - heck I'm like the least accomplished cycling tourist ever and I've ridden a whole ton of the ToC roads. So it's a bit of a loss.
But the direction of bike racing here in the US is also foggy. It's certainly believable that there just isn't the market for it. My impression has always been that the 90% of fans in the US are riders/racers themselves. The traditional market for the TdF TV audience was French housewives, as evidenced by some of the jersey sponsors through the years. The polka dot jersey was sponsored by supermarkets as often as not. In the US, we have this standing animus between cyclists and non-cyclists, and a poor delineation between "cyclist" and "person riding a bike." Not that that delineation is important in the greater scheme - it may in fact be harmful to cycling as in total - but I felt like it bears on this thing.
And that animus, at least in part, drives the desire for so many of us to get the F off the road and go on the trails or gravel (for which we have some great wheels, and did you know the current pre-order ends tomorrow?). And since the majority of the fan base is also participants, I imagine that there's a reflex desire for the racing we watch to represent what we're into now. And that's decidedly not being bumper bait on roads, from every data point I have.
The ToC was also the big reference point for domestic teams, and their big opportunity to get sponsors in front of a relatively massive audience. The knock-on effect to domestic pro teams, I fear, will be catastrophic.
Of course this all ends with the grand debate of what import and relevance does pro racing have to the health of the sport here. And that's not something I can tackle right now. I'll just end by saying that I'm sad to see ToC go for reasons personal and systemic, and that I don't think this is something from which the domestic sport will easily bounce back.