Funny. I don't tune in to soccer or TDF for excitement, strictly speaking, nor baseball for that matter. Soccer keeps me fairly well glued, both because of the expectation of something pivotol happening and because there aren't commercial breaks, but sometimes I'm just admiring the play without excitement entering the equation.
The TDF and baseball are sports which I think are best enjoyed as background to some other pursuit with focus given at certain times and casual attention others. IMO, baseball is best watched on the radio, while otherwise engaged. The TDF is similar in appeal, although I much prefer to see it. There is something reassuring to me of the pace of the TDF stage: the escapees pulling away in the scant hope that fate or team politics will allow their determination and ability to simply keep turning the pedals to grant them a rare chance at glory; the stream of images of the beautiful French countryside; the measured, seemingly inevitable pursuit of the peleton; the focused excitement of the last few kilometers as sprinter's trains, GC hopefuls, and cagey opportunists crowd the front of race, while they speed along narrow European roads at 40-50 Kph, before all hell breaks loose in the final kilometer. The mountain stages provide a different sort of excitement. TT are less interesting, but they are an essential part of the sport.
As for the size of the peleton, Evan is probably the best judge around here, but I can tell you that it depends on the conditions of the race. With a good tailwind, a smaller break has a better chance of succeeding. With strong crosswinds and narrow roads, small groups can do as well for long stretches as a larger peleton, because the peleton will form echelons across the road, where every say 8 riders ends up on front of an echelon taking the full force of the wind. On normal stages, breakaways of 20 committed riders usually succeed. Oftentimes, riders from teams with an interest in a bunch sprint or a GC contender who wants to minimize time lost to a break will mark a break by putting a rider in it who never takes a pull in the wind at the front of the breakaway. This rider then conserves his energy relative to his breakaway companions in hopes that, if the breakaway is successful, he can take the stage win for his team himself.
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