I just read your report, and was excited to see your notes on the Tour and the recent popularity of road racing. Ive been riding both road and mountain bikes for a long time now and have just gotten into winter climbing in the past four years. I agree that the recent popularity, due largely to Lance's success, has been great for the sport. Local races are more competitive than ever and the technology available has shot through the roof.
But like anything, there can be pluses and minuses to a surge in a sports popularity, with road biking its a good thing because there are plenty of roads to go around and perhaps more folks will begin to show bikers on the road a little more respect. But for sports like mountian biking and climbing, this kind of popularity could put increasing pressure on a limited amount of natural resources. Im not against getting new people into the sport, after all, I am relatively new to climbing, and have benefited hugely from peoples willingness to share information, but in some cases it might be better to let certain sports linger in relative obscurity. While welcoming those with a genuine interest of course.
In response to your wish for climbing to have a parallel to the Tour de France, I think that it already does, historically speaking: The plights of the Eiger climbers who's stories are told in The White Spider are reminiscent of those early Tour de France pioneers. These adventurers used the freedoms afforded by a newly industrialized Europe to seek adventure at the fringes of the common man's imagination. They were met with awe, fascination, and disbelief by the public. True adventurers.