Friday, July 11, 2008


Tivo Fever

Plus Some Recommendations and the Wine Report

Like many people, I make judicious use of Tivo while watching the Tour. Of course, it lets you skip commercials, or repeat them, if that’s your thing, but it also lets you do nerdy crap like this: I’ve identified my favorite seven minute stretch of yesterday morning’s live Versus broadcast, as referenced by that delightful little counter at the bottom of the screen.

1:00 – Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) is working his way back up through the caravan to the tail end of the field after having stopped for a piss and a bike adjustment. As he draws even with Com 1, the two gendarmes on motos move left to let Evans pass. Apparently, they didn’t do it quick enough, because as he passes several seconds later, Evans slaps the gendarme on the shoulder has he passes and angrily points to his own eyes in a “watch where the hell you’re going” gesture.

Sometimes, in racing, the motos get in the way, but they’re a necessary evil. But watching the Evans incident, I didn’t really see the interference at all – any DS worth his salt could have driven the team car through that gap, and maybe the bus as well, so getting a bike through looked to be easy. I guess that need for a three foot buffer zone is why Evans doesn’t turn up at the Tour of Flanders. As Liggett and Sherwen pointed out, Evans’s overreaction to the perceived injustice seemed to be a mark of some real nervousness on his part. I’d tend to agree – it was a Cat. IV overreaction to a common and not very threatening situation. We didn’t see if he said anything to the gendarme, but I'm pretty sure I heard him shouting, “Hold your line! On your right! Pothole! Gravel! Gravel! Gravel!” as he made his way back through the peloton.

If he’s wound that tight with an hour and a half to go to the final climb, I’m wondering how this Tour is going to shape up for him. Has anyone ever lost because their head just exploded?

1:03 – Phil Liggett is discussing the local topography a bit during an aerial shot, referencing the extinct volcanoes that dot the Massif Centrale landscape. He continues, “Some of these extinct volcanoes are 400 feet deep, and they’re perfectly symmetrical.” What? Really? Any volcanologists reading this that can explain what he might be talking about? Are volcanoes symmetrical?

1:05 – Versus cuts to an in-car cam and microphone trained on Team Columbia DS Brian Holm, who’s driving their car with Rolf Aldag sitting shotgun. As part of the intro, Liggett adds, “They know we’re listening in, so they’re going to behave themselves, I’m sure.” Still stinging from the Vaughters incident, eh? I have to wonder if they've started putting a little delay on the in-car shots.

1:07 – The peloton is riding through a town in a bit of a drizzle, and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) is riding no-handed, unzipping his yellow jersey to stuff a sheet of plastic or paper down the front to fight off the chill. Liggett comments, “They can do anything on the bike, but I emphasize to not do this at home, because you’ll fall off and take your clubmates down and they won’t be pleased with you.”

For the sake of amateur racers everywhere, this comment should be made into a public service announcement, and aired every bit as often as those poorly-thought-out “Take Back the Tour” ads. Those ads probably won’t do much to save the Tour at all, but the “don’t try this on your group ride” announcement could save countless teeth and wheels around the country.

(As an aside, I was worried about Liggett earlier in the season, when he seemed extremely off his game during the classics. But he’s ridden himself into form nicely for the Tour, the usual verbal ticks and foibles notwithstanding.)

Helping Those Least in Need

I saw a few notable things perusing the Internets, on which this whole Tour de France lark seems to be getting quite a bit of airplay. Not that they need me to steer any traffic their way, but here are some links from the bigger guns I thought were notable:

I gave Chris Carmichael a bit of a hard time the other day about his Valverde article on Bicycling, but as I pointed out, he has some good knowledge rattling around, and when he lets it out, it’s good stuff. In this piece, he gives some good insight on the challenges of the Massif Centrale and how the Tour organizers can influence the race through route selection. And I have to hand it to him, he’s cranking out a tremendous amount of copy, writing for at least two outlets as well as his company’s Tour de France newsletter. Coming up with a couple different workable angles on a single race can be a tough grind. Trust me.

Cyclingnews is finally doing what I’ve been wishing an English-language outlet would do for years – they’re publishing diaries from big riders from non-English speaking countries on non-English speaking teams. Yes, I love to hear from our relative locals, and it can be easy to relate to our fellow Anglophones, but it’s nice to get the broader coverage as well. There have been earlier efforts, but these are the best to date.

For this Tour, they’ve landed Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) , who’s having a hell of a season now that he’s finally managed to shake the “next French Tour winner” albatross the press hung around his neck early in his career. I like his attitude in his latest entry as well, saying essentially that he’s there to make the race interesting to the fans, and if he’s gassed the next day, that’s part of the job. He did a good job of it yesterday, hanging on over the first Category 2 climb by the skin of his teeth to snatch the polka dots from Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom). He says that he’s happy to hand it back over for awhile, but I still have to wonder why Cofidis didn’t send someone up the road to grab those third place points and give him a little bit of padding over his countryman. It didn’t look like it would have been that challenging, but then again, I’m watching on TV.

They also have Stijn Devolder (Quick.Step), the closest thing Belgium has had to a contender since, I don’t know, Michele Pollentier? His entry is a bit more cut-and-dried than Chavanel’s, but we’ll see if things pick up in the mountains.

VeloNews has been getting pretty heavily into the online video scene over the last year or so, and they’ve been posting video diaries from George Hincapie (Columbia) and Magnus Backstedt (Garmin-Chipotle). Probably more interesting are the on-the-spot interviews from the stage finishes, which give a good sense of what the media scrum at the finish of a big race is like. When I went to my first few, being a polite lad, I had this feeling that I should give riders a half-second to catch their breath before shoving a recorder in their face. In these clips, you can see why I had to revise my strategy pretty quickly.

Finally, and unfortunately, here we go again. And again.

So there you go, after a few days of kvetching, I’ve spread some unicorns and rainbows around. We do quite a bit of critiquing of media outlets, riders, and associated peoples here, sometimes a bit harshly for the sake of making a point or getting a chortle. But in the end, everybody’s making their contribution, and we’re glad they’re there. So don’t be mad, baby, I only hit you ‘cause I love you.

Stage 7 Booze Cruise

Just a quick one today, as the race enters the Cantal hills of the Auvergne on its way down to the Pyrenees. The Unholy Rouleur has a little writeup on Cantal cheeses to enjoy during your viewing, and a rigorous 5 minutes of Googling on my part reveals that the Beaujolais we discussed yesterday should go just fine with that selection. So assuming you picked up a bottle for yesterday’s stage, you’re all set for this evening, too. If there’s nothing left from the bottle you cracked last night, seek help.

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