Sunday, July 26, 2015

Every Day I Love You Less And Less

“I feel a rat upon a wheel. I’ve got to know what’s not and what is real.”
The Tour de France ended earlier today. It’s the biggest bike race of the year, so I suppose I should say something about it. Here goes …

I wish the Tour de France were not the biggest bike race of the year. Say what you will about the green jersey, the polka dot jersey, and the other awards designed to spice up the race, the only thing that really matters is the general classification. And even that can be won by someone who never wins a stage. In this year’s Tour, eventual winner Christopher Froome crushed everyone on Stage 10. Good for him, I guess, but the “just don’t screw up” strategy on display in Stages 11-21 made for dull racing. I couldn’t get excited about breakaway winners so far down on GC that Froome and his rivals couldn’t be bothered to chase. Winning the Tour de France—or the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España—has been reduced to a predictable formula, carefully dictated by team managers and power meters. Give me the one-day races, where racers still rely on instincts, where there are no consolation prizes, and where the TV announcers don’t have to apologize for a lack of action.

What did you think of this year’s TV coverage? I split my time between pirated Internet streams from Eurosport (thanks, Russian mafia) and NBC Sports Network (thanks, Cecil B. DeMille). Cripes, how many people does it take to describe a bike race? Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby and Sean Kelly were more than entertaining and insightful enough for me. Half of NBCSN’s broadcast was commercials and half of the rest was one commentator soliciting the opinions of almost a dozen others. But my biggest moment of dissatisfaction came on July 18 when NBCSN abruptly ended its coverage of Stage 14 when the GC men crossed the finish line. There were no podium presentations, no post-race interviews, and no analysis. If you wanted to see that stuff, then you had to stay up past midnight for the enhanced “primetime” coverage. And for what did NBCSN so hastily redirect its live programming? A NASCAR practice session. That’s how our sport rates on this continent. NBCSN’s next cycling event is the USA Pro Challenge from Colorado, a week-long stage race that begins on August 17. In the intervening weeks I will watch for Internet streams from the Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian (Aug. 1), the Tour of Poland (Aug. 2-8), and the Eneco Tour (Aug. 10-16).

We never get to see mountain bike racing on TV in America, so you might be surprised by the exceptional quality of the broadcasts from Europe. Give Red Bull TV a try. You can replay races from earlier this season or watch live coverage from Mont-Sainte-Anne (Aug. 1-2), Windham (Aug. 8-9), and Val di Sole (Aug. 22-23). Our top domestic series, the US Cup, is done for 2015 but watch for its return next year. Scott Tedro and the Sho-Air/RideBiker Alliance team have done a lot to bring UCI World Cup-style mountain bike racing to American audiences over the Internet. You can check out a very entertaining video archive here.

And if all those choices still aren’t enough to ease your post-Tour depression, on most days you can watch veteran WORS racer and all-around good guy Nathan Guerra doing Zwift workouts at home. Really.

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