By John Fontana, Contributing Editor
Denver, CO (Apr 19, 2008) - In the early 1980s, I was screaming at the television as Tim Brandt, John Dockery, Sam Posey, Pierre Salinger and a host of other commentators reported on historic castles and old-world traditions on the Tour de France segments of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Why, oh why, would they only show clips of the actual racing to accent their empty stories or as part of over-dramatized efforts to educate the masses on cycling?
Much to a racing fan’s pleasure, OLN (now Versus) eventually came along with near full race coverage of the Tour de France and finally Cycling.TV hit the scene a few years back, using the Web to show live coverage of the European race calendar.
With America’s East Coast stage race, the Tour de Georgia, ready to kick off April 21 the hedonistic promised land of bicycle racing viewing exists only on the Web. The dominant site is Cycling.TV. The British-based outfit will show every stage of the Tour de Georgia in Europe, picking up the feed from U.S.-based World Championship Television Network (WCSN), which covers six Olympic sports.
WCSN (more on them in a later post) will show the Tour de Georgia free in the U.S. (see the schedule below).
But it is Cycling.TV that is setting a standard with coverage of one-day classics, such as the famous Paris-Roubaix and the major tours besides that one in France. (Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a Espana). With Scottish color commentator and two-time British national race champion Brian Smith, you get an angle on racing that rivals the gap-toothed insider’s view Bob Roll provides on Versus. Smith’s cred includes not only his British championships but a finish in the Giro d’Italia, and a stint as Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong’s teammate on the Motorola squad in 1994.
Smith is joined by Anthony McCrossan, who describes the road race action and keeps the Web cast moving. The whimsical side conversations between the duo and their playful jabs keep the broadcast entertaining, but the focus is pure racing. The two are formidable competitors to what has become the staple of cycling commentary, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin (another ex-British rider).
I had the chance to meet Liggett a few years ago and he is as charming and accessible in real-life as he comes across on Versus. In fact, that trait, which has won him legions of fans, is something Smith also possesses with his smooth Scottish brogue. I have to admit an affinity for the dialectal accent given that my mother was born and raised in that beautiful land.
Cycling.TV, a British-based broadband Web station, is the only way we Yanks can get a road-side seat for the whole of the European cycling calendar. WCSN is chipping in with events like the Tour of Germany and the World Road Race Championships as part of a subscription package ($4.95/month; $44.95/year). Cycling.TV, of course, also will cost you. It’s $100 for the year or $45 for three-months of access. Free videos are available on the Web site.
As an aside, I’ve paid the fee previously and found the package worth the money.
Cycling.TV isn’t a fly-by-night Web project, it is a wholly owned subsidiary of JUMP TV Inc., a leading broadcaster of TV over the internet. The company also has partnerships with other TV and video outlets including Joost, Veoh and Blinkx.
So why tune in to the Tour de Georgia?
This is the last time viewers will get to see the new American Slipstream/Chipotle squad before it heads off to Europe to compete for the first time in the Giro and the Tour de France. Not only is the team taking over the American racing mantel from Postal Service/Discovery, but they are leading the fight to clean up a sport hard hit by drug scandals. Slipstream is bringing along a host of big names, including mega-character and time trial specialist Dave Zabriskie. Climber Tom Danielson will lead the team.
Also on the start list are a host of American riders including a first glimpse this season of Rock Racing’s Tyler Hamilton, who was barred from February’s Tour of California; Levi Leipheimer (third in last year’s Tour de France) and his Astana teammate Chris Horner, the 2003 Tour de Georgia champion; Team High Road’s George Hincapie, a three-time USA Cycling road champion, and Olympic bronze medalist Bobby Julich of Team CSC.
Cycling.TV Tour de Georgia (Euro only)
Day 1: April 21, 2008 2:00 pm GMT-4
Day 2: April 22, 2008 2:00 pm GMT-4
Day 3: April 23, 2008 2:00 pm GMT-4
Day 4: April 24, 2008 2:00 pm GMT-4
Day 5: April 25, 2008 2:00 pm GMT-4
Day 6: April 26, 2008 2:00 pm GMT-4
Day 7: April 27, 2008 2:00 pm GMT-4
World Championship Television Network (free streaming)
Tour de Georgia
April 21 10:30am -- 2:00pm
April 22 12:30pm -- 4:30pm
April 23 12:00pm -- 4:00pm
April 24 1:00pm -- 4:00pm
April 25 12:30pm -- 4:30pm
April 26 11:30pm -- 3:30pm
April 27 1:00pm -- 4:00pm
By John Fontana, Contributing Editor