Steve Schlanger & Todd Gogulski…

…are really boring. Can’t believe I have to listen to these jokers for the entire Giro. Where are Phil. Paul and Bob when you need them? Give me Al Trautwig. Give me Al Michaels. Give me anybody but these guys. I’d even take Craig Hummer.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to have the Giro on US television, but we’ve got to be able to do better than Schlanger and Gogulski.

Viva Le Giro

girbecco.jpgHold your hats, but the Giro D’Italia is coming to American TVs for first time in it’s 100 years. It’s going to be on Universal Sports.
So what’s the occasion? One word: Lance. Lance Armstrong is back and riding the Giro for the first time. Can he win? I wouldn’t put it past him. He has an iron will and you have to know that his training has been insanely intense. However, he’s coming off a broken collarbone, he hasn’t raced a grand tour in a couple of years and doesn’t have that many race miles under his belt. More likely, he’ll be helping his teammate Levi Leipheimer win the race. Only one American, Andy Hampsten in 1988, has won the Giro, so it’ll be good to get another yank in the winners circle.The competition is going to be fierce. This is the 100th version of the race, so the Italians will be extra-motivated to keep the title at home. Should be an incredibly exciting race. Defending champ Alberto Contador, Armstrong’s teammate on Team Astana, will not be riding. Instead his preparing for his return to the Tour de France in July.
The Universal Sports announcers are rather dull. I’ll take Phil, Paul or Bob any day, but it will be a pleasant change to have commentary in English. Last year, in order to watch the event live, I signed up for the Italian Sports Channel RAI. For three weeks I watched the cyclists suffer through the Italian peninsula while commentators babeled in Italian I couldn’t understand. I was happy to watch it, and the animation of the Italian announcers was impressive. It would have been nice to understand what they were saying.
The three week Giro kicks off with a team time trial on Saturday on Lido di Venezia. Coverage starts at 5:30am PST, so set your DVRs.
If you don’t have a TV (or don’t have cable) or just want to follow the event online, the best place to track news of the Giro, as always, is Steephilll.tv

The Road to Paris

I discovered the documentary about Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Team, The Road to Paris, while I was reading Bob Roll’s Tour de France Companion. I had never heard of it. I went immediately to Netflix to order the DVD, but they didn’t have it. I was bummed. Then I tried You Tube and found the entire thing, split conveniently into 11 8 minute and 41 second vignettes. I love the internet.
Over the next couple of days, I watched all the episodes. The movie follows Lance Armstrong’s US Postal Service for 27 days of training before the Tour de France. You get insights into both how a major cycling team functions on the inside, how they prepare for races, not just the Tour de France, but the entire European season, who does what on the team. You are privy to the internal machinations and the thought process behind training for the Tour. Finally you actually see Lance training in the rain and the snow and you get a sense of the amount of dedication it takes to win. It’s truly amazing to see.
Listening to Johann Bruyneel discuss what it takes to win the Tour, trust in the team, how difficult it is to wear and defend the Yellow Jersey and why it’s important not to have until absolutely necessary—all the demands, the media, the drug testing, etc, wears on the riders has given me new understanding for cycling and the Tour.
Here’s the first episode:

It’s a little hard to find the next episode once you’ve finished one, so here they all are:
1 Epiosde 1
2 Epiosde 2
3 Epiosde 3
4 Epiosde 4
5 Epiosde 5
6 Epiosde 6
7 Epiosde 7
8 Epiosde 8
9 Epiosde 9
10 Epiosde 10
11 Epiosde 11

Vive le Tour

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Congratulations to Carlos Sastre for taking the 2008 Tour title. Congrats to all the riders really. It was a fantastic Tour—the best in recent memory. Over 3 weeks of racing and almost every day was exciting. From the first stage in Brittany with Alejandro Valverde winning in an uphill sprint through the Massif Central, the Pyrenees, the Alps and all the way the Champs Elysees in Paris. The race did not disappoint.
Up until Sastre blew everyone away on Alp d’Huez, 6 riders were within a minute of the lead (Evans, F. Schleck, Kohl, Menchov & Vandevelde). The racing and attacking was fierce. And here in the States, the coverage by Versus was unprecedented in terms of the length, often going on air before the start of the start so we were actual able to see for the first time how breakaways are formed, established and nurtured. (My only complaint about Versus was Craig Hummer. Nice guy, but not a great commentator. What happened to Al Trautwig?)
In all, there were seven men in Yellow, including 2 from Luxembourg and even a Frenchman for day. The 4 Americans and the two American teams in the race acquitted themselves well. Christian Vandevelde exceeded all expectations finishing 5th and announcing himself as one of the top contenders in the peloton. Team Columbia took 5 stage victories—4 alone to British sprinter Mark Cavenidish and held at times early in the race, the Yellow, Green and Polka-Dot Jerseys. I would have liked to see George Hincapie do better. He almost won a stage in the Alps, but lost some time on the last climb and couldn’t quite make it up on the descent.

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RAI TV

I looked into the Giro coverage on Versus and decided their “weekend only” coverage wasn’t going to be enough for me, so I called Comcast and ordered the Italian RAI TV channel which is covering the race every day. It’s live coverage, but it hardly matters since I have to DVR it anyway. And the announcers, well, they all speak Italian. While very passionate and interesting to listen to, they are less than instructive. Again, no matter, I’m watching for the racing. Though I will miss the insightful commentary of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, I’m happy to have some Giro to come home to every night for the next three weeks.

The Giro is Coming or the Race for the Maglia Rosa

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I’ve been watching the Tour de France for years, first on ESPN and now on OLN/Versus, but I’ve never seen the Giro d’Italia, the first of the season’s 3 grand tours (Giro, TdF, Veulta d’Espana) that take place over 3 weeks. That will end this weekend, when Versus will start broadcasting the Giro’s first stage this coming Saturday.

Continue reading “The Giro is Coming or the Race for the Maglia Rosa”