Undivided Attention

For the first six months of the year, despite near-constant internet access, and despite having plenty of opportunities to watch race coverage from around the world, I found myself blissfully ignorant of what was happening in the pro peloton.

I didn’t see Phillipe Gilbert’s domination of the Spring Classics, I didn’t see Alberto Contador make a mockery of the Giro, and I definitely didn’t find time to watch the Tour de Suisse or Criterium du Dauphine.

Why? Why so little attention paid by a guy who really likes pro cycling? For one, I don’t have cable or satellite, so therefore I don’t have Versus. Second, while free European feeds can be found online, they’re usually spotty, twitchy and generally unreliable. That doesn’t exactly make for appointment viewing.

Come July, though, my mornings are built around watching the Tour de France. You could argue the Giro d’Italia is the more beautiful Grand Tour (it is) and the Classics are more brutal and dramatic.

But the Tour is more accessible. As the biggest race in the world, it enjoys wall-to-wall coverage. The online feed – which I happily plunked down $30 to see – is reliable and high-quality. I can watch it on a laptop, I can send it from our computer to our TV, and I can have it on in a separate window when I’m writing blog posts.

That accessibility – long before live internet video feeds – is what so attracted me to the Tour to begin with. I watched none of Lance Armstrong’s Tour victories live, as a fan of cycling. I was aware of it all, but not paying close attention.

When I started racing, I quickly found that Midwestern snow makes winter training hard. And then I found that riding the trainer in place of going outside is impossible without the proper distraction. One of my then-teammates offered up a trove of race videos – you know, like the ones we sell here – to help pass the time.

And that’s when I really got to know the Tour de France. I caught up on 10 years’ worth of cycling history over the winter thanks to the detailed, expansive volumes from World Cycling Productions. I plowed through the Tour, learned about the Spring Classics and then headed way back in time with some Eddy Merckx features.

I can appreciate the Classics, but they’re so very dull until the fireworks start. It’s not until a Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara launches that things get really crazy. Meanwhile, there’s something new on the Tour every day. Sure, the pattern is the same – breakaway, catch, attack, etc. – but the players are different each time.

Over the course of three weeks, you get to know the riders. Who can or can’t climb with the big boys – who’s most likely to make that long flyer stick. Instead of one day of possible heroics, you get the goods delivered every day.

Thanks to full, consistent, easily accessible coverage – which the other Grand Tours can’t boast – you can watch it all.

Each morning I get up, get my work done (other writing projects, because I’m surprisingly not getting rich writing these posts) and ready the live feed. Yesterday I built my training ride around the expected time of arrival of the peloton within the last 20K.

And this morning, my son and I ate pancakes at the table while we watched the action unfold. He doesn’t yet understand how the whole thing works, but he knows about the polka-dot jersey, team cars and crashes.

Next week, he’ll learn about the mountains.

Random link time:

  • So, there’s this. Laugh if you must, but that video fairly sums up a few of us here … minus the Euro-mullet and cigarette. Oh, and if you dig that kit (I do), it’s from the Capo Dorato collection, and it’s here in red.
  • Nick Legan of VeloNews did some investigative work before a rainy Tour stage earlier this week. As always, it was a great read.
  • Are Grand Tours getting less sprinty? Probably. At least one rider thinks so.

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