Monday, May 17, 2010

I Raced in the Rain, and All I Got Was This Lousy Shirt

Google Plane over EarthOne thing about the American races: The podiums don't offer cool, European sounding jersey names. The Giro has the maglia family; the Tour de France features the maillots, (not to be confused with the Mayo's), and the Vuelta a Espana treasures 'el jersey oro'. Though, what if the races went the other direction. What if, instead of jerseys, we call it like it is. In the major races, the top prizes should be called just 'shirts'. That would make this sport much more accessible to the media-consuming public.

I can imagine the marketing pitch to the various professional teams: "And if you donate half your body weight, three of your team members, four ounces of skin, gallons of testable bodily fluids, and your dignity, you get a shirt!" Oh yeah. That's marketing genius right there.

Much of the coverage in the Tour of California has been 'offline' today. The airplanes sending the race feed are unable to take flight in the heavy rains. And the TOC footage is beamed back via airplane, it seems. The Giro coverage, on the other hand, is lassoed to helicopters.

What I think happens in bike racing is some kind of technical hi-jinx involving motorcycles, and aircraft, such that, the motorcycles following the racers have a guy standing up on the back of the bike, filming the non-motorized bikers, and then by some antenna, they beam up the feed to the aircraft. I'm under the impression that the 'beam' technology is akin to the same sensor and infrared that's used in most TV remotes, and has about the same abilities. This is why the race feed is greatly affected by weather, forestry, cell phones, guitars, cats, dogs, annoying people, and tin foil. In truth, this technology is more effective than many garage door openers, but part of me hopes that the moto-camera guys start investing in iPhones, or something.

Over a half hour into the coverage now, and there's been zero footage of the actual race course, other than some confused, dampened fans and some organizers puttering around a puddly finish line. My heart goes out to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen; they are having to ad-lib like crazy. It's clear that this mishap has occurred way too early in the week for Versus to have filmed enough of the usually insipid "human interest" stories to fill the space.

I confess, I'm hoping someone will do a piece about how Mark Cavendish combs his back and butt hair into the the coiff he fits under his helmet. Okay, yeah, I don't actually know if he has that ability, but I'm hoping somebody in the peloton does, and that it gets reported. It's my understanding that racers don't, quite, shave everything. And some of what they choose to shave, and what they don't, just confuses me. Please Versus, or Universal Sports, Body hair is an, as yet, (vast?) untapped resource in cycling's .. uhh... landscape.

Oh wait. The race is on! .....Okay, that thirty seconds went quickly. Way to go Brett Lancaster! Giro coverage starts (in my world) in fifteen minutes. Thank goodness for the tape delay.

Universal wasted very little time in introducing the race coverage today. No sooner, had Photo courtesy CyclingNews.comI turned it on, than the race was already 40 miles in. Apparently, it's raining everywhere in the world that isn't Seattle today. We were supposed to see a bunch of rain, but it decided to travel the world like lost luggage. The puddles in Italy are outlandish. Kudos to Astana, for their appropriation of carbon fiber, 'swim' technology.

The Tour of California had an ace in the hole for today's coverage. It's common during a multi-day race for the TV coverage to skimp on some of the race notables that are not part of the actual General Classification. I'm not sure that was the case yesterday, or if I blacked out after the race ended. Whatever the case may be, I seemed to have missed seeing the TOC King of the Mountains winner from yesterday, Paul Mach. Oh yes. He's a Californian, and on one of the American teams, Bissell. Not only that, he's a fellow blogger!

Not satisfied with the, "I was abducted by aliens part way through the race," that many riders experience during slower than expected race times, Mach takes it to the next level. He writes:
  • "When did the break get all that time?" and "Where did I lose those 5 seconds?" are a couple questions I ask a lot. is a web application I developed to find the answers.
Mr. Mach, you are amazing. Someone who can balance the beauty of numbers with the vicissitudes of racing, while, not making my skull rupture from the expression of data, is a true American hero, in my book. I'm now a fan.

Ride safe. I love you all.

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