This year’s Tour of California is maybe the most exciting race to happen in at least three months. Maybe longer, but at least three months. Let’s not quibble about the time period. That’s not what this is about.
What this is about, however, is the fact that Landis, Hamilton, Armstrong and Basso are all racing against each other for the next several days. And frankly I never expected to see that happen again.
So hey. I think I’ll liveblog it.
3:04: What? Craig Hummer is alongside Phil and Paul? Where is Al Trautwig?! I DEMAND AL TRAUTWIG.
3:06: Phil’s going through the who’s who. He reveals that Armstrong being here is a big deal. This, my friends, is why Phil’s perspective is so crucial.
3:08: First commercials. Here’s where we get to find out what ads we’re going to see over and over and over and over and over for the next ten days.
3:09: We start out with an Amgen ad. That makes sense, but why should Amgen advertise to a bunch of cyclists? It makes no sense. It’s not like cyclists are a target audience for their products, are we? Oh.
3:10: Ads for Sears, The Watchmen (very excited for that film), and Las Vegas follow. I’m looking forward to coming to loathe each of these commercials over the next several days.
3:11: Now let’s learn about the route. Except we’re not seeing the route. We’re seeing pictures of the sea and the state capitol and mountains. Nobody learns anything from these route previews. Is Versus required by law to do this kind of preview?
3:13: When Paul says a stage “showcases the beauty of the whosamawassit valley,” do you suppose anyone in the world besides the person who’s job it is to make sure the Tour talks about how beautiful California is buys in?
3:15: “Sadly I have to agree with Phil,” says Paul. Paul, don’t be sad. I’m sad when you’re sad.
3:17: An ad from Rabobank? I had no idea that it even had branches in the US. Which means I just learned something from an ad.
3:18: The twins are now saying “Rabobank Rabobank Rabobank” over and over, and giggling hysterically. I never knew before what a funny word that is. But it is. Try saying it out loud, several times. It sounds like something the Hamburgler would say.
3:19: PureSleep is evidently a mouthpiece that smothers you so you stop snoring. Just ordered one; Kenny’s birthday present is now taken care of.
3:20: Oh good! A little bit of background about this new racer guy known as “Lance Armstrong!” I think we’ll hear more from this youngster someday.
3:21: Ha. A quick cut away from the Lancefest to briefly show a racer. But then the executive decision is made: the Lance montage is more important than the race.
3:23: And now, Levi is selling us some California.
3:24: “I’m a vegetarian because I love animals.” That’s funny, I’m a meat eater for the exact same reason!
3:25: Here’s an interesting bit of inside information. Chuck Ibis himself is working behind the scenes at the Tour of California. He’s mentioned to me that he might do some Twittering during the race. He hasn’t started yet, but hopefully we’ll see some interesting insights and hilarity here: http://twitter.com/chuck_i .
3:26: Craig Hummer just said of the Garmin/Slipstream Team: “They’re not just here to stay, they’re here to win.” A Jab at Rock Racing?
3:32: Floyd’s turn to be talked about. Nobody is talking about the suspension. Versus evidently taking the “Let bygones be bygones” approach. Good.
3:36: OK, I’ve been here for more than half an hour and have seen no racing, but I believe we’re into the seventh commercial break. I sure am glad I tuned in live.
3:37: Next stage, I Tivo-blog. And I don’t start watching until at least 90 minutes has elapsed.
3:38: So evidently they hired someone named Rasika to do little comedy pieces, acting like she has no idea about cycling. That’s hilarious! Except it wasn’t.
3:39: And now Mark Cavendish is making coffee. And riding. And petting a dog. And speaking in an adorable accent.
3:42: Rabobank Rabobank Rabobank!
3:43: More ads, after which we are promised more about Lance Armstrong! Here’s the thing. I actually decided to watch this race because I am interested in Armstrong’s comeback. However, as I face the likelihood that I will have watched a full hour of fluff before I see any racing at all, my enthusiasm for this comeback is fading fast.
3:46: Yeah, Craig, I’ll be sure to watch that hockey game. I’ll set the Tivo to record it right after the bullriding event.
3:47: I still find it jarring to see Armstrong in an Astana jersey.
3:48: It makes me glad to hear Armstrong say that he’s here to be a domestique for Leipheimer.
3:49: Oh, good. More ads. I haven’t seen ads since six minutes ago.
3:51: I wonder how much it would cost for me to buy a 30-second TV ad? $50? $100?
3:52: I would love to see Zabriskie win the prologue today.
3:53: Hey, there’s Bob Roll. Hi, Bob! Your voice is cracking. Also, it’s time for you to get rid of that little fin of hair on the top of your head.
3:55: Magically, we are now watching the race, pretty darned far in progress. I’m not at all disappointed in the fact that I’ve watched an hour of fluff instead of the race that I tuned in for. Al Trautwig would never have stood for this, I’ll tell you that much.
3:57: More commercials. Makes sense. It’s been almost five minutes.
4:00: Only one comment so far (thanks, solidjack!). Which means I’m mostly doing this for myself. Yay for me doing stuff for myself!
4:01: Floyd’s being interviewed. His focus is to make sure his hip is good. Has he seen the race roster? Why yes he has. Nice interview, Mr. Roll. Versus is certainly getting his money’s worth out of Bob today.
4:03: Andy Jacques-Maynes racing for the Bissel squad. I had no idea any vacuum cleaner manufacturer had a pro team. I hereby assert that my next vacuum cleaner will be a Bissel. If they’re on sale.
4:06: A Tempurpedic mattress ad. To me, those mattresses look terrible, like you just sink into and are eventually suffocated by them. Anyone else out there terrified of Tempurpedic beds?
4;08: Tyler Farrar (Slipstream) racing now. It looks like he’s wearing a sleeveless jersey — with “Garmin” actually magic-markered on his arm. I’m not the only one to notice that, right? Also, people are wearing coats outside. What’s with the sleeveless jersey? Looking to impress the ladies with your vestigial arms?
4:10: Wow, I’m really interested in what Patrick Dempsey thinks. He just listed some of the people in the race, and says he’s starstruck by them. Which is incredible. I mean, that a VERY IMPORTANT TELEVISION STAR would be starstruck by athletes. That’s just crazy.
4:12: Oh, Tyler’s not wearing a sleeveless jersey. It’s just that the long-sleeve jersey has an argyle diamond that’s very flesh colored. And Tyler’s now in fifth place. Nice work, Tyler.
4:14: Has anyone seen any “Keirin Cut Jeans” chalkings on the road yet? I’m curious as to whether Beth’s campaign is working.
4:15: And here comes Chris Baldwin with Rock Racing. I believe he is wearing the jersey of the day: Crusifixion in Black And White With Just a Smidgen of Revenge. Buy yours today! Only $13,000.00. Cheap!
4:19: Bob Roll asks Lance what he thinks of the race roster in the Tour of California. Is Rob only allowed to ask this single question? Is it possible that anyone in the universe could do a worse job of asking these guys questions?
4:21: Oscar Freire is on the course. Racing for Rabobank. Rabobank! Rabobank! Rabobank!
4:24: A shot of Fabian Cancellera, warming up and wearing sparkly gold sunglasses. I don’t believe that I could pull that look off.
4:25: You know what this bike race needs? More ads!
4:28: Astute commenter BornFelt asks, “Have you heard that Lance is coming back? Who knew?” It’s an intriguing question, BornFelt, and I will look into it.
4:29: Tom Zirbel rides for Bissel! Zirbel for Bissel! Bissel’s Zirbel! Rabobank Rabobank Rabobank!
4:30: Team Jelly Belly’s team car is a Lexus. Which raises the question: who approved the Jelly Belly color scheme on a Lexus?
4:31: Bob Roll asks Tyler Hamilton if he wants to race fast. Hamilton punches Bob Roll in the throat. Hamilton’s changed. By the way, I made the part about Hamilton punching Bob Roll in the throat. But not the rest.
4:33: An ad for the Monster energy drink. Followed by a Pizza Hut ad. I believe those two things would go great together.
And now, back-to-back Enzyte commercials. TV now on mute.
4:35: Thor Hushovd is now in first. Go Thor!
4:36: Hincapie out of the starting gate. Here’s a question. Is there a single person in the whole world who doesn’t think George is a great guy?
4:37: Hamilton out of the gate. Paul makes fun of his position. I find myself unable to not root for Hamilton. In spite of his team.
4:38: And Zabriskie’s out of the gate. I wonder what kind of chamois cream he’s using?
4:39: Crowd goes wild as Armstrong goes down the ramp. Armstrong does a bunch of standing as he rides.
4:40: Hincapie coming down the home stretch. 2nd place by .21 seconds. Nice try, George.
4:41: Here comes Hamilton. 64th place.
4:42: Basso out of the gate. You know, this is not a particularly weak field at this race.
Zabriskie is now in first! Remember when earlier I said I’d love to have Zabriskie win this prologue?
4:43: Here comes Lance. Gonna beat Zabriskie? No way. 7th place. He should be able to give Leipheimer some good beta from that.
4:44: Landis is out.
Vandevelde on his way in. 19th place.
4:45: Leipheimer out of the gate. That guy looks focused.
Cancellera takes first, with a 2.X advantage. He must not have known about how I wanted Zabriskie to win.
4:46: Basso coming down the home stretch. finishes in millionth place.
4:47: Here’s Michael Rogers. 3rd place. Nice.
Here comes Floyd. C’mon Floyd.
He’s not even close. He finished in the top 100, I think.
4:49: Here comes Leipheimer. 2nd, with a 1.2 second deficit. A good prologue for him. Strategically perfect, really.
I have just discovered that it’s just as easy to liveblog as to simply watch TV. So I think I’ll do this for at least a few more stages.
Hey, let’s see how they wrap this up. Maybe Bob Roll will have some more awesome interviews.
4:57: Which is more irritating: Al Trautwig or Craig Hummer? Why? Provide examples.
4:58: Tomorrow: 3 mountain passes, 107.6 miles. 4:00pm Mountain time, which is the time we all reckon by.
4:59: Craig Hummer sounds desperate. Running out of things to say. Schwarzanegger looks wrinkly.
That’s it. Should I do the next stage this way? Or not?
PS: OK, I’m doing this again at least tomorrow. 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT). Though I reserve the right to take naps during the pre-game show.