Tour of California PostMortem

02.23.2009 | 4:12 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is one of those weird “What is this entry doing in this blog” entries, where instead of fake news or fart jokes, I actually talk about what I’m thinking.

I apologize in advance, and thank you for your indulgence, also in advance.

The Tour of California wasn’t just a comeback event for a bunch of well-known pro cyclists; it was a comeback race for me. I haven’t watched a professional bike with anything but mild curiosity since Floyd Landis got suspended.

Well, I guess a couple years off was enough; I really got invested in this race. And now that it’s over, I have a few comments. A few are about the race and racers, some are about myself, and some are about the media.

And all of it is hereby presented in the order it occurs to me.

The Non-Clash of the Titans

If a year ago you would have asked me what my greatest regret for the universe of pro cycling was, it would have been that there would never be a matchup between Armstrong, Basso, Landis, Hamilton, and Ulrich.

But last week, there they all were. Except Ulrich, of course.

So I started developing this fantasy where all of them, on the last big climb of the last day, would drop the rest of the field and battle it up for supremacy at the big summit.

Oh, also, in my fantasy, Ulrich surprises everyone at the base of the climb by jumping out from behind the boulder and contesting the climb along with the rest of them.

Hey, it’s my fantasy.

In reality, though, none of that happened. Armstrong rode for Leipheimer, Landis attacked but without conviction, Hamilton was out of shape, and Basso dropped out of the race, complaining of a sore goiter. Or something like that.

I’m hoping for something a lot more chaotic and intense in Italy in a couple months.

Lots of People Are Very Cool

At 3:53pm during the race prologue, I made an offhanded remark that would snowball in an awesome way. Specifically, I liveblogged:

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.

That evening, I talked with Scot Nicol (AKA Chuck Ibis), founder of Ibis Cycles. Scot was working with Bob Roll, doing secret man-on-the-inside stuff.

Together we hatched a plan. I’d set up a LiveStrong challenge page for Bob, and then Scot would ask Bob whether he would shave his head if we raised $5000 to fight cancer.

Bob said yes immediately.

Lots of people and publications spread the word, and Bob raised over $8500 as part of Team Fatty: Fighting for Susan. And Bob got his head shaved, by Bruyneel, on camera.

We’ll be sending out prizes to a few lucky contributors — signed jerseys, bags o’ schwag — but a few of you got an even cooler prize: Bob Roll recorded you an outgoing voicemail message you can use on your phone.

Oh, and he recorded one for me too.

The Amgen Tour Tracker Was Awesome

I don’t think I have ever seen a cooler, more useful web app than the Amgen Tour Tracker. Video! Real-time course and elevation chart mapping! Text updates! Everything a fan could want.

To Amgen, the ATOC organizers, the developers, and the people who maintained that site: congratulations on an incredible and useful site.

I really, really, really hope that the Giro and Tour organizers do something similar. Really really.

Versus Needs to Understand Its Audience Better

I’m really glad that the Tour of California was broadcast on television. And I think Versus did a pretty good job of handling the broadcast duties.

And based on the frequency and duration of the ads during each stage, I’d say Versus got what it wanted out of this race, too. In which case, they probably don’t care about my gripes. Which I am going to enumerate anyway.

First, let’s talk about Craig Hummer. Giving someone like Craig Hummer — someone who doesn’t really know much about cycling — a microphone isn’t by itself a bad idea. That person’s job, however, should be to ask the experts — Phil and Paul — the questions that other people new to the sport might ask.

That person’s job should not be to act as if he knew what was going on. By making wrongheaded, rookie-level assertions, he just confuses the audience, embarrasses himself, and forces Phil and Paul to constantly decide whether it’s worth it to correct Hummer on-air.

Until he can at least sorta-kinda pronounce “palmares,” Hummer needs to take the role of attentive apprentice during the broadcast, and leave the pronouncements of what’s going on in Lance’s head to Phil and Paul.

Second, let’s talk about Rasika Mathur. While the choice of Hummer as co-anchor is defensible, the choice of improvisational actor Rasika Mathur to do comedy spots on cycling is not.

I think I get what Versus was after here, at least on paper: a young woman brings some moments of humor to an event otherwise dominated by serious, uptight men. Hopefully.

The thing is, though, in order to lampoon something, you have to understand it. Then, if you make fun of it well, it’s funny at a couple of levels. People on the outside recognize the quirks they see in cyclists they know and see on the street and laugh at the common experience.

Meanwhile, people who are on the inside get it and laugh at themselves.

In this case, though, the whole joke seemed to be that Rasika knew nothing at all about cycling. And so she marveled that it was easier to turn the cranks when you shift into a lower gear (something every child with a 3-speed, and every adult who has been in an automobile already knows), asked sexist questions designed to make people uncomfortable, and did an impression of Lance Armstrong that seemed much more like she was doing an impression of Mick Jagger.

There are people who can poke fun at cycling perfectly well. Versus should hire The Metal Cowboy. Or Bike Snob NYC. Or Captain Dondo, for crying out loud.

Or, here’s a wacky idea: how about Bob Roll, who you’ve got on staff anyway?

The bottom line is: If you’re going to hire someone to be topically funny, you need to ensure that the funny person knows enough to be topical.

Rasika was neither topical, nor funny.

I Am Unnecessary

I kind of stumbled into the whole “liveblog” thing. I was sick (yes really) almost the entire week, staying home from work. So I got in a lot of TV. And I thought, “might as well try liveblogging it.”

The thing is, I had a lot of fun doing that, but — let’s face it — I certainly don’t know enough about pro cycling to predict who is going to win a given stage. In fact, I seem to not even know enough to predict what kind of rider is going to win.

Still, though. I think I might try it again. Not the whole stage race, but certain stages.

And now I need a couple of days off.

PS: I’m very interested in your impressions and reactions to the Tour of California, even if you disagree. Though I may edit your comments so that it seems like you actually do agree with me.


  1. Comment by bikemike | 02.23.2009 | 4:25 pm

    you coulda been the go to humor guy elden.

    no, seriously.

    hey, stop laughing, i’m not kidding.

  2. Comment by Hamish A | 02.23.2009 | 4:27 pm

    Regardless of you being ill and saying you don’t know enough to predict the stage wins I had a lot more fun following your liveblog than I ever have listening to those who get paid to cover these events.

    Versus – Next year how about getting Fatty, Bob & Al to do your on camera work? Then you can send HUmmer out amongst the crowds to collect questions that the 3 pro pundits can answer in their typical (tongue in cheek) style. I’d watch that.

    Feel better Fatty. Win Susan!

    Oh, and once again – great job Bob.

  3. Comment by Mike | 02.23.2009 | 4:34 pm

    I agree with your sentiments on the tour. Hummer needs to learn to zip it, and Bobke is all the comic relief Versus will ever need.

    On a side note, I watched the highland valley climb in person yesterday(you may have seen a pink fat cyclist jersey in the crowd, that was me) anyway, those guys make the hills look flat. It was awe inspiring.

    I also got a lot of compliments on the jersey. I did my best to sell the idea that everyone needs one, and by getting one they would be fighting cancer, and looking almost as cool as me.


  4. Comment by Merlin | 02.23.2009 | 4:35 pm

    They could have had weeklong coverage of Chris Horner’s diet. That would have been much more entertaining and funny than Rasika Mathur.

    From what I’ve read, it was shocking to Lance!

  5. Comment by Big Boned | 02.23.2009 | 4:39 pm


    Versus should hire Fatty as an on-bike correspondent for the Giro.


  6. Comment by Farthing | 02.23.2009 | 4:53 pm

    Have you thought of getting other people to do a ‘guest live-blogging’ of sorts (I’m thinking during the tour)? It could be wonderfully interesting to hear what others have to say. Also it would probably take some pressure off you. Besides, it’s not like every single stage has to be covered either.

  7. Comment by Captain Dondo | 02.23.2009 | 4:53 pm

    I’m tanned, rested and ready. Bring on the network bux!

  8. Comment by Steve | 02.23.2009 | 4:59 pm

    I noticed a troubling development in the Versus announcing team at the Tour of California.

    In the past, Al Trautwig and Craig Hummer have been the moderators for the roundtable discussion at the beginning of each stage and the voice that takes the live coverage to and from commercials. During the live coverage they would, and I can’t emphasize this enough, shut up and let Phil and Paul cover the actual racing. They were not the third announcer in the booth with Phil and Paul. Heck, with Tivo I didn’t even have to hear Trautwig and Hummer at all.

    This week Hummer was at times the only announcer and was always an equal third commentator. If that continues at the Tour, I will have to turn off the television.

    I, like most cyclists in the U.S., occasionally imagine that Phil and Paul are calling the action on my rides. I will not risk having to listen to Craig Hummer in my head while I am riding. Versus producers you have been warned.

  9. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.23.2009 | 5:08 pm

    My impressions? I want ride my bike in California for a week.

    ToCali coverage? The web tracker is all I need – clueless talking heads and lots of ads I need not. Well not exactly, the dream setup would be the tracker with Bob and Phil commentating.

    Elden, I enjoyed your live blogging. Let’s face it, bike racing is mostly boring so reading your comments (mostly tangential) made it fun. It’s like tic-tac-toe is boring, unless you make it a drinking game.

  10. Comment by Kali Durga | 02.23.2009 | 5:11 pm

    I didn’t watch any of the Versus coverage until Sunday evening, when I turned on their Stage 8 re-cap while I did housework. Throughout the week at work, I had two tabs open: The Amgen site and Elden’s liveblog. After that each day, I didn’t feel the need to catch any of the Versus re-caps. I second Elden’s fervent wish that SOMEone, pleasepleaseplease, duplicate the Amgen site concept for the rest of the season.

    And Elden, I also second the wish of other folks here that you do more liveblogging. I wanna see how you compare to Tour day Schmalz this July ;)

  11. Comment by Kali Durga | 02.23.2009 | 5:13 pm

    Ah yes, KanyonKris, you nailed it: “the dream setup would be the tracker with Bob and Phil commentating.”

  12. Comment by fatty | 02.23.2009 | 5:21 pm

    captain dondo – seriously, is that you? can i have an autograph?

  13. Comment by Kt | 02.23.2009 | 5:24 pm

    The Versus coverage sucked.

    Cutting out the finish of the stage to go to Rodeo? Hockey?? Are you friggin’ serious?! The end of the stage is the part most of us want to watch.

    Versus: skip over the beginning of the stage, and start your coverage at the BASE of the first big climb of the day. That way, there’s the possibility of actually seeing some good racing, instead of listening to Craig Hummer and your stupid “girl on the street” (who gives us girls who like bikes a bad stereotype to smash apart, thanks).

    For the love of Pete: model the ToC coverage after the TdF coverage: Let Craig introduce Paul and Phil, then let Paul and Phil do their thing, with Bobke as the “man on the street”. The end. That’s all you need. And Craig doesn’t have to say anything else, for the rest of the show. And you can pay him accordingly. Look, I’m giving you ideas to save some green for your shareholders.

    AND SHOW THE END OF THE STAGE. Your coverage is worthless if you don’t show the end.

    And don’t tell us to go online to watch the end; that’s really extra lame. Why should we watch your coverage, then?

    And enough already with the “Lance is back” giddiness. We can see that he’s back; he’s been back for a while now.

    Did anyone else catch their mistake, that the ToC is the first time he’s been in a bike race in the US since he retired?

    Um, didn’t he do Leadville or something? Doesn’t that count as a bike race? I think it does.

  14. Comment by Kevin | 02.23.2009 | 5:26 pm

    I’ve been watching cycling for a few years with sorta half enthusiasm, but this was the first race that I’ve really gotten into. Part of that was probably that I’m (finally) starting to recognize most of the names I hear, but also a big part I think was having the amgen tracker keeping me informed of who was in the break, what the times were, etc., and having your live blogging to keep the entertainment up fatty!

    Do it for the giro and tour, please?

  15. Comment by Vince | 02.23.2009 | 5:42 pm

    The tour tracker was AWESOME!!!!! please please someone pull some strings for the Giro and the Tour

    yes, Rasika was fricking annoying.

    and I hope stage 8 stays around. I had a blast on Palomar yesterday.

  16. Comment by Mike | 02.23.2009 | 5:47 pm

    I wouldn’t feel bad about your inability to predict the winner or rider-type of the winner for the stages. I think most of the riders and the commentators were genuinely surprised by a lot of those finishes as well.

    Good stage race, though. I found myself glued to the online updates and occasionally sneaking peaks at the ATOC tracker, which appears to be much better than Versus coverage.

  17. Comment by Charisa | 02.23.2009 | 5:51 pm

    I thought VS did just an OK job. Well, it kinda sucked, but at least it was on TV. I went out and climbed Palomar yesterday and cheered from the top. The race org did an AWESOME job making spectators welcome. Palomar is not exactly easy-access and they had water out there for people and had bathrooms up on the hill, etc. Chalk was passed out, water bottles, etc. It was cool and a really big deal. And I hope like everything they keep Palomar in next year! And I agree, tour tracker rocked for those days I was at work :)

  18. Comment by born4felt | 02.23.2009 | 5:56 pm

    Fatty, I went to the meeting for volunteers last year and the ToC director explained that they wanted a mountaintop finish but couldn’t find a place to do it. You need a place for riders to stay at the top, or you have a long and difficult transfer, and although CA has some towns at elevation they are in the Sierras and snowed in this time of year.

    I also prefer a climbing stage that ends with a short technical descent, which is tactically more interesting and puts a premium on descending skills. For my money, the stage to the Col de La Bonnette was the most exciting in the Tour last year, and it ended with a furious short descent. The stage to Santa Clara was like that in this year’s ToC, and it was also the decisive stage.

  19. Comment by Ryan | 02.23.2009 | 6:01 pm

    Last week was a blast! While my wife went to visit her sister in Hi, I stayed home and watched the Tour everyday as I peddled away on the trainer. (The sun sets shortly after work and it is 20 degrees here.) I checked on your blog as well as It was cool to see different sides to the same story. It really was nice to see a stage race televised daily. Thanks for the entertainment.

  20. Comment by Rider 3 | 02.23.2009 | 6:11 pm

    Fatty – Your were too kind in your comments. First, you should have gotten credit where credit was due for the Bob Roll head-shaving/fundraising thing. It was an awesome display of your powers. You are topic one in tomorrow’s post on our blog.

    Second, you were way too kind about Craig Hummer and Rasika Mathur. You were right, but too kind. Hummer shouldn’t be in the broadcast for live coverage. Phil and Paul were stymied often, had trouble getting their rhythm and didn’t do their normal excellent job.

    For an entire week of complaining about Versus, while acknowledging how great it is to have cycling on TV, check out our blog starting tomorrow: Team Two Wheel Blog.

    Rider 3

  21. Comment by Michael in TN | 02.23.2009 | 6:11 pm

    Other people have mentioned this but I’ll say it again. Why, oh why did they even have Hummer calling the race? At the TdF he anchored the pre-show and that was it – that’s where he needs to stay. Phil and Paul are legends – Versus is lucky to have them, let them do their job without Hummer getting in the way.

  22. Comment by Jenni Laurita | 02.23.2009 | 6:42 pm

    There’s no excuse for us having to watch crowds of people stand in the rain if the satellite feed is out. There should have been much much more of a back up. I don’t know what could’ve been done but something, anything, would have been better than that.

    I get the whole thing that the American audience is new to cycling for the most part. More team introductions and explainations of who does what would have been good.

    STATS STATS STATS. I want to know in MPH and MILES how fast the riders are going at all times. I don’t want the arbitrary metric stat thrown in there every half hour or so. I want to know watts, heartrates, speed, weights, everything. Think how every stat to every other American sport is analyzed ad infinitim. I enjoyed the website coverage for this but I don’t want to watch from two places.

    Right before the last stage I turned Versus on- the guide said I should be watching “skiing” yet I was actually watching the Tour of Qatar.

    The comedy had absolutely no place. I didn’t enjoy her even a little bit and felt embarrassed over her jokes and delivery.

    Too many eventful things were missed, crashes especially. We almost always just had a shot of someone laying on the ground without seeing what happened. More cameras, period.

  23. Comment by Juls | 02.23.2009 | 6:42 pm

    As bad as Hummer was – nothing, and I mean nothing was more horrible (and uncomfortable) than that Rasika chic. I was so embarrassed when she interviewed Tom Zirbel – she didn’t even know his name!! What! Find out the name of the person you are talking to! And then she continues to hit on him even after he tells her he is taken. Some of her comments to were just plain inappropriate. Nothing was worse than she was.
    Geesh – I would like to personally tell Tom Zirbel that not all Americans are like that.

    Well – okay, cutting away to air hockey instead of the end of the race was pretty bad.

    Versus – please, please, please listen to us!!! All you need is Phil, Paul and Bob in the booth (and please let Bobke off the downers. Really – we love him for who he is). If you really want “people in the field/street – keep it to Robbie Ventura and maybe Frankie. At least they know what the heck they are talking about.

    The Amgen Tour Tracker – rocked! I couldn’t believe I could pick which camera I wanted to follow! How cool was that!

    One more plea to Versus. We know you own the rights to the Giro. Air it live – in it’s entirety. Just like you do The Tour. Bobke LOVES Italy. He would be more than happy to commentate – and so would the fans.

  24. Comment by RobN | 02.23.2009 | 6:44 pm

    I am very new to cycling; my husband hasn’t ridden a bike since he learned to drive and has no interest in starting now. Trying to show me a little support, he willingly watched the Versus coverage through several rainy stages. Unfortunately he kept asking me questions such as “How come they never show those couple of guys at the front?” and “How come they show the big bunch of guys who are four minutes behind when the winners seem to be sprinting for the finish?” and “How come they don’t seem to know whether that third guy is part of the sprint for the finish or whether he has another lap to go?” Perhaps if I weren’t so new to the sport I could have come up with an answer other than “I think maybe the coverage pretty much just sucks.”

  25. Comment by Paula Kirsch | 02.23.2009 | 6:47 pm

    Well the girl was lame, and as a woman it makes me mad that women, who often know LOTS about sports/cycling, are made the fools. That said she was a real fool. Hummer is better than Al Trautwig, well Genghis Khan would be better than Al Trautwig, ‘nuf said there.

    I am on a iMac and the Tour Tracker was crap for me. It did such strange things that I can’t even tell you. They used to be Mac friendly at the ToC but no more. I gave up on the tribulations of trying to expand the video screen and went to CN where I read the updates.

    So there you have it Fatty, edit away since I agree with not all you said.


  26. Comment by CatPete | 02.23.2009 | 7:00 pm

    My sister and I went out to the ToC last week for a couple of stages. Although we are not cyclist, we love the sport. Couple of comments…
    Bob Roll is very cool and was able to point out the best beer in Paso.
    Garmin-Slipstream is the anti-Astana. Very accessible and easy to get to. Plus Matty White and JV are certainly much cuter than Johan.
    Saw Hummer and wanted to throw something at him, but I didn’t. Thought it would be rude.

  27. Comment by Andrea | 02.23.2009 | 7:02 pm

    I seriously couldn’t wait for you live blogging of each stage. The day that you said you weren’t going to live blog I cried.

    I think that VS coverage was lame at times. I couldn’t agree with your comments about Rasika Mathur more. I had no idea what she was supposed to be doing at all. I just remember her interviewing someone from Garmin about their GPS systems. When he held it up she said, “So this is your phone?” Uh, yeah.

  28. Comment by Jason Griese | 02.23.2009 | 7:17 pm

    Great job on the live blog , first year I was able to watch whole tour , hope I don’t missit ever again.
    Yes Versus needs to understand the audience better. And whats with cutting to bull riding or what ever the one day or the flippin infomercial for thre first half of their scheduled tour broadcast.
    My tour tracker never really showed the riders at the proper places but it was cool. The one anouncer on the site needeto do someting about the carmel apples he was continuosly eating anfd smacking. it got irritating after 3rd day. No it just sounded like it.

    Great Job Elden ,Thanks for carrying the flag and doing such a great job with your site.

    Jason Griese,Appleton WI ,USA

  29. Comment by Tony | 02.23.2009 | 7:19 pm

    Agree with you to a certain extent about Craig Hummer, but let’s be completely honest, he is way, way better than Al Trautwig.

  30. Comment by WheelDancer | 02.23.2009 | 7:35 pm

    I don’t have Versus so I missed the annoying parts but Fatty’s comments were very funny and I could imagine the lameness without direct exposure. I add my vote to getting him on the payroll for the season. Humor is a subtle thing that is virtually never pulled off by someone who isn’t seasoned in whatever they are lampooning.

    The tracker site was in fact the best use of the internet I have ever seen and truly hope the developers get it to be the standard for all the tours.

  31. Comment by Debamundo | 02.23.2009 | 7:36 pm

    I agree with everything you said about ToC coverage. But I have something to add, something very important: Not Enough Jens. Versus seems to think American cycling fans are simpletons who only care about the American cyclists. I DO like to watch the Americans. Levi is a class act and a champion. Zabriskie can actually fly, I think. Seeing Lance again is great. I could go on. I love them all, VandeVelde, Hincapie, etc. But I am also a fan of the Europeans. Anyone who follows cycling at all is. You can’t help but be a fan. Jens Voigt came in fourth. Two years ago he was second. Plus, he is just AMAZING. He was on camera maybe 20 seconds all week. (Ok, maybe more. I missed a bit of the coverage, but he wasn’t on much.)This is a travesty.

    Is there any way you can get all this passed on to Versus? You have a way of getting things done. One of your famously effective Open Letters, perhaps?

  32. Comment by Kathleen | 02.23.2009 | 7:50 pm

    This was the first bike race I followed and I found the VS coverage extremely disjointed and confusing. The Amgen site was better overall. IMHO.

    I loved your comments…funny and insightful.

  33. Comment by cmebike4fun | 02.23.2009 | 8:00 pm


    I loved the liveblog! I just recently moved to California from Mississippi. When in MS I used to watch Versus for TdF coverage and was happy with what I got (It was better than nothing). Last year I saw the stage finish in San Jose and was impressed with the rider access that we had. So, this year we decided to follow the tour around between working. It was much better than watching it on Versus. Especially as I read about the poor coverage!
    We started at Stage 1 on the side of Howell mountain in the rain! Me, the girlfriend and 2 dogs sleeping in the 4runner and soaking wet as the riders came by! Total excitement!! The problem I had was trying to figure out where the riders were because there was no radio announcing the race. Luckily the TofC web page had a random-working play by play that kind of helped and I eventually found your blog.
    Between your blog, the TofC play by play and waiting on the side of the road, I felt in the “zone”. Never have I been so excited watching cycling!
    We went to the Santa Cruz finish, the Paso Robles stage and Solvang! It was nice being able to read your blog on my phone and know what was going on other than what I was seeing. At Solvang I got a picture of Bob that I emailed you. He was in the crowd as Lance was warming up on his trainer. They were talking back and forth. I thought you might enjoy the pic. Pretty much all of the teams were friendly. The Astana bus was packed, but even that wasn’t too bad.
    Thank you so much for doing what you did and I will check back on you and Susan often. Keep on fighting!

  34. Comment by Hat | 02.23.2009 | 8:12 pm

    By the end of it, Hummer didn’t grate on my nerves quite as much as he did in the beginning. I don’t really think he got better; I just developed a tolerance.

  35. Comment by jb | 02.23.2009 | 8:26 pm

    loved the liveblogging…hilarious…i would definitely be back for more!

  36. Comment by Matt | 02.23.2009 | 8:30 pm

    I loved the liveblogging, and I give Vs. coverage a solid C+.

    Are they going to be covering the Giro? Daily like the ToC? Or just recaps on the weekend? Anyone know

  37. Comment by bobbieh | 02.23.2009 | 8:33 pm

    Versus sucked; the Amgen site rocked… Get rid of Hummer on the ‘play-calling’; and get Fatty doing SOMETHING on air!!!!!!!!!

    Hugs to you and yours~

  38. Comment by Bardiac | 02.23.2009 | 9:01 pm

    When John Madden first started announcing football games, he did a really good job explaining stuff. I remember learning what a pulling guard does, for example. It made me appreciate football WAY more.

    I’d like them to get a really good explainer, and then as you suggest, maybe someone to ask good questions about training, strategy, equipment, and so forth. Get someone who’s smart enough to ask good question, and then someone who’s a really good explainer.

    And actually SHOWING the race would help, too. And show some pictures of the women’s race!

  39. Comment by Stephen | 02.23.2009 | 9:20 pm

    Like another commenter, I watched the Tracker coverage on a Mac, it wasn’t all that. Still way better than Versus, pulling a “Heidi” stunt like switching to hockey 10 minutes before a stage finish, WTF? Oh, yeah, Hummer was awful as well.
    Coverage in general needs work, but at least we got almost real-time results.

  40. Comment by fatty | 02.23.2009 | 9:42 pm

    paula, stephen – hmmm. the thing is, i watched the tracker coverage on a mac too. well, two macs, actually: my desktop (iMac) and my laptop (macbook pro). i had no problems with the tracker at all.

    for what it’s worth, i was using Firefox. maybe you were using Safari?

  41. Comment by Shirley | 02.23.2009 | 9:52 pm

    Hummer is the worst commentator I’ve ever heard. Every word out of his mouth has an exclamation mark on it. Its horrible! Al is sooooo much better. I cant believe there are bloggers above who think the opposite.

    Fatty, your live blogging was really funny and much needed.

    Win Susan!

  42. Comment by danielle | 02.23.2009 | 10:07 pm

    We’re heading to Italy for the first few stages of the race, I’m going to have to figure out how to get online there or something so I can send a few reports back. Will my regular cell phone work? If I get online there, I can Twitter (daniellembaker) for a few days…

  43. Comment by JT | 02.23.2009 | 10:16 pm

    In canada you were my tour of California coverage so great job!!

  44. Comment by kentucky joe | 02.23.2009 | 10:27 pm

    FC, totally with you on the tour tracker, great feature and between that and your live blogging, I was more entertained and informed than VS coverage but I still tuned in to that as well and as bad as Hummer may get on your nerves, he is better than Al Trautwig plus I really like Phil and Paul. I missed the comedy girl but what’s with everyone running like wild men so close to the riders….I would love to ride on some of those roads in Cali but those crowds seemed wacky even for Cali. Overall it was nice to see some veterans back in the saddle…but a highlight was certainly Bob’s shearing for the cause…wow…another great job

  45. Comment by El Animal | 02.23.2009 | 10:30 pm

    I loved the mano a mano with Al MAviva. Much better than cycling news.

  46. Comment by Peter | 02.23.2009 | 10:55 pm

    I loved being able to pretend to work while watching the online tracker coverage. Somehow that make it through the draconian firewall. Sadly Fatty, you’ve been blacklisted. BSNYC isn’t, and neither is Jill, but you my friend must have done something to make the evil firewall gods angry. At least I can catch the Google cache of your page, but it prevents me from enjoying your liveblogging event.
    I so hope that the Giro and TDF catch onto the online tracker. Even better would be Paul & Phil online! Maybe I can get the firewall password cracked by then and tune into your liveblogs.

  47. Comment by Beast Mom | 02.24.2009 | 12:32 am

    “While the choice of Hummer as co-anchor is defensible, the choice of improvisational actor Rasika Mathur to do comedy spots on cycling is not.”

    Totally agree. She was HORRIBLE. I had to leave the room every time she came on. It was PAINFUL to watch her.


    Random other thoughts:

    -Some of fans running next to the cyclists made American cycling fans look pathetically ignorant. It’s one thing to do this sort of sensational fan thing and WATCH YOUR STEP AND THE RIDERS so you don’t actually get in the way, and it’s another to just look like yet another American dufus who wants to get on TV while demonstrating total disregard for the fact that you’re IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD AND IN THE FRICKIN’ WAY. Did you see the one rider who punched an idiot spectator/runner in the head? That spectator totally deserved the punch. He was seriously jeapordizing the riders’ safety. But of course people obsessed with getting on TV don’t care…

    And those people who cross the street right in front of mass of cyclists coming into town really need to get a clue. Even when these guys turn 90 degree street corners – something normal people might perceive as “slow enough to cross in front of”, they are FLYING by fast enough to KILL YOU. Get off the dang streets! That’s all we need is a bunch of lawsuits against Amgen or whoever else.

    Versus coverage – I was just happy so much of the tour was on TV! But yes, they need to understand the audience better. Because I personally REALLY, REALLY enjoy watching bull riding commercials and the freaky-smiley Enzyte man rather than any of the climbs. duh.


  48. Comment by Beast Mom | 02.24.2009 | 12:34 am

    P.S. “The Shave” was awesome. ;)

  49. Comment by buckythedonkey | 02.24.2009 | 4:12 am

    I caught almost no live coverage but the live blogging was still good fun non-live.

    I did catch a short snippet of coverage on the tracker site and I have to agree that it sets a new standard for this sort of thing. Giro and TdF please pay attention (they won’t).

    Of course, the stars of the whole event were a great idea, a willing accomplice and a hell of a good sport, they being the shaving bet, Chuck Ibis (not his real name) and Bob Roll.

    Pure genius! Good on you Bob.


  50. Comment by Tim D | 02.24.2009 | 5:15 am

    The only Live coverage I watched was the prologue and the Monday stage, which got sown pretty much in its entirety on Eurosport. I suspect that when you were being bombarded with ads, we were getting fixed shots of the finish or helecopter shots of the sea. I can understand poor reception when the weather was really bad, but the amount of picture breakup at the finishes was unacceptable. For a state that is the heart of the entertainment industry and home for a huge amount of high tech industry, it was disappointing. The other thing that was disappointing was the lack of good information. The Vuelta is usually the best for this, with GPS measured graphics on the screen whenever there is a break and often split screens showing both/all groups.

    On the up side, I thought the people of california were great. Out in all weathers, very enthusiastic. There were a couple of idiots, but in the main a good crowd.

    And the scenery (when you could see it) was beautiful. Once I’ve sold the kids into slavery, we plan to go over and ride some of those roads.

  51. Comment by Linda | 02.24.2009 | 7:20 am

    I loved your live blog coverage, Fatty. I even got a cycling friend of mine hooked on your blog during the race. I’m just happy to be able to even HAVE cycling coverage on TV, as rocky as it was at times. But your comments actually made me laugh out loud while watching. I was also in total agreement about the audience that might be watching those cancer commercials. Someone really screwed up writing those and didn’t think about the actual cancer-stricken families watching. That was a major blunder and there’s a writer out there somewhere who should be absolutely ashamed.

    The Amgen tracker was excellent. I was able to watch the race while at work and still keep working. As far as the Versus coverage; yes, Hummer can be irritating and awkward, as in the MC Hammer statement. I ended up pretty much subconsciously tuning out Hummer because he never really said anything worth noting. Phil and Paul were excellent as always, with their dry humor and friendly British banter. Bob Roll is great. But if I were Rasika Mathur and I called myself a comedienne and watched myself on playback, I’d be hiding out in a secluded cabin on a mountaintop in absolute embarrassment that anyone might recognize me as “that awful girl on Versus from the ToC”.

    It’s great that this blog got Bob’s head shaved, raised money for cancer research and knowing the story behind it before it happened. Great job, Fatty…and WIN SUSAN!

  52. Comment by Boz | 02.24.2009 | 8:07 am

    The Versus coverage was poor, at best. I dvr’ed the race, and missed the ending to some stages due to them running behind schedule. Too bad Vs didn’t allow for this. They could have scheduled another 1/2 hour and ran some of the lame extras in that time slot instead of during the race. Or, I could have set my dvr to record the program after also, then I wouldn’t have much to complain about.

  53. Comment by Randoboy | 02.24.2009 | 9:10 am

    1. The Tracker was awesome!

    2. Versus was about what you’ve come to expect. Yeah, Craig needs to shut up, or Phil and Paul need to be more comfortable giving him a “Jane, you ignorant slut …” and then explaining what’s really going on. That would be enough comic relief that we would not need Ms. Clueless.

    3. A mountain-top stage is direly needed. Maybe we can bring back the Tour de Georgia? The finish on top of Brasstown Bald, after climbing Fort Mountain and Hogpen Gap (the hard way) is – literally – killer!

  54. Comment by tom | 02.24.2009 | 9:16 am

    Seemed to me like Versus constantly missed the finish of the stage. Really annoying. I would rather miss the start and be sure to see the finish. Not sure if this is because my DVR cut off or their coverage cut off but in at least 1 case it was the coverage since I scheduled the DVR to run over, then got a hockey game.

  55. Comment by Nathan | 02.24.2009 | 9:50 am

    I enjoyed reading your synopsis of the race. It was entertaining, and a lot quicker read than cyclingnews.

  56. Comment by FliesOnly | 02.24.2009 | 9:50 am

    It was a very enjoyable race to watch. The first couple of days looked miserable (weather wise)…but hey…it’s a bike race in February.

    Now, my comments about the coverage.

    1). Versus needs to either lose Craig Hummer or, at the very least, have someone knowledgeable about cycling be in control of when his (Mr Hummer’s) microphone is actually turned on.

    2). Drop the pathetic attempt at humor in the from of a young female that knows less about cycling than you average sprig of asparagus, and instead turn the comedy over an expert in cycling humor (like yourself Fatty. Seriously, they (VS) should hire you to do their “humorous anecdotes” stuff. At least then it would actually be funny).

    3). Hey, does anyone know the answer to this question? Now that Lance will be riding, will VS do daily live coverage of the Giro? ’snot even listed on their web-page as being covered at all…not even weekend updates like they have done the past couple of years.

  57. Comment by Rob | 02.24.2009 | 9:52 am

    I was a little let down by the race itself. With the start list, I was expecting some fireworks and a more exciting race. The race is great, but it needs a mountain top finish. Or at least a significant climb within the last 10KM. Georgia was always about Brasstown.

    Hummer is better than Al Trautwig (sp??) but has no business joint Phil & Paul for play by play. The girl on the street was awful.

    It would have been nice on Monday’s stage if Versus got the schedule right. My dvr recorded the block labeled “Cycling”. Now I understand if the pace was slow and I missed the finish because the stage ran long on time. But Monday was crazy. The race was just getting to the climb, one of the few defining features of the whole week, and recording stops. The stage finished approx 2 hours later. Partly my fault, but help a brother out.

    Also…here’s an idea….how about, every once in a while giving us SOME idea of how far they have to go to the finish? I never once saw a graphic or heard any explanation of distance to go.

    And given the Lance factor….think we’ll get daily coverage of the Giro?

  58. Comment by MOCougFan | 02.24.2009 | 10:08 am


    1– Loved the tour tracker. It made the tour awesome for me. Loved it.

    2–FC blogging totally took the place of VeloNews for me. It was great.

    3–VS sucks. Let Paul and Phil do it independantly with Frankie Andreu. Those 3 together would be good. Throw Bobke in there and I would love it.

    4–I saw way too many fat guys in skimpy underwear. I don’t remember seeing Basso at all.

  59. Comment by Ethan | 02.24.2009 | 10:38 am

    As much as it pains me to say so, Hummer does have a working knowledge of cycling. No, not the encyclopedic minds of Ligget or Sherwin, but he never embarassed himself. Certainly better than Trautwig.

  60. Comment by Jay Los Angeles | 02.24.2009 | 10:41 am

    I was lucky enough to make it to two stages this year as i did last year. Solvang and Pasadena. Solvang is simply great. Everyone should come to Solvang for this event…..actually I think everyone did come this year. There were at least twice the number of people this year compared to last year maybe triple. It was truly amazing. A bike race in the US drawing that many people. Of course it is free making it the best value in sports there is. Back to Solvang. Amazing place great racing and because of the layout you can see and experience so much in a small area. You can go from start to finish line in minutes view the teams warming up look at their bikes etc. All of this within a two block radius. Pasadena involves a lot of waiting around but you do get to see 5 laps of sheer excitement. Last year the pouring rain actually added to the drama….but I have to say I didn’t miss it….LOL. All in all something to look forward to in these trying times. Oh and about Lance Armstrong. Everybody the riders VS the ToC management as well as all of us owe him a huge “Thank You” for coming back. If you’re sick of hearing about him watch golf……and get sick of hearing about Tiger Woods.

  61. Comment by ac | 02.24.2009 | 10:45 am

    I could not stand watching the coverage on Versus — those ads. Groan. I was all the way.

    btw i really enjoyed the liveblogging here too. Your insight regarding the cancer ads was a perspective i had not considered and appreciated hearing.

    You know who I’m luvin in ‘09? Those Schleck boys.

  62. Comment by KJ | 02.24.2009 | 12:22 pm

    We all should be happy to have the TV coverage VS provides. It is far from perfect but, does anyone remember the ESPN TdF coverage, 30 minutes each night? Can anyone remember when one couldn’t find out who even won the TdF until August? Coverage sure can get better, but it used to be far worse.

    And why does VS advertise their cage boxing and bull riding during bike races? What cycling fan is going to tune back into VS to see bull riding? None.

  63. Comment by Kt | 02.24.2009 | 12:28 pm

    Rants aside…

    Fatty, your liveblog saved us when Vs ran out of show. After Vs switched to rodeo or bass fishing or watching paint dry, I would bring up your page and read off the last part of the stage.

    While watching the Vs coverage, I would bring your page and read along. It made for a more in-depth race coverage than I was getting from Vs.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Hey, maybe your friend Chuck Ibis/Scot Nichols could get you a job as comedy commentator for Vs for their cycling shows? That would be awesome.

  64. Comment by TomE | 02.24.2009 | 12:33 pm

    SO tired of all the ads on VS….thank god for TIVO!! Fatty…I must say that I went to your “live” blogging first – before I watched the ToC of Tivo. At least I was able to get to the good parts. It was too bad the weather was horrible and they couldn’t show parts of the race, but surely this came up in pre-production meetings…..they should have had something to talk about!!!

    Live blog more FATTY!!! And I second (or third) an open letter to VS.

  65. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.24.2009 | 12:48 pm

    In the past, I have followed big bike races when I was at work on and/or, just following the “live” comments. But they tend to be dry.

    The tracker was really the deal for me to watch at work. I had one monitor on tracker, and the other on your blog, Fatty – (of course with some work to switch to in the background, as an alibi.) The liveblogging was great fun.

    I enjoy velonews post-stage writeups, photos and video clips. Their daily stage video wrap up had a lot of bobke coverage and a good sampling of race coverage.

    But it was way better having watched full-time tracker coverage the day before.

    Frankie Andreau was OK, but not great. His partner, Joe Slawa, was a retard on the order of Al Trautwig, but less lovable. He came alive one time, and that was when he was talking to a Chamber of Commerce guest about wine. He didn’t realize that he did not know what he was taking about with cycling. Their best coverage came when Paul or Phil visited them in the tent.

    Oh, to have Paul, Phil and Bobke on full-time live coverage, with Chris Horner (after he retires) to do interviews and race tactics pieces. He is really good at that.

    One thing particularly cool on the tracker was when they switched to a moto cam, and turned up the mike volume out on the course, so you could hear the riders talking. They got the whole sequence where Mancebo was out on a break getting KOM points, but the rest of the break wanted him to go back, so the peloton would not chase them down. McCartney went back to the Rock team car and discussed it with them. Sure, enough, a few minutes later, and Mancebo is drifting back. Frankie was astute enough to point out that McCartney (2nd place KOM at the time) was allowing Mancebo’s Rock teamate to pick up the remaining KOM points as part of the deal to convince the peloton to let the break go. That was really cool.

    Another time, however, tracker had live post race coverage of Bobke’s rider interviews for VS, and Joe & Frankie kept talking right over the top of Babke and Cav. That pissed me off.

    Oh, and Rack Racing were actually racing in a manner that I could take them seriously. I saw none of the Rolling Stones spectacle stuff. That was good to see. Too bad Tyler was not in better shape. He needed a phantom twin blood donor.

    And Floyd – not much of a showing either. I hope he can pick it up this season.

  66. Comment by Barbara | 02.24.2009 | 1:15 pm

    The person who is REALLY good at explaining all things cycling is BOB ROLL. They didn’t use his core competency in this race coverage.

    Hummer is annoying and just to make it worse, has an annoying voice. At least Trautwig has a great “announcer voice.” Neither should be doing race coverage.

    I can’t even bring myself to comment on the not-funny woman whose name I refuse to learn. Embarrassingly awful.

    Loved the Liveblog, Fatty!

  67. Comment by Nicole | 02.24.2009 | 1:20 pm

    I can put up with most of Versus’ crap coverage, but NOT cutting the end of a stage (spring stage at that) to go to hockey. After that, I didn’t trust them, so I mostly quit watching their coverage altogether. I decided actually getting to watch the end of a stage was more important than work productivity or the convenience of TiVo.

  68. Comment by Matt | 02.24.2009 | 1:35 pm

    For all the people asking if VS is doing the Giro: according to Bobke (he talked at our local shop before the ToC) VS was working on getting the rights for this year when Lance announced his comeback. So all of a sudden there was a huge interest from whoever had the rights before. VS is still working on it, but Bob didn’t sound very optomistic.

    Loved your coverage of the race Fatty! That and the Amgen live tracker kept me going thru the workweek. I don’t recall the TDF VS coverage being so horrid (missing finishes, climbs, wrecks). Maybe they have a diff crew working it behind the scenes (ie: inexperienced). Don’t recall last years ToC sucking so bad either, but I also recall Bobke being IN THE BOOTH with Phil and Paul…which would make it OH SO MUCH BETTER. Can’t possibly fathom why the suits at VS think Hummer is ‘the man’ to have in the booth with P&P…when they’ve got Bob out doing little spots here and there. Maybe they’re trying to bring over some Nascar/bullriding fans to cycling?

    And comedy girl was simply HORRID! Thank god for my DVR…able to swoosh over her dumb-ass lame spots. They (VS) need to get Robbie Ventura doing the spots and put Bob back in the booth. Simple solution. And if you want actual comedy spots, get Billy Crystal or Robin Williams (a cycling fan). Hell…Joe the Plumber would be infinetly better than what’s-her name. Overall it was the worst VS coverage of the 4 tours so far, but the best field and some of the best racing.

    And as to mt-top finish…they need to add another stage next year, and do the same stage to Mt. Palomar only finish it there on top. THEN have the final 9th stage down near San Diego. There is lots of good area around Laguna for climbs, and a finish in downtown SD or suburb would be pretty cool. Bring in many more tens-of-thousands of spectators, and we would get the bitchin’ mt-top finish on Palomar…making it a meaningful stage for the GC guys with real potential for disaster if you don’t climb out front with the breakaway for the man in yellow.

  69. Comment by Bjarne | 02.24.2009 | 1:50 pm

    I wonder if you cut out the last 15 minutes of a hockey game to show the start of a bike race, would there be any backlash? C’mon Versus, get your head out of your ass. If you decide to air a bike race, air a friggin’ bike race. The highlights of the start of a hockey game can be covered during breaks, or while Hummer is talking. Maybe he’s good as a hockey commentator?

  70. Comment by Leigh Anne | 02.24.2009 | 3:44 pm

    At least Craig Hummer isn’t Kristen Gum…remember her from TDF coverage a few years back? She was the worst!

  71. Comment by bikesgonewild | 02.24.2009 | 3:59 pm

    …as a cyclist, knowing that there were first time viewers of the sport watching ‘versus’, i found rasika ‘what’s her face’ to be awkward, annoying & embarrassing…

    …all we need are liggett, sherwin & roll in the booth w/ maybe a ventura or an andreau asking the questions from the field…we saw, what ???…a total of 10 min of bob roll all week ???…dumb…

    …trautwig vs hummer…trautwig’s job is to ask the questions that the uninformed might like to know but he does it in a manner that sez he’s a fan, not just of the sport but of his erudite broadcast partners as well…
    …hummer’s job is the same but he plays it as if ligget & sherwin are only there to compliment his work…& i find both his work & his style to be annoying…
    …at least that’s my take on what i hear…

    …re:- hummer…“Maybe he’s good as a hockey commentator?”…no, no, no, no, no…
    …as a lifelong hockey fan (& as a lifelong cyclist who was appalled by the cutaway from the race), i’d say, no, not even close…that’s considered to be the hardest job in sports broadcasting…listen to the seamless flow of mike ‘doc’ emrick sometime…even if you don’t know the game, doc will have you appreciating it…

    …anyway, to finish up…versus one hour evening rebroadcast was very poorly edited…they’d show the roll-out, maybe 15 seconds of what had been at least interesting action &/or scenery, leave huge gaps & then go staight to the last 40 minutes of the race…even on the long flat run-ins w/ virtually nothing happening…

    …c’mon guys…we appreciate that you’re giving us the race but get some cycling enthusiasts manning the work stations…directors, editors, whatnot…

  72. Comment by bubbaseadog | 02.24.2009 | 7:59 pm

    if your gonna have female commentary let it be selene yeager she knows her stuff both mental and oh yes she is very physical thats why bicycling mag. calls her the fit chick. how bout that fat man…..back to you phil and paul.

  73. Comment by DaBigKahuna | 02.24.2009 | 8:09 pm

    Tour Tracker! Best way to watch a race from work!
    Fatty Live Blogging
    Bob Roll shaving his head for a good cause!

    Hummer sux…. sux really bad!!
    VS cutting away before the stage was over… other than that VS coverage was pretty darn good.
    Bimbo Comedian… drop her like a bad habit.

  74. Comment by steveb | 02.25.2009 | 2:52 pm

    How ’bout that ‘rewind the tape!’ moment in Hum’s done-my-preride aside during Palomar climb narration: “and the other thing that makes this climb interesting Phil, as I told you, earlier on this week–I DID THIS CLIMB ABOUT A MONTH AGO–is that it’s actually in two sections. You go through this section, the lower part where the grading isn’t as bad…then there’s actually a false flat for a little bit, in fact even a little bit downhill and then you go into the major section, the final section, where those 21 turns are.” Next up: Mont Ventoux?!?

  75. Comment by Miles Archer | 02.26.2009 | 7:35 pm

    My thoughts in random order

    We had weeks of awesome weather in January, yet for the Tour, it was pissing down rain for the Northern stages. I was sick and couldn’t go stand in the rain for hours to watch 30 seconds of cycling.

    There were no truly epic climbs. I know it’s early in the season and the Sierra’s are out for February, but it would have been cool to have some kind of real mountain action. Is there a paved road up the side of Mt. Whitney?

    They missed my county entirely and other than a few miles of the Silverado trail (with no video due to weather) I’ve not ridden a single mile of any of the stages. I wish they could have ridden something like Morgan Territory Road, up and over the lower half of Mt. Diablo, climb South Park Dr in Tilden, McEwen or Pig Farm in Martinez or some other Contra Costa or Alameda ride.

    They have to do something about the idiots who crowd the road during the race. It’s a miracle that no rider went down because of a spectator.

    And Versus, on the last stage, they were showing a bike race in Middle East rather than show the race live. What the heck was that about?

    While it’s nice for the local boy to win the race, it would also be nice to someone other than Levi win. I rooted for him, but one of these days it would be nice to have some Italian or Aussie capture the hearts of the people of California and win the race in a dramatic fashion.

    Anyway, enough of my babbling. I enjoyed both the race and your coverage.

  76. Comment by bluematilda | 02.28.2009 | 8:10 pm

    fatty you must continue!! reading your blog, admittedly later in the day, not while i was watching the race, caused me to laugh out loud…and then proceed to read what you had written out loud to my husband who also had a chuckle. i look forward to the next time!


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.