Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bicycles Again

It happened to me again today...that Facebook moment when you and a "friend" who you knew in real life, but haven't seen in over 35 years discover that you've both grown an esoteric interest in common.

This time it's my favorite niche sport spectacle, the Tour de France.

FormerlyLittleRichard, not the Rock n' Roll Icon, but my college buddy's little brother, who I vaguely remember grew up to play Linebacker on the football team, and I already share a love of the San Francisco Giants baseball and Formula One racing.

When I posted a link to my "Over and Out" blog Saturday, FormerlyLittleRichard commented:

"I had no idea you were a fellow TDF-head. And similar to how Formula One's Pirelli tires have evened the field, where astonishingly Pastor Maldonado can also win against the likes of Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Schumi, Button and Kimi, the lack of top winners in this years TDF should make it very interesting. No matter how impressive it is to watch a Schumacher in his prime, or Lance, or Jordan in the early 90's or the 49ers of old... Close competition IMHO, is a good thing!"

FormerlyLittleRichard and I traded comments and I asked: "gotta TdF Fantasy Team Richard?". "I don't, u have a site for that?" he replied. I linked him to the one that still was enrolling (this all happened an hour or two after the Prologue wrapped up in Liège, Belgium)

It occurred to me that I was remiss in not doing a blog covering online resources to follow the "Grande Boucle" at home this July, so here we go:

On Television here in the States, the Tour is broadcast LIVE for the last couple of hours of each stage. Several replays are shown throughout the day, with a polished, primetime Recap each evening. NBC Sports Network carries the daily LIVE broadcasts and evening wrap-up shows, while NBC will offer Weekend Recap Shows and air stages 7 and 8 LIVE Saturday July 7, and Sunday July 8, at 5AM PDT. NBC Sports Network, the Cable Network Formerly Known as Versus, has their TdF TV Schedule Online. NBC and NBC Sports Network will combine for 295 total hours of broadcast coverage.

TdF Online There's plenty of ways to follow the Tour LIVE online, my favorite is Live Update Guy's LIVE coverage. LUG is Charles Pelkey, who I knew from VeloNews Magazine. Over his 17 years at VeloNews, he served as technical editor, news editor, online editor and senior web editor. LUG's page features a WebChat style play-by-play scroll enhanced with maps, profiles and photos as it happens. Charles has a strong cadre of regulars who make new fans feel accepted, while adding texture, context and laughs to the events as they unfold.

VeloNews has their own LIVE Tour Coverage, though I've yet to avail myself of their product. The VeloNews reporting and analysis is always first rate, and there are rider blogs, photos, schedules, and forums for serious buffs, to curious novice fans.

Though I've never seen a paper copy of CyclingNews, (hey I don't even know if there is a dead tree edition) It's a worthy competitor to VeloNews, they offer another view with stage previews and reports, analysis, rider blogs, photos, and schedules. Their LIVE coverage is called "As It Happened"

Because the Tour races in the Central European Summer Time Zone, The World Clock website is a handy way to keep aligned with the Tour's events...which brings me to...

Twitter I opened my Twitter account back when Lance Armstrong was trying his "Comeback" after already winning the Tour seven times. Lance was an early tweeter, using it to speak directly to his fans across the world without the sometimes combative continental cycling press coloring coverage of his exploits. Many of Armstrong's first tweets of the day began, "Doping Control is here to take our blood...before the coffee's made..."

Most TdF riders and Teams are on Twitter, to make a good list could take all weekend. If you are on Twitter the best way to find who to follow would be to search some #Hashtags. #TdF would be the first one to search, then #TdF12, then search the team names, rider's names, even the start and finish town names. @VeloNews and @CyclingNews are other places to start, you'll find plenty of search terms there, and then look at their Follows and who's is Following them.

Be warned however, if you aren't getting up before the roosters to watch LIVE, and TiVo-ing the daily stages, or waiting for the Evening Recaps, then Twitter will be just a stream of Spoilers!

Here's a brief list of my Suggested Twitter Follows:

@vaughters Jonathan Vaughters, directeur sportif of Team Garmin-Sharp, says: "I've dedicated my life to professional cycling, anti-doping, and aggravating people with no sense of humor." Easily the most erudite Tour Tweeter, you'll enjoy some wine talk when their guys celebrate back at the hotel as well...

@MarkCavendish the cocky iconoclastic @TeamSky sprinter from the Isle of Man tags his account with: "Professional cyclist from the Isle of Man. Fast sprinter, faster talker. Disclaimer: May cause offense." Cavendish is brutally honest, cheeky and a new Dad.

@PhilLiggett NBCSN's Cycling Anchor I don't know how many Tours he's done...every one I've watched!

@PaulSherwen is Phil Liggett's broadcast partner, their banter is as comfortable as that favorite T-shirt your wife wishes you'd toss out.

@bobkeroll Bob Roll "Bobke" the colorful analyst who rode the TdF back in the LeMond era, not as chatty on twitter as on the NBCSN coverage.

@CorduroyPlanet I'm always tweeting during @SFGiants games, and I tweet a link to my latest blog most days, but I'm not "live tweeting" the TdF, just call me "Spoiler-Free"

The entry window for Tour de France Fantasy Racing has closed now that the race is underway, so I won't muddy the waters with any links. Next June I'll do my Tour de France Preview Blog, complete with Fantasy Game Links and more.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the three week spectacle on the back roads of France (and Belgium)!

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