Friday, 22 May 2009

Valverde's on the Vinegar stroke

I hope you have a Vinegar soaked finale Mr Valverde.

But before we get to that lets talk Tour Series (or as it was once known City centre cycling) . Now I know that I'm cynical, but when Brian Smith did his 'to camera' piece at the start of the soraway ITV4 show and said it was a new concept tried for the first time ever and nobody knew what was going to happen I did for one fleeting second think 'you what Bri?'.
But you know what? On closer inspection I think the Tour Series might just be a stroke of genius. Oh sure racing round a town outskirts (I'm not sure the words city and centre will come into play at all venues) has been done before, in fact it was done in the 80's to great effect with Channel 4 (back in the days when Channel 4 had a commitment to sports coverage and not just to wasting my time).

So what is the genius I talk of, well quite simply this: MONEY! There you go, MONEY. Cycling likes nothing better than to sell it arse for a few Euros, but in times if Banker induced belt tightening there isn't much uptake for a Lycra clad arse, no matter how much you waggle it about.
But the Tour Series offers a slightly different take for sponsors. A take which hopefully will see them opening their piggy banks. You see the basis of the scoring for the series is team points and so all the scoreboards, all the commentary will mention team sponsors far more than they have ever done so in the past and this in my humble opinion is the Series Unique Selling Point. Sponsor a team and have chuckles in the commentary box mention your company far more than you'd ever get in a bog standard race. Forget the riders name, they are almost secondary to the plan, as with the ever cheapening F1 it's the team names that are important. In terms of on screen mentions the Series offers a sound investment for a sponsor.

Of course every (perceived) silver lining has it's cloud and in this case it is the very thing that sells it, namely TV. Firstly there needs to be an audience, punters bums on seats = viewing figures = advertising potential. So in order to attract the viewers there needs to be an exciting product, sadly (again IMHO) what was served up (TV wise) on Friday night was a bit lack luster. A one hour show with less than half of it actually showing bike racing is a bit lacking something if you ask me, oh sure Milton Keynes is as glamorous a 'city' as you are ever likely to see on the planet (isn't it?) so spending time seeing the sight(s) is time well spent (although perhaps key to the council signing up it must be said), but do we really need to keep talking to local 'celebs'? James Cracknell is a good guy, he's enthusiastic and knows a bit baout bike racing, but maybe he could be better employed giving us an overview of the course, talking to teams and riders, looking about bikes, etc etc. Anyway - a minor quibble.

My main problem with the coverage was the Mighty Hugh and the Mighty Mccrossan. Now don't get me wrong, they are both supream at their jobs, Mccrossan is just about my favourite commentator and Hugh has his moments of genius (unless he's commentating on the national madison champs (but that's a different matter)). The problem is that they are both Grande Tour contenders and just as you won't win a GT without a good team, each plays best when he has good backup. Mccrossan needs his sidekick Briad Smith and Sir Hugh needs, well, he needs who ever is he finds propping up the bar the night before an event, normally Gary Sutton, but hey, he's an old trouper and he'll work with anyone, he just needs a straight man (if you'll pardon the expression) oh and just as long as that straight man isn't Rebecca Romero.
They both need someone to put a tactical spin on the race, to spot the breaks and call them, to explain what's happening and why. I felt that too often there were break going off that didn't get commentated on. This could well be down to the way the show was cut, but I think it needs to be looked at if the excitement level is to be upped and the punter brought in. But hey, what do I know :-)

But lets just flip to the racing for a second. Top bloody notch, the new format certainly livened things up and as the series progresses teams will be adjusting their tactics to suit the first 3 across the line rule. It's gonna be interesting to see what develops, but I have to say from a racing perspective it was a damn sight more exciting than may a crit I've been to recently.
So next round, next week, looking forward to it.

Do you want chips with that?

Meanwhile in Catalunya, Valverde is still racing, currently he's in the lead. In second place is Dan Martin. (Did I ever tell you I once saw his Dad riding a unicycle at a Tour of Britain/Pru stage finish in London) . Anyway, Dan proudly wears the blue band of Bike Pure, Valverde on the other hand proclaims his innocence of doping. Well he proclaims his innocence about most things, the sinking of the Titanic, that astronaut who dropped a glove on a space walk. But It's doping that Valverde is loudest at proclaiming innocence. No of course in Italy they think differently, in Italy they have matched Valverdes blood with the Fuentes blood bag labelled Vlad the impaler. Now I know DNA isn't a 100% science, there's what? A 1 in 20 million chance of a duplication, so unless Fuentes had the biggest fucking fridge on the planet I'm with the Italians on this one.

Of course there has been bugger all action from the UCI. Uncle Pat is, as always waiting for someone else to make a decision. Lets be honest the next ban style action we see will be from ASO, hopefully a day or so between the Tour starts.

I wonder if Valverde is on the UCI's blood passport list? Still I guess we'll never know as it's never going to see the light of day is it?


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