It is a new year and that means it is time for a few resolutions. I am not going to bore you with the 'lose weight', 'ride more', 'train harder', 'win the Tour de France' and all those other cliche and mundane resolutions. These are big, earth shattering, life changing, global planet resolutions/wishes.
-buy a clue for the UCI. Every year I do this, but every year the UCI seems to lose it. I just don't understand how the governing body of our sport can continue to make such bonehead moves as dumping the individual pursuit from the Olympics.
-get a peace pipe for Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador. Enough already. The Tour was finished five months ago and you haven't ridden together, or against, each other since. Here's an idea. Let your legs do the talking.
-find Floyd Landis a team. OK. The big rumour is that Floyd is going to Rock Racing and that is probably true, but let's give him one more chance to put the events of 2006 behind him and get back to rocking it on the bike.
-get the World Road Championships moved back to late August/early September. The titles shouldn't go to riders who don't have anything better to do in October.
-push for the USA to have a national tour like the Tour de France. This may seem to be a bit provincial, but let's lose the Tour of Georgia, Tour of Missouri and Tour of Utah and just let the awesome Tour of California become, like the Dallas Cowboys, America's Tour.
-get women's cycling some more credibility. While the men's ranks are loaded with depth, women's racing really suffers from depth of field. We need to attract more quality female riders to the sport which will make those victories both much more deserving and also exciting.
-get more cycling on TV. It is great that NBC Universal Sports has stepped in to pick up the slack as Versus seems to want to focus more on getting more high profile sports, but both of these channels are now owned by cable giant Comcast. We need to get cycling on the four major networks so we can all watch and not have to become tools of the Comcast empire.
-the UCI will stop treating women as unequal to men in the track events. The men race the 1km time trial, the women 500m. The men do a 4000m pursuit, the women do 3000m pursuit. The men's Olympic sprint is 3 riders and 3 laps. The Women's Olympic Sprint is 2 riders and 2 laps. In Track and Field, the women run the same distance as men all the way up to the 26-mile marathon. The UCI should realize that these unequal distance are silly and make the sport of cycling look backwards.
-pass the law that Idaho has that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs. It makes a lot of sense.
-have the airlines charge equitable oversize baggage fees for bicycles. Skis and golf clubs fly for free, why should cyclists pay extra?
-have Campy, SRAM and Shimano come up with a standard cog size and cog spacing so all shift levers and cog sets are compatible and hence, interchangeable.
-have the mountain bike world design the one true rear suspension. OK, I am being a bit cynical, but it seems like mountain bike manufacturers seem to be coming up with new rear suspension designs each year just to sell bikes.
-have Comcast, which now owns both Versus and NBC Universal Sports, come to an agreement with DirecTV (and Dish Network when their contract expires) to keep the only two networks showing significant bike racing coverage on all three major cable/satellite companies.
-somebody invent a chain lube that lubricates, but doesn't leave a greasy residue on the chain. White Lightening is about as good as it gets in the clean category, but it isn't a great lubricant. We put a man on the moon (or in a Hollywood sound stage for you skeptics). Somebody should be able to invent a clean chain lubricant.
If you are a sports junkie like me then you have to check out NBC Universal Sports. These people used to be known as World Championship Sports Network (WCSN), but they were bought last year by NBC and became NBC Universal Sports. I mentioned them several months ago when they were showing the Tour de Ski, a cross country ski race run with a similar format as the Tour de France. I said it then and I will say it again now. NBC Universal Sports rocks.
Most of us are used to going to Versus to get our dose of fringe sports (or Obscure Sports Quarterly(OSQ) or ESPN 8 'the Ocho' for you 'Dodgeball' fans), but NBC Universal Sports is the new champion. In the winter they have alpine skiing, cross country skiing, ski jumping, ski flying(yes, there is a difference), luge, skeleton, bobsled, curling(hey, it is now an Olympic sport so give it a little
Unfortunately, they don't carry my favorite winter sport, Women's Biathlon (that's cross country skiing and shooting for those of you are uniformed). They make up for it by showing a lot of triathlons and running races. It's all good.
The big news is that for us cycling fanatics, especially those who don't care to see professional bike racing pre-empted by Indy Car racing, NBC Universal Sports is now carrying live coverage of some select events. Starting tomorrow, you can watch the Tour of Basque Country at 11am and 9pm EDT(that's Eastern Daylight Time - 8am and 6pm PDT for those of us on the West Coast).
The catch is that right now, you can't get NBC Universal Sports on either cable or satellite. The good news is that you have two options. First, if you have a digital TV or a set-top converter box with an NTSC tuner, you can get it for free, over the air. Simply go to the channel of your local NBC affiliate and surf through a the several multiplexed sub-channels to find it. In the Bay Area, NBC is channel 11. NBC Universal Sports is 11-3.
Unfortunately, NBC Universal Sports is not available in all areas, but they continue to expand their market. They just got added to the Denver area.
The other option is to watch the programs on the NBC Universal Sports website. You can watch the Tour of Basque Country live each morning at 9:30am EDT (6:30am PDT) and if you aren't mobile that early, you can watch cycling and a number of other sports 'on-demand'.
Check it out. The people at NBC Universal Sports are onto something big.
It usually only happens in early August, but right now, I am suffering from a bad case of Post Tour Depression(PDT). I am not talking about that bike tour around France in July, I am 'jonesing' for the Tour de Ski. Most one-day cross country ski races are pretty darn exciting, throw in a gun or two and they get even more so. But, the Federation International de Ski(FIS) has really hit it big with the Tour de Ski.
As I described in my blog last week, the Tour de Ski is a 9-day, 7-race cross country ski racing event based loosely on the Tour de France. The event has a prologue time trial, time bonus sprints, a time cut, flat stages, and mountain stages, the final day featuring a climb that can rightly claim to be the Alpe d'Huez of cross country skiing. And to top it all off, the Tour de Ski includes both men's and women's races.
The 2008-2009 edition was a real nail-biter a combination of the depth of the fields, format of the races and the huge prize list($100,000 in total prizes with cars going to both the men's and women's winners). These skiers came to lay it all on the line and it that they did.
The final stage featured the gruelling climb of Alpe Cermis, a 3.5-mile(6km), 1400-foot(425 meter) test that is unique in both it's length and gain in world-class cross country ski racing. What piqued the drama was the format of the final stage with the skiers heading out in order of their overall standing and with a time advantage equal to their standing on the other skiers.
In cross country skiing they call it a 'pursuit' race. If Gunnar is leading Thor in second place by 32 seconds going into the final stage then Gunnar starts 32 seconds ahead of Thor and so on and so forth all the way down the individual standings. So, unlike the Tor de France, the racer who crosses the finish line first on top of Alpe Cermis is the overall winner.
The women's race provided the most exciting moments as the second place Finnish skier, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, made up a 40+ second deficit on her first place teammate, Virpi Kuitunen. about a mile before the top, but blew up and was passed by Kuitunen just before the finish. Both racers collapsed in the snow, but rolled over to give each other a congratulatory hug.
The men's race was a runaway win by Switzerland's Dario Cologna, but the best ski of the day was Italy's Giorgi di Centa who moved up from 14th to 4th overall on the brutal ascent of Alpe Cermis.
Thank heavens the Tour de France is only seven months away. I am not sure I can go much longer without a Tour. Hey, but don't forget about the Giro. That could be the best grand tour in 2009 and it starts in just five months.
ps- you have to check out the TV channel NBC Universal Sports. They totally rock.