I’ve been on vacation watching the French TV feed off of my computer and yesterday was my first day back so I watched the NBC live show. As a bit of background, I did eight Tour de France’s as a journalist with ESPN/ABC Sports and one with ASO as their English language summary show host – so I’ve got a good amount of experience in the field.
I was fairly shocked at the atmosphere of yesteday’s NBC show: there was palatable tension and disaccord between Phil and Paul on one hand, and Christian Vandervelde and Bob Roll on the other, regarding the tactics of Aru and Fuglsang on Sunday’s stage and the attitude of the sprinter teams yesterday. Differing opinions are fine, but the atmosphere on the set was approaching ugly. Bob needs to work on his Muhammad Ali history before rudely shutting Paul down the way he did.
Phil and Paul represent a deep knowledge of the sport and its traditions and while they may seem conservative at times, their work has been solid, accurate and exciting for decades. What’s more, Phil has the dulcet tones and finely-honed craft to host and carry a major show which is a rare and cherished commodity in the media business, and why, for example, Talents (what they are called in TV) like Al Michaels are still hosting Monday Night Football well into their 70’s. Perhaps some of the frustration exhibited by the two Americans comes from their thinking that it’s their time to take over from the Brits: after yesterday I can tell you that they’ve got a long way go.
It’s good that Lotto is working and believing in Andre Greipel. They are racing for their leader and making the Tour interesting. While the idea of jumping the race into pieces to put Kittel into difficulty seems good on paper – or on the air – with Sky’s flatlanders and the power of Quickstep who only need one man it seems (Julian Vermote), today is a sprint stage and there’s nothing much else to do about it except to set up one’s fast man for the finish.