Input Request from Versus

Versus contacted us via their interactive agency and are asking for input on their Tour coverage.

Readers do tell and we’ll get it to Versus. They’re listening and want to make the Tour better next year. My input was

“Pull Zabel out of that damn Take back the Tour ad. Make it less of a man show with a female correspondent, like Kirsten Gum. Engage more bloggers and die-hard fans.”


I loved this year’s tour coverage for one huge reason: thanks to the Olympics, no Al Trautwig. Honestly, even when I didn’t know much about cycling, I still thought he sounded like an ignorant windbag. Now that I know the ins and outs, I could barely stand to turn on the coverage anytime he was on in 2007. I loved this year’s coverage with that new younger guy (but yeah, there are thousands of qualified female cyclists that could/should be there to make it less of a man show) in the openings.

I love Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin, I think they do an absolutely fantastic job covering the event. About the only interaction I could imagine from blogs or twitter could maybe be the pair working questions or comments from the audience in during the dead times on the longer stages?

Make the content available via the web. Versus isn’t available on my cable without paying for the top tier $150 digital only package and I ain’t doing that for No. Body.

I’m less concerned about the Tour coverage than I am about the lack of coverage for other races.  It’s way less interesting to watch a race that happened a week ago because I already know the results.  If I could get Eurosport in the US I’d ditch Versus so I could get some same-day coverage of big races.

I’m not sure what engaging hard-core fans does for the coverage.  I’m not likely to go to to read blogs or message boards about cycling (there’s enough online content out there already).  Maybe catering to cycling fans will bring intelligent questions and discussion to the table.

I wouldn’t mind seeing some behind the scenes clips so we can see what it takes to make The Tour happen.  Being at The Tour (as opposed to watching on TV) is a totally different experience.  Maybe Versus could try to do something to give the viewers at home an idea of what the Tour experience is like in person.

No, no, NO, NO Kirsten Dumb… err Gum!  I found her segments pedantic, vapid and having no merit to the coverage.
She needs to stick to co-hosting dog shows because at least there she stands a chance of not sounding like a complete moron even though she still needs someone to lead her through it.  I agree that there are FAR more women cyclists who could easily do a better job than “Bubbles” Gum.

Heck there are women who aren’t pro riders who can do it better.

This past year the prime time coverage was fairly decent with the rodeo commentator and Bob Roll. However I still prefer the Phil Ligget / Paul Sherwin live coverage as they do a much better job in the morning than the lip synch that the prime time version has become. 

Al Trautwig was pathetic, worse than Gum, in my opinion. 

For the record, I was being nice.

I have to agree with the comment about having coverage on the web.

We have the most basic cable, and I don’t want to have to upgrade what used to be broadcast on the major networks for free.

let Coach Curly do an interview with Jan, Flandis, and The Cobra…

other than that… the Tour coverage is good

I agree with the above poster, please do not bring Al back.  Please leave all on road commentary up to Phil and Paul, I love Bob Roll, but his play by play is annoying.  How about a 1 hour recap show, as hard as I try to watch the live coverage every morning, there are some days that is just can not happen, my wife and son wont stand for it.  Over all thank you to Verus for their commitment to covering cycling.  How about some coverage of cyclocross.

I’ll join the club and vote for more coverage online. After all, this is the 21st century, where broadband’s common in homes (and readily available in the workplace!). Like many, I don’t watch TV; my cable fees go to Internet access only. Channels and sponsors really don’t want to overlook two-income households like ours…do they?

Other than a description of that days leg of the race, I ignore the pre race stuff(fluff). I like Paul and Phil’s coverage of the race (don’t break away from them or the race while the race is going on) but would like Paul to talk more about gear choices of riders, often the camera picks up stuff (on a rider’s bike) that is not discussed. DO NOT STICK A CAMERA INSIDE A TEAM MANAGER’S CAR AND BY ALL MEANS DON’T MIKE A MANAGER.

Simple - more online coverage and much fewer commercials on the TV coverage.

I’ll echo the comment about covering more races, specifically *all* the grand tours.  I think the weekly Giro highlights show was adequate, in a “video to watch on the trainer” sort of way, but the Vuelta was pathetic.  That race had been over for three weeks, the show was an hour long, and they spent more time with Paul literally phoning it in for a one day race (Paris-Tours? I don’t remember) in the interim.

But if we are talking strictly TdF… I’d like to see those hours-long, ill-fated flat stage breakaways of the first weeks broken up with more tech segments—and I don’t just mean those covert ads where Robbie Ventura “would like to thank Specialized” as if they’re the only company interested in putting their kit in front of a captive audience.  Otherwise it’s just another slice and dice of the Vaughters turtleneck interview or waiting for a crash to happen, NASCAR-style.

Oddly Versus is part of the Standard package for me.  I would like to see more Spring Classic and Cross Racing in the states and Euro.  As far as Tour coverage.  Ditch Al.  Bring back Roll for a little sidebar covereage on bikes teams surrounding areas etc.  Keep Paul and Phil.

I meant Phil, not Paul.  Phil needs his sidekick at all times, or he just goes completely Madden.

I also forgot to mention that I enjoyed having Bruyneel in the booth… even when you know his work (like most Cyclysm coverage) is tacked on after the fact.  If they can get Bjarne Riis or other guys who are good enough with English, I’d love that too.

Last thing, I don’t know what Craig Hummer is doing with the rest of that team.  You’ve got a bunch of laid back elder statesmen, then “that guy.”  He’s grown on me a little, but needs to dial it back a notch or two.

ALWAYS have the race showing even without sound.  Do the human interest stuff in a split window like they do with the NCAA tournament.  I don’t mind the extraneous fluff, but don’t rob me of the tour coverage.

Add more behind the scenes stuff.  Interview or shadow a mechanic.  Get on the team buses.  Give some goofy prizes to riders like “Most water bottles carried by one rider on camera” (Use the Telestrator!).  Something more interesting than the stupid “pick the stage winner” thing they do.  Make it about the riders, not the hosts.

Good convo . . . an angle that I’ve been thinking about since I heard the TimesTalk interview with the CEO of Bravo (MP3) is how to make the the Cyclism more like Project Runway—no that’s not by having Tim Gunn style the crew (though that would help!), but the TDF is one big reality show with hundreds of story lines each day. What if the programming was more reality based and less commenting over the TDF TV Feed. In other words, put the audience in the race.

In an extensive follow up article about Bravo, I learned that their succesful formula is “terrible if you’re living it, great if you’re watching it;” and make TV programming “boutique and chic, aiming for a small but young and affluent audience.”

I’m not in the TV industry getting daily reports from Nielsen Media Research, but what’s more terrible of an experience for cyclists than racing the Tour and bike culture is boutique, chic, with a small audience. Bravo is unapologetic in it’s approach as well.

While the two shows would seem totally different in audiences, I think they’re more similar from a bigger perspective. Though, don’t know if a network that shows Muay Thai could delve into the emotions a cyclist feels after getting dropped on a climb and kitting up for the start line the next day.

So this is why you were looking at my Kirsten photos….

Seriously, there’s only one reason Kirsten Gum was brought in to cover cycling, and it wasn’t her knowledge of cycling.

Well because you’re her number one fan, your fan photos are the number one result on Google!

I’m really glad Versus is listening.

I love the comment about showing off the “interest” pieces while still showing race footage, that’s a great idea and something I’d like to see. Picture-in-picture that coverage and let’s keep watching the race.

That said, I disagree with the comments about reducing the amount of “fluff” coverage. I like the interviews (for the most part, some of the riders have nothing to say…I don’t want to hear nothing.

I really liked the coverage of the Chipotle team managers last year, I think the Tour is a lot more interesting when it’s being looked at from a perspective of struggle, and the things riders go through. I like behind-the-scenes coverage of the teams and the riders, but not the coverage that’s just them chatting about riding. I like looking into the team support vans, hearing about how much food they eat, etc. While I’m a hard-core race fan, this level of detail thrills me, and it’s really interesting to a lot of the non-race people I watch the tour with.

I disliked Kristen’s coverage more than I can say. I disliked Al’s coverage more than I can say. Certainly there are better people to cover the tour, with a cycling background. Hell, I’d rather head Zapata Espinosa or Dan Koppell talk about the tour than Al.

Finally (for now, I’ve got lots of thoughts on this) please look for better clothing, the beige shirts last year were incredibly ugly. :)

cut the OpEd stuff…focus on the race. -A’s idea about screen split is a good compromise.

Love to see it in HD. Seems like HD would take tour coverage to a new level.

@DL Byron (meant respectfully)—Bravo?  Really?  If I had to offer one piece of advice to Versus, and I am grateful that they are listening, I would implore them to ignore anything an executive at Bravo would have to say.  Bravo leads the league in utterly unwatchable, useless programming.

If they intend to broadcast the race as they would a sporting match, they would do fine with the on-air team they already bring.  The racing snobs might hate Trautwig, but he’s a recognizable sports voice to sportsfans that are not core cycling/racing fans.  Above all, sign Sherwin and Liggett for life.  Liggett is unparalleled in cycling play-by-play and might be the best announcer in all of sports.

If Versus intends to expand from it’s present Olympics-esque formula (66% play-by-play and 33% “up close and personal, among other things”) then focus on the things that feed two types of watchers:  1) core racing fans and 2) sports fans that might still be interested without Lance in the race.  For example, as a non-racer who loves his bike, I would really enjoy many more, and in-depth training features.

As for the latter, I would really prefer documentarian treatment to any sort of “reality” programming in the Survivor (or any of the Bravo shows) model.

Again @DL.  No offense meant but Bravo stinks.


@ Joel Price,

HD is available, check your cable provider. We watched in last year in HD, though not widescreen.


No offense taken—Bravo’s numbers and success indicates it doesn’t stink to it’s audience. To roll my long comment up, “put the audience in the race,” like they put their audience on the runway or in the kitchen.

>>HD, though not widescreen

DL—Got it.  Bravo is my wife’s guilty pleasure, and she watches every one of those “competition reality” series.  Keeps me from falling asleep at 10PM ;-).  Take care.


Did anyone hear the crappy audio on the recap coverage on Monday night (stage 2)?

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