Cycling’s Tour de France has become a little like the reality show The Bachelor. Guys jockey for position, shirts come off and go on again, and there’s the rare moment of drama in the winding, tedious ordeal that should have ended weeks ago. In the end, you really don’t care who wins, because there’s going to be a nasty breakup in the future anyway and the whole experience makes you feel sleazy. Such is the state of cycling in the age of doping scandals.
But, legitimate or not, the show will go on. The 98th edition of cycling’s Tour de France starts July 2 at Passage du Gois in western France. The race is made up of 21 stages covering a total distance of 3,471 km, with emphasis on the Alps. The 18th stage has the highest summit finish in the race’s history, at the top of the Col du Galibier mountain pass. The race ends July 24 on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Last year, Spain’s Alberto Contador won his second straight Tour and third in four years.
Versus begins its coverage live July 2 at 8am ET. NBC’s coverage begins July 2 at 2pm ET and July 3 at 2pm ET. Versus continues with live coverage daily at 8am ET.
Below is the press release from NBC Sports Group highlighting Tour coverage on TV, online and social media channels:
NBC SPORTS GROUP GIVES CYCLING FANS 360-DEGREE ACCESS TO THE GREATEST CYCLING EVENT OF THE YEAR – 98TH ANNUAL TOUR DE FRANCE
Multi-platform Coverage Available On-Air, Online at NBCSports.com and Through Mobile Apps
For the First Time Ever, NBC Sports will Air Stages 1-2 on July 2 & 3; VERSUS to Average 14 Hours of Coverage Each Day
“This year’s race is built for the climbing specialists. Everyone is expecting a battle for a third straight year between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, but there is every indication that this will not be the case. This has the makings of a vintage Tour.” – NBC Sports Group’s Phil Liggett
NBC Sports Group, the exclusive television home of the Tour de France in the U.S., will begin its coverage of the most grueling event in all of sports on VERSUS on Saturday, July 2, at 8 a.m. ET, live at the grand start from the Passage du Gois in France. Additionally, for the first time ever, NBC Sports will broadcast coverage of the opening two stages on July 2 at 2 p.m. ET and July 3 at 3 p.m. ET, respectively. VERSUS will air an average of 14 hours of race action per day in full HD throughout the 21-stage competition that covers more than 2,000 miles, including live coverage every morning of competition at 8 a.m. ET.
VERSUS’ production continues to evolve, and this year’s daily coverage will have a new look and feel to the race action. The most notable changes will be to the enhanced primetime show each night from 8-11 p.m. ET, which will feature a combination of race coverage and cycling insight as well as highlights from some of the compelling stories throughout the Tour. Each show will include interviews with the riders at the start and finish lines, analysis and strategy segments as well as other content designed for cycling fans and those who are new to the sport. Additionally, the network will collaborate with Gripped Films, producers of the critically acclaimed Tour de France documentary “Chasing Legends,” for daily, behind-the-scenes footage from the team that wins each day’s stage, to the night before they start in the next day’s competition.
The network will also give viewers the best coverage with bonus features such as: cameras on many of the team’s buses, including Garmin-Cervelo, HTC-Highroad, RadioShack, and Leopard Trek; a pointer feature which will easily identify and focus on one rider in the 195-plus peloton; exclusive, in-depth profiles and features on teams and riders; and advanced on-screen statistics/biometrics to illustrate the intensity at which the riders are competing; among others.
Legendary announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, the undisputed voices of cycling, will once again call all the race action for both the live and nightly shows, with Robbie Ventura and Craig Hummer contributing as field reporters. New host Liam McHugh and analyst Bob Roll will contribute to the pre-race coverage and helm the primetime studio show each night with contributing analyst Todd Gogulski. Gogulski, a former professional cyclist, has covered various cycling events, including the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a España and the World Road Championships for Universal Sports since 2009.
Tour de France All Access: VERSUS will surround its on-air coverage with Tour de France All Access, unprecedented cycling content on many different platforms, including tourdefrance.nbcsports.com for the first time since NBCSports.com and VERSUS.com combined forces to create a single, robust destination for sports fans. The network will offer users both a free and premium-subscription product which gives fans a multi-platform, all-encompassing viewing experience to the greatest cycling event of the year. Tour de France All Access offers live streaming video of every stage in full HD, with the ability to pause, rewind and slow-mo the image. While watching live coverage online, viewers will also have access to a live GPS tracking map, to follow the riders’ progress or to see an enhanced interactive map for each stage. Also, subscribers can personalize their Tour experience by choosing their favorite riders and teams to track throughout the Tour. Additionally, all the features of the NBCSports.com online experience will be mirrored in the Tour de France All Access apps for the iPhone, and for the first time this year, on iPad and Android devices.
There are also many free elements available to cycling fans at NBCSports.com and through the mobile apps, which are listed below.
Before the Tour:
- Stage-by-stage descriptions and previews, featuring historical stage information, technical information and interesting travelogue vignettes
- Breakdown of top contenders
- Historical top 10 lists
- Look back at the best of the 2010 Tour de France
Once the Tour begins:
- Recaps and highlights of the day’s big events and story lines
- Expert predictions for each stage
- Route previews
- Interviews with the top riders
- Video highlights of each stage
- Live stage results
- Detailed standings, including overall and classifications
- Rider profiles by country and team
- Course and stage maps, elevation profiles and stage descriptions
- Live news stream during every stage
- Photo slideshows
- Tour de France Twitter stream, which will showcase the top race authorities, including riders, analysts, officials and fans
Additional Features and Elements (more information available at tourdefrance.nbcsports.com):
- Aquaphor Le Tour Challenge: Users can ride their bikes on any given day of the Tour de France to see how they compare to the pros and other cyclists from around the world. They can create a team, join a team, or ride solo, and enter to win great prizes.
- Travelers Fantasy Cycling Challenge: A traditional fantasy game where users select their own team of cyclists and compete with others for daily prizes and grand prize trip to the 2012 Tour de France.
- IZOD Race for the Podium Watch & Win Sweepstakes: During each stage, VERSUS viewers are given an on-air code word that they can use for a chance to win a trip to the 2012 Tour de France and Cervelo Bikes.
Social Media: Fans can also keep up with the Tour de France through VERSUS’ social media platforms throughout the race. Content will include:
- Behind the Scenes: Through the VERSUS Cycling Facebook page and @VSCycling on Twitter, fans receive exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, interviews and video.
- Commentator Tweets: VERSUS commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen will provide Twitter content throughout race.
- Fan Questions: Fans will have the opportunity to ask questions to VERSUS commentators, including Bob Roll in the “Ask Bobke” segment, via Facebook and Twitter.
- News: Fans can follow VERSUS Cycling Facebook and VSCycling Twitter accounts to receive the most up to date reports and stories from around the cycling world.
Photo: Credit: M. DE MARTIGNAC/MAXPPP/ZUMA Press/Newscom