Five Bucks For A Crit?

Five bucks?! Yes, five bucks. For the first time ever, you’re going to have to pay to stream a criterium race in the United States. On July 24 for the final day of the Intelligentsia Cup powered by SRAM in Chicago, we’re posting a $5 cover charge to watch. Now, I know you’re used to free streams, but this will be worth your money, I promise, and I’m going to explain why. Not just why it’s worth it, but why it’s important, and why, if you love criterium racing as much as I do, you need to tune in and watch.

Creating a live television production is an expensive proposition. There are a lot of people involved, using a LOT of gear, which all has to powered, insured, and setup. And up until now, we’ve asked the promoters to find the money to fund all that. The same promoters we ask to fund a prize list every year. And pay the police to close the roads. And hire the staff it takes to run the bike race in the first place. We’re now dropping a new five figure expense in their lap in the form of a live streaming production.

This simply isn’t sustainable. I know what you’re thinking. “Just sell some sponsorship.” Great idea, but if you’ve ever tried, you know it’s harder than it sounds. Just take a look around the current landscape of pro cycling and you’ll see, relying entirely on sponsorship is dangerous, unsustainable, and ultimately destined for failure.

So that’s where you come in, dear criterium fan. You asked for great live streaming, and now (thanks to some generous people risking a lot of money), we can offer it to you. We’re going full HD. We’re hooking up with some of Chicago’s best TV vendors, from the truck to the staff. Real pro sports stuff. Drones! Graphics! Still no on bike cameras (that’s coming, I promise), but you should see a much better live experience than we’ve been offering so far.

You’ll be able to get a preview of the quality of the show on Saturday July 23, when we’ll broadcast the Lake Bluff Criterium. You can register for free access to that here. 

But I need you to watch Sunday too. A purchase is a vote for us to do more events like this. If you want to be able to pay a few bucks to watch awesome streams of your favorite crits, it’s time to pony up. And just like when you’re racing, pre registering really helps us plan better. Even if you can’t make it on race day, a registration still gets you access to on-demand replays and highlights. So get a few friends together, get a case of your favorite beverages, and make plans to join us for some solid crit racing July 24. If you don’t like what you see, I’ll buy you a $5 beer at the next bike race.

Both streams are available at intelligentsiacup.com/live 

Thanks for watching,

Brad Sohner

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Too Legit to Quit

Flipping through the iPhoto library, I came across this shot from the Amgen Tour of California this past february. If you are familiar with cycling on American television (the Versus channel,) then you are familiar with the famous commentator Phil Liggett. He is the guy with the British accent and all those “Liggittisms,” including but not limited to:

– He’s wearing the mask of pain!
– He’s really having to dig deeply into the suitcase of courage!
– The big man is in a ‘spot of bother’ on this climb.
– He’s dancing on his pedals in a most immodest way!
So imagine my surprise when I see a big sign being held up behind the Versus stage. The context is funny. The spelling error is hilarious.
Still waiting on my sign. Next year.

Ring my bell

“The bell” is a significant part of a bike race. It is the single decisive way that riders know when there is a prime on the line, and more importantly, when they are starting their last lap. Announcers come to learn the importance of “the bell” and each develop their own method and technique for ringing it. Here is a video of Jamie Smith during the last lap of the Air Force Cycling Classic. Methodical. Controlled. Decisive.
http://www.youtube.com/v/6t6H4dZ8gxA&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999

This is Jeff Roake at last week’s Nature Valley Grand Prix. Intense. Focused. Is he OK?
http://www.youtube.com/v/mxOdTjJ6ua8&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999

I’m still working on perfecting my technique.


A different kind of roadie

Keeping a blog updated is HARD! Between trying to catch free wireless internet among the huge buildings of downtown St. Paul and getting up at 5 a.m. to find a Caribou Coffee with free Wi-fi to check email this whole blog thing is getting a bit tougher on the road.

Even as I type this I am “borrowing” one of my host house’s neighbor’s unsecured wireless signal, and watching my bars go up and down and I pick up and drop the signal, so I’m going to make this one brief. I took a shot of all my stuff (minus clothes) before I took off for a solid month of races around the Midwest. This is what I live off of for weeks at a time.
…all crammed into a backpack. Throw a bike in and that is my life for the next few weeks. Loving every minute of it. Lots of good updates from the Nature Valley Grand Prix to come, I promise. Wednesday is the start of the Tour of America’s Dairyland.


Perspectives

I left Athens this past Thursday to depart for the U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic (formerly the CSC Invitational) in Arlington, Virginia from Columbus. After driving through the night, we arrived in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of D.C. around 8 A.M. As always, we had an incredible hotel at this race, a much welcomed reward after the long drive out there. Slept all day, woke up to eat, then back to bed until our 4 A.M call time.

Saturday’s race, the Clarendon Cup, is one of my favorite races all year. It is big, exciting, and an awesome course. The top talent always turns out and gives it their all, making for consistently good racing with huge crowds. Racing like this requires precise tactical coordination, where team directors need to be sure their riders are placed in just the right spot to cover attacks off the front or have optimal placing if it comes down to a field sprint. Each rider has a two way radio in their jersey with an earpiece so they can communicate with their directors and teammates. Directors choose their spots around the course, often roaming, so they can get the best view of what is happening in the race and relay it to their team.

Mike Tamayo is the team director for the OUCH presented by Maxiss team, and I got a kick out of watching him manage his squad. It wasn’t his tactics or strategy, but the location from which he did it.

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Genius. Something tells me that next year we will see a lot more team directors up there.

More updates from the Air Force Cycling Classic coming later. I’m trying to take all my final exams early here in Athens so I can make it to the Nature Valley Grand Prix this Wednesday.


Snake Alley

This past memorial day brought four days of racing in the heart of the Midwest, as we crossed the Mississippi river back and forth for the Snake Alley / Quad Cities criteriums, my first visit to the series. 10 hours of driving through the night, seeing nothing but cornfields for the last eight had me a bit worried as we rolled into the hotel early in the morning. After sneaking a few hours of sleep, we headed to the course to recon, when suddenly, out of nowhere, an incredible course emerged.

Snake Alley is a legendary course, unlike any other out there. Tell me where else in the world you get a crit that has a climb like this?
The grass and edges of the road fill with fans so racers are almost climbing through a tunnels of spectators. Unique, cool, and fun. It started raining at the beginning of the pro race, and ended as soon as they crossed the line, but it just made the climb that much more interesting.

In Iowa? Yes. Who knew!


I thought it was funny.

Shock. Outrage. Confusion. Our favorite cycling news outlets today released their annual “April Fools'” stories, causing message boards across the internet to flood with responses from overly-gullible cycling fans. The story below seemed to trick the most people, along with the launch of LanceNews and a report that Lance Armstrong would focus his upcoming campaign on sprints and stage wins.

But perhaps the best story to hit the net involved the international governing body of cycling, the UCI, regulating the use of sunglasses in the pro peleton.

From VeloNews:

In a surprise move, a UCI committee has voted to ban all non-prescription glasses from its races, a move that could have a multi-million dollar effect on endorsement contracts for pros like Lance Armstrong.

Citing the need to clean up the sport’s image and to attract new viewers, the official statement from the UCI said that it did not intend to allow the sport’s stars “to hide behind dark glasses anymore.” The ban is effective immediately as of April 1, 2009.

Cycling photojournalists universally rejoiced at the announcement. “I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Greg LeMond for bringing these abominations into the peloton,” says famed cycling photographer Graham Watson. “All the drama and emotion in a photo is lost if you can’t see the rider’s eyes.”

UCI president Pat McQuaid said that the decision was a unanimous one by the UCI rules committee and that he for one is happy to have something to work on besides doping, now that the feud with ASO over control of the sport is behind him. “Hein Verbruggen (former UCI president) showed who was boss by banning all manner of equipment,” says the feisty Irish official. “I intend to do the same.”

The UCI directive was met with outrage from the sports sunglasses industry. An unnamed source within helmet maker Giro said, “Our entire marketing campaign for our sunglass line is aimed toward cycling; we are not in the golf, tennis, or baseball sectors, so this really hurts us. I suppose we should have expected this from the UCI given what they did to the (Cinelli) Spinaci handlebar, but we feel blindsided.”

Category leader Oakley made an immediate move toward industry consolidation, announcing that it had reached agreements in principle to acquire sunglass makers Adidas and Smith after their share prices dropped precipitously. Oakley’s bid is being investigated by anti-trust officials who are not sure whether Oakley already owns those brands, or if they already own Oakley.

Rudy Project founder Rudy Barbazzo said, “We’re hanging by a thread. How could they do this? Are they completely nuts?” Rumors of sports optics companies Tifosi and Zeal seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection have yet to be substantiated as of press time.

Sunglasses Hut stores in Boulder, Colorado, and Davis, California, announced plans to shut their doors; others are expected to follow suit across the country.

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) president Christian Prudhomme said that his organization will continue to allow sunglasses in its races, which includes the Tour de France and single-day classics like the upcoming Paris-Roubaix, whose famous mud gets in the eyes of those not wearing glasses. “We will never stoop to the kind of petty rulings for which the UCI is famous,” he said at a hastily-organized press conference.

When contacted by phone and asked if his race would be going along with the UCI ban, Giro d’Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan said, “Are you crazy? You can’t take sunglasses away from an Italian! That would be like taking his clothes or his shoes or his car! We would cancel the race before we would subject our riders to this indignity.”

I also got a kick out of CyclingNews.com’s “special edition” collection of stories from around the international racing circuit.

Enjoy, and have a good April Fools’ day!


Looks like we got ourselves a convoy!

Traveling with the Amgen Tour of California is a small army of course marshals, those charged with the ever important duty of keeping the roads closed while corralling thousands of photo hungry fans to a safe vantage point. After the police roll through to shut down the roads, the marshals roll up in a van, and are dropped off quicker than you can say “stop.” Marshalls make multiple “drops” each day, as their van comes back to pick them up and sweep them up the road to the next area in need of their expertise.

In order to transport all these marshalls, there is a convoy within its self that rolls out at the beginning of each stage. Marshalls must be able to quickly identify which of these identical vans are theirs, so the team leaders have taken to some interesting tactics in setting themselves apart in a sea of cargo vans.

http://www.youtube.com/v/JPgS5asoZCQ&hl=en&fs=1

Also assisting the tour is an entire group of motorcycles, over twenty in all. The do all the technical things that cars just arent practical for. Some carry photographers and television cameras, others act as “regulators” in the caravan, keeping us rowdy cars in order. There are also officials, timers, and mechanics, among others, out on the roads with the tour at all times. The motos lined up and ready to roll:

And finally, the tour would be impossible without the help of law enforcement across the state, cities, counties, and the wonderful California Highway Patrol. Who, each year, picks their best officers for this coveted detail spending a week with the Amgen Tour of California. If the first few motorcycles don’t move you off the road, certainly one of the ominous CHP Dodge Chargers will do the trick. CHP lined up and ready to roll:
Our mobile PA car has the freedom to slide in and out of positions in the convoy, but we have certain vehicles which shoudl NEVER be in front or behind us. If they are, we are about to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Fire up the presses…

Today, stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California, finished in the city of Pasadena. It brought us good weather along with the best racing and biggest crowds of the tour. Pasadena is a beautiful city, and obviously, home of the world famous Rose Bowl. The final 20 miles of today’s stage took place in the form of five, four mile circuits around the legendary arena. Following the incredible sprint finish, the post-race press confrence took place in the Rose Bowl media room, the same one used by the winning teams and coaches following the college bowl game.

There is an entire entourage of media and press that travels with the tour, from every corner of the earth. Some are here because of the “Lance factor”, but most are simply following one of the largest and most prestigious stage races in the world. Immediatly following the race, there is a rush to spread the information to the rest of the world, and they do it in an incredibly fast manner. I shot the video below in the press room, just about an hour after the conclusion, after the initial rush to send results had passed and writers were then working on their feature stories.

http://www.youtube.com/v/Dmnzuy_cdrs&hl=en&fs=1

I was also able to catch a bit of the press confrence with former Tour de France champion Floyd Landis. I shot the video with the intention of giving an idea of what the press room is like, Landis is answering a “softball” question in the video.

http://www.youtube.com/v/F6SC9DVuWFs&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00

While you have an idea of the atmosphere in the press confrence room, I want to talk about the very last question asked. Before the questions even started, Landis made some opening remarks and made it very clear that he was there to discuss his current racing season, and was not interested in, nor would he entertain, questions regarding his past (if you will recall, Landis was stripped of his Tour de France win after testing positive for a banned substance.) It was announced that Landis would take three more questions; the first went by, the second, and then VeloNews reporter Neal Rogers stepped up to the microphone. The question went something like “I know you don’t want to talk about your past, but are you finding that people are still interested in talking about it and what happened?”
Without flinching, Landis replied, “You know, I said I wouldn’t answer questions about my past, and I don’t think I want to answer questions about questions about my past either, but nice try.” He thanked the press, stood up, waited for some photos, and quietly left the room to the roaring applause of the entire room. An instant classic.

Thats all for now, check back tomorrow for some crowd and race pictures from today and tomorrow. We are staying at the fabulous Rancho Bernardo Inn for the next two days, so I will try to get a blog post in sometime between attending a world class cycling race and playing the front nine here in Rancho Bernardo. I can’t belive people would live in any state other than California.

Wish you were here!


Danger!

Stage four was, to say the least flat. Now, a flat stage is necessary in a stage race like this, and there were some beautiful stretches as usual along today’s route, but the first seventy or so miles were brutal for us. Through the farmland on our way to wine country, spectators were scarce (no population center for miles) and the scenery got a bit repetitive. Luckily, the technical team found a way to lighten the mood after several hours of boring riding…