Tuesday Shorts

A media and business theme to this week’s shorts. There’s been plenty of satisfaction in Italy with Vincenzo Nibali’s Giro win. A home winner is always going to pull in the crowds but his punchy style has been a real draw for TV audiences. La Gazzetta Dello Sport reports an average daily TV audience of 1.56 million on RAI, up 16% on last year. The audience peaked at 4.3 million for last Saturday’s stage finish at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. This means over a third of the TV audience, an impressive stat.

There were big crowds for the finish in Brescia too. If the start of the 2014 race is the odd choice of Belfast, the finish town is not certain. As for TV audiences, the numbers above are before you add on all the other channels carrying the race around the world.

RAI did a great job filming the race in HD and I enjoyed the commentary from Francesco Pancani and the well-informed ex-pro Davide Cassani as well as the post-stage “Il processo alla tappa” show. Il processo has a long history and was one of the first sports TV broadcasts to use slow motion and other production techniques to analyse the day’s racing. We can sometimes take this insight for granted but it was a radical innovation at the time.

Did you watch BeIn Sport?
I’d be interested to know the views of US readers who watched the Giro via BeIn Sport. The Qatari channel bought the rights to the Giro in France as well and I caught some of their French language coverage and it was excellent. They’d clearly deployed a significant budget to have pre-race commentary then excellent live commentary, followed up by a roving reporter on the finish line to interview riders. With the race over they returned to Paris for post-stage studio commentary from a panel of experts. This is cycling coverage as it should be and well ahead of French TV’s Tour de France coverage.


The best coverage in France is usually found inside L’Equipe. Philippe Brunel’s pieces during the Giro were excellent and the paper’s coverage of the Tour de France is the best. But the paper is suffering from falling sales as the chart above shows. French business newspaper Les Echos reports the newspaper is undergoing big changes to be revealed in July.

Makarov’s $3 billion deal
Talking of the business pages, Russian oil and gas company Rosneft is to buy Itera, the company founded by Igor Makarov, the Katusha team owner, UCI management committee member and boss of Russian cycling. Reports in the Kremlin-konnected Kommersant and relayed in Reuters say Rosneft will buy out Makarov’s remaining 49% holding in Itera for around $3 billion, making him the wealthiest man in pro cycling.

Makarov gets to cash in and probably doesn’t have much choice. His company flourished but got squeezed by the rise of Gazprom and the Kremlin made Itera a deal it could not refuse. Makarov’s kept his political pals onside by various patriotic duties including running Russian cycling but as the results show, the Katusha team’s results have yet to match its budget. The team is very dependent on Joaquim Rodriguez for its results, in other words its Russian cohort doesn’t bring much to the table although if they’re patient it will work.

Trek to take over Radioshack
In money terms Flavio Becca’s small fry compared to Igor Makarov, but the Luxembourg entrepreneur is still very wealthy. Only he’s surely poorer after years behind the Leopard team in its various guises. A report by Stephen Farrand of cyclingnews.com says Trek is to take over the team for 2014. If so it marks the return of another industry sponsor to the sport with several teams named after cycle manufacturers. In a way it’s good, teams represent the bikes they ride rather than flooring products or laminated steel but it shows the problem our sport is having when it comes to attracting outsiders to join in.

Schleck’s Kit

Frank Schleck got hit by a car yesterday. I wish him well. The picture shows him in Radioshack kit and I’ve had several questions from readers asking why he’s wearing Radioshack-Leopard kit during his ban. Well the answer is he can wear what he likes, the ban does not impose clothing conditions only that the athlete cannot take part in competition or events. Events are not just cycling-related, Movistar once had to reschedule their team presentation as they planned to make a big show of Alejandro Valverde but he was still under a ban and therefore unable to take part in this promo event.

WADA vs Di Luca?
On the subject of banned riders, note Danilo Di Luca’s A-sample test for EPO was conducted in the Cologne laboratory rather than Rome. Was there a reason to send the samples elsewhere? I don’t know. But I gather WADA is working with the German lab to improve the EPO test with the goal to detect so-called microdosing. The procedure involves conducting several tests for EPO and then applying a statistical analysis to the results to deduce EPO use.

I don’t know what the deal is with Di Luca but the Institute of Biochemistry at the Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln seems to be leading a lot of the anti-doping developments, it’s done work to validate a test for AICAR too.

Quiet week

There’s a lull in the racing this week with only the Tour of Estonia starting on Thursday… until the Critérium du Dauphiné starts on Sunday. The race is one of my preferred races, a mini-Tour de France that edits out many of the dull roads that the Tour is obliged to visit in order to lap France. This year’s Dauphiné is particularly hard as even the stages promised for the sprinters are harder than they look. The race will let us judge the relative form of riders like Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Andrew Talansky, Nairo Quintana, Pierre Rolland and more. There will be daily stage previews of the race.

Dauphiné vs Suisse TV timing
The Dauphiné and the Tour of Switzerland clash, although just for one weekend. I’ve not sure about overlapping these two races but they both function as excellent races in the approach to the Tour de France.

One thing to note is that if you’re planning to watch the Dauphiné race note that the stage finish each day is planned for around 2.45pm each day, much earlier than usual. This seems to be designed to prevent a clash with the TV schedules for the Rolland Garros tennis tournament. By contrast the stages of the Tour of Switzerland will start around this time each day with the stage finishes due to finish soon after 6.00pm each day.

2r Mag
2r magazine
Finally a reminder that if you have an iPad then you can get pleny more cycling coverage via 2r magazine. It’s now available for iPhone users too. The format’s moved to a twice monthly edition so my columns in there are in alternate editions. But never mind my words, read the latest edition for the wide-ranging Marco Pinotti interview or to see what Dan Martin, Theo Bos Lars Boom would do if he was President of the UCI for a day.

Download 2r

55 thoughts on “Tuesday Shorts”

  1. Not really surprised about L’Equipe figures in decline. This is the future for the ‘dead tree press’. There are alternatives which are quicker in bringing news, have broader insights and are aimed at specialist audiences. Move with the times or die ! From a cycling perspective it raises the additional question of whether vested interests are the best way of supporting a fair sport. L’Equipe and ASO (Amaury) have questions to answer in this area over their previous behavior.

    Interesting that Sutton has moved into the Wiggins – Froome problematic. It would be interesting to hear Wiggins accept this well timed advice as the best way forward for the team and ALL the riders.

  2. I think your comments on Katusha being a one-trick Purito team are a bit unfair, especially since they are enjoying a good year across the board from many members of the team.

    On a side note, it’ll be interesting how it develops now that Makarov is no longer obliged to fund the team (assuming his political manifestations wane due to no longer owning a state enterprise), we’ll see whether the team was a personal project (it will continue) or a political obligation..

    • They’re not so much “one trick” but I believe them to be the team most reliant on a single rider for their World Tour “sporting value” ranking. It’s not good or bad, indeed better to have one great rider than 10 average riders.

      • Katusha has 5 riders in the top 35 of the UCI rankings and on par with SKY and Movistar. Wouldn’t that increase their sporting value ranking?

  3. it’s my guess that Makarov positioned himself all along for this buyout, and will likely continue running the company in any case. Putin’s (and by Putin I mean Sechin) clear guiding principle is energy security, which means the state controls the entire production cycle, right up to the point where the gas goes into your car.

  4. I had been wondering why DiLuca’s pre-Giro test only came back positive on the 2nd rest day. Why the long delay? Is this a normal time frame? Your information that the sample was sent to Germany might be a partial answer part but why that was the case is still unclear. If they were testing for microdosing as you suggest, would they need to say that he failed a series of tests and not point to a single sample as has been indicated in the press? Bottom line, it would have been great to catch him before he had a chance to participate and possibly win a stage.

    • The news reports I have read have stated the test was an “out of competition” test; they haven’t stated which body conducted the test, nor where the sample was collected. The lab choice could be a result of which party was conducting the test.

      As for the delay in reporting the findings, it could be that out of competition tests are given lower priority than in competition.

    • I work in a chemistry lab – nothing to do with drugs or doping, but we use similar techniques to those used to detect traces of drugs. It takes quite a lot of work to prep the samples and then analyse them on the necessary instruments, which depending on the test being used are quite delicate and often involve periods of downtime for maintenance. A turn-around time of two weeks for a sample seems perfectly reasonable and is probably as good as you’ll get except in exceptional circumstances.

  5. I watched the bein coverage here in the States. Carlton Kirby and Daniel Lloyd were the announcers. My assumption was Bein just bought the coverage wholesale, including commentary- it was clearly UK-focused, they would cut in from the “studio” show straight into the coverage in the middle of a sentence and the studio voice would end up talking over the commentary in order to take it out to commercial.

    It was nice to have real coverage, I’ll never complain about that. But with the UK-focus it was like the Sir Brad show for the first week. For whatever reason, here in the States, some people will root for any anglophone, so that might have been fine for some people, but mother tongue isn’t the deciding factor for me. I’m not a fan of Wiggins at all so it was a bit tortuous to watch him played up as the second coming of Eddy Merckx (even while he showed himself incapable of actually racing his bicycle.) They did the same on NBC Sports last year, of course, so I can’t win, I guess. They apologized for the boring racing, played down the rivalry and couldn’t even be bothered to pronounce Nibali’s name right.

  6. Just a note that the 2r magazine has recently been made available to iPhones as well as iPads. I’d encourage everyone to read it, it’s an excellent publication – with Paul Kimmage’s interview with Marco Pinotti in the last issue being a highlight.

  7. BeIn Sport USA Giro coverage was most definitely NOT like BeIn Sport France’s. No pre-race show, coverage didn’t start until at least a full hour after most other broadcasters (Eurosport, Sporza, etc) went live. The English commentary was done by Carlton Kirby and Daniel Lloyd, provided by RCS. No live coverage of Stage 21, but full delayed coverage. It did appear that the commercial breaks during the Giro were much shorter than those during the other RCS races that BeIn Sport USA showed, which had been delayed by several days. The person doing the voice over going into and out of commercials with small recaps of the action was much less annoying for the Giro than the other races. BeIn Sport USA still focuses mostly on soccer, but will need to see how much the cycling coverage improves.

  8. I also watched Bein coverage in the states. While I agree with Rob above, it was still better than NBC coverage. Commercial breaks were 1-2min and much less frequent. The only day coverage wasn’t live was the last stage. They did offer a half hour of the day’s stage highlights each evening. Well worth the additional cost of the TWC sport pass package.

  9. I enjoyed the Kirby/Lloyd commentary. I don’t mind Carlton at all and he keeps things fairly light hearted and this together with Dan’s knowledge and easy on the ear tone made it an enjoyable combo for me.

  10. BeIn coverage was ok. Fewer and shorter commercial breaks than NBC TdF coverage. None of the “Athlete Profile” nonsense that NBC loves. Kirby and Lloyd are agreeable enough. Kirby doesn’t lack for enthusiasm and his turn of phrase is interesting. Lloyd needs to be more assertive as he has plenty of good insight. Certainly better than Phil and Paul but not as good as the boys announcing for Cycling.TV, with the exception of Yates. So on balance a better cycling production than we are accustomed to in the U.S. It was nice not having to resort to pirate internet feeds – could DVR the racing and watch on my schedule – made a few turbo sessions slightly less painful/more enjoyable. I hope BeIn invests in more hours of Giro and other race coverage. The multi-lingual advertisments in the U.S. were a twist. Who knew I could improve my Spanish while watching cycling. With the rise of Colombian cyclists that probably is a good thing.

  11. I can honestly say I did NOT watch BEIN coverage. They seem to be following what I consider a bizarre practice of offering free online coverage IF you have a cable subscription to the channel. This is the wrong direction, IMO. Years ago when universal covered the GIRO you could purchase an online season package independent of cable subscription, which as great since my cable provider did not carry the Universal channel. Then last year, they switched mid-season to this strange model. They appear to be trying to force viewers into a cable model rather than adapting a cable model to an internet streaming model (which is very likely the future)

    I really want to support cycling coverage. In the past I’ve even subscribed to a streaming service out of Belarus so I can get eurosport legitimately (Unfortunately the service was too spotty for even my minimal standards) but every time I find a way to pay, they mess it up and I return to places like steephill and cycling torrents. They are at least consistent in what they make available.

  12. The RAI coverage is the best cycling coverage of any race by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately there was no “Si Giro” this year. I missed Bar Toletti and Gigi Sgarbozzo (I am sure I misspelled that). Hopefully, RAI will not share in the trend of cutting coverage. I also watched BeIn Sports coverage and the technical issues aside, great picture, and minimal commercials. If that was my only source, I would have no complaints. Much better than NBC Sports.

    • The original coverage is often the best. Whether it’s Sporza, RAI or France Télévisions they have more means at their disposal including reporters on motorbikes who can add extra info via audid, often from the back of the peloton so we know who is dropped whilst the TV images focus on the action at the front of the race.

  13. I should point out that it WAS a treat to not have the insufferable number of commercial breaks and nonsensical, repetitive and overblown athlete profile nonsense that NBC Sports does (“Tyler Farrar once beat Cav in a sprint, when Cav was bleeding on the ground- THEY’RE RIVALS!!!!11111!!!!1111!!”)

    • BeIN coverage was closer to what i prefer in coverage, more Eurosport-like. the absence of all the fluff and filler and ENDLESS commercials was most welcome. a lot more racing, a lot less crap. i can’t even watch NBC coverage anymore.

      • Completely agree with this succinct analysis of the Bein coverage. A proper HD signal makes things so much better. Hopefully they get the message and keep rebroadcasting the Eurosport coverage. I was not annoyed by the add-ons from Bein.

        • it wasn’t a “rebroadcast” of Eurosport coverage. It is the same international feed that RAI offers to everyone. RCS contracted Carlton Kirby and Daniel Lloyd to provide the English-language commentary for the international broadcasters who didn’t provide their own commentators (i.e., Eurosport which used Declan Quigley and Sean Kelly).

  14. I watched some of the BEin US coverage on DVR delay, and I thought it was good. Way better than NBC sports, but it would be hard to be worse. On balance, I prefer Eurosport but I was happy with BEin. The US announcer cutting into and out of breaks was annoying, but bearable.

    No live coverage on either Sunday, showing motorcycling instead, which was annoying.

  15. I enjoyed the BEin coverage… I had no idea it was Qatari; I thought those were Montreal accents on the intros/outros. Kirby and Daniel Lloyd were pleasant and had good rapport. I was annoyed that the commercial break guy couldn’t pronounce the riders’ names and called it the “Giro di Italia” but that’s really picking at nits.

    • Are you sure? At least in the Bay Area, Comcast has it, but not in HD (429).

      The problem was that I was halfway through the Spring season before I even knew I had BeIn on Dish. Even then, Dish’s website is so lousy I had a heck of a time figuring out what channel it was on.

      The Spring coverage has been pretty good, and I can’t complain about the the Giro coverage except what others have noted above. Good production value and short commercials.

      • I watched Be-in on Comcast is SF. It did however require an additional subscription but at $10, worth the cost.
        Like everyone else, I thought the coverage was much better than NBC Sports.

  16. I did not watch BEIN because I didn’t have it as part of my cable subscription. I believe it was available for a price, but my somewhat basic (1 step above the most basic) subscription already costs way more than I think it should and I didn’t have that much time to watch anyway. I would consider paying something (I’m not sure how much) for an online access package. I was perfectly happy watching the free RCS video stream with Italian announcers last year and wish they would bring it back.

  17. About not using the Rome laboratory: Dutch television just showed a documentary about doping use at Juventus in the mid-nineties, the epo-heydays (interesting to Dutch audiences because Ajax lost the Champions League final to Juventus). They not only did show very convincing evidence of massive doping at Juventus, but also that the Rome doping laboratory was involved in the cover up. The lab was even officially closed because of this involvement for a few years. Maybe the lab still has a bad reputation because of this?

      • While unrelated to this instance, I noted that one of my client’s test samples following his (successful) record attempt ride were sent to the USA, and not processed here in Australia because it was cheaper for the doping control sub-contractor to send to the USA for analysis than have it done it locally.

        I wonder if there are variable charges/costs involved for the various labs that may also affect these decisions, considering that doping control tests are not cheap. Or is there some normalisation of the charges?

  18. Here in Dubai we were lucky to have live Giro coverage with English commentary on most days. After that show ended I’d tune into the Processo Alla Tappa show on Rai and try to learn some Italian. So far I’ve learned “caduta” and “salita”!!! Where was Paolo Savoldelli this year??

    • “Il Falco” quit his job for RAI after being offered far less money/work according to him. Andrea DeLuca replaced him on the moto. Just like most, RAI faces budget cuts and put a LOT more work onto DeLuca this year. Besides the moto stuff he hosted (with Cassani) the evening Giro show (and I assume the late-night, though I never stayed awake long enough to see it) as well as the weekly RadioCorsa show on Thursday evenings. Silvio Martinello has done more this year too. I for one, was happy to see the morning show with Bartoletti and Sgarbozza ditched – reminded me of a lame, early-morning USA TV show like Good Morning America or Today. Gigi is amusing, he’s nothing if not passionate, but VERY full of himself. Note on the RAI shows they rarely let him hold the microphone…someone else holds it so they can take it away when he starts to rant!
      I think the France 2/3 coverage of LeTour is generally excellent as well as RAI’s of the Giro. It’s nice when the announcers understand that it’s TELEVISION instead of radio – we can SEE what’s happening and don’t need constant blather to fill the time – a feature too often of Eurosport, US television and of course, “Heckel and Jeckel” who cause me to hit the mute button most of the time. I believe their commentary could be digitally copied and a computer could spit out their blather when they’ve passed on – it’s become that formulaic.

  19. To get BeIn I would have had to upgrade my cable package which I wasn’t sure about for just the Giro. Any news re. additional cycling coverage from them?

      • “But it’s a persistent problem that one race is one channel and another is on another.”

        I’m curious, are you referring to beIN2 as the other channel? I was surprised that when I paid for the upgraded sports package to receive beIN that it does not include beIN2 (that one’s even more expensive on TWC here in NYC). Or are you referring to something else?

    • from their FB page: Tour de Suisse (June 8th to 16th) // Paris-Brussels (Sept 7th) // Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec (Sept 13th) // Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (Sept 15th) // Il Lombardia (Oct 5th)

  20. I paid the $10/month uplift to add the sports package that contains BeIn. Overall, I was happy with it. I don’t really mind the UK commentators. As far as I’m concerned, any new channel that wants to start carrying cycling races is a good thing.

    I really, really wish it was in HD, though. Hopefully coming soon.

  21. I watched every minute of the BeIn TV coverage here in the U.S. Seeing the Giro in HD was great, but they have a lot of kinks to work out. I am very surprised that no one mentioned what I think was their biggest problem: They would cut to break at absolutely the most inopportune times, robbing the viewers of critical points in the race. They frequently cut to break inside the last few kilometers of several stages, leaving the action when riders were attacking each other, making critical moves, and just as they approached sprint and KOM lines. That drove me crazy. It was clear the director knew nothing about cycling.

    They put up a lot of incorrect or inaccurate onscreen graphics. All too often they put the graphics in and take them right back out in less than a second. I work in television and I can tell you that is not good television. More importantly I watch television, and that is not good television.

    It was only the last day that they did not air live coverage. The other Sundays were on. They also employed the strange practice of throwing to the color commentators with about 30 seconds of silence, and then bringing their mikes up mid-sentence, mid-conversation. It seems they continue calling the race during TV breaks, and the director does not confer with them at all, so he can’t create a viable opportunity to rejoin the action. It was very awkward.

    The American announcer who took us in and out of the breaks (Andres Cordero) made an error virtually every time he opened his mouth, often getting race situations, times and names wrong—and despite his obvious efforts, butchering the names of the riders with bizarre pronunciation choices. The job he performed is wholly superfluous, and with his surfeit of errors and ignorance, a serious detriment to the production.

    I can handle Carlton Kirby because his passion is obvious, if occasionally bombastic. Daniel Lloyd is a good color commentator, and I agree with T-Dog that he should be more assertive. They may be the only two on the production team with any cycling acumen. I never enjoyed the commentary from American-oriented broadcasts (like Phil and Paul did for Versus, OLN, NBC Universal, etc) because they were forever addressing their audience as though we are simpletons who have never seen a single bike race before (what does the red kite mean? Why do sprinters need lead-out trains? etc.).

    I was not happy that I had to pay for a separate sports package through my cable provider (the evil and dysfunctional megalopoly, Time Warner) just to get this channel so I could watch my beloved race; but at least it was available, unlike NBC’s coverage last year which was not even available in several major markets (I live in New York City). Watching the race on my big HD TV is also much nicer than crappy resolution feeds on my laptop.

    Having said all that, BeIn seems like they can improve, which is more than I can say for many of their forebears.

    • BeIn Sport USA just broadcast out the RAI provided international feed with the accompanying English-language commentary. And, yes the commentary continues throughout the race, and the BeIn Sport director has no communication with the commentary team.

      Also, Andres Cordero did not do the in-and-outs of BeIn Sport during the Giro. It was Gino somebody or other. Nowhere near as annoying as Andres Cordero, imho.

      • I apologize for getting the announcer’s name wrong. I am sure you are correct.
        My point about the inopportune breaks still stands of course. beIN chooses when they got to break, hence the awkward silences when they rejoined the action each time.

      • I apologize for getting the announcer’s name wrong. I am sure you are correct. I blogged about it, so I will fix that. Thank you.
        I know they were piggy-backing that feed, but all of the production aspects I mentioned were in beIN’s hands. The graphics on their broadcast were theirs, and of course my point about the inopportune breaks still stands. beIN chooses when their broadcast goes to break, hence the awkward silences when they rejoined the action each time.

  22. I’m in the US, but not a cable tv subscriber. I watched the usual pirate streams of EuroSport UK, they were generally good enough as background or open in a small window next to my work stuff on the computer.
    I watched the Amgen Tour of California on their website’s “tour tracker” which was a good enough stream to use Airplay to push it to my AppleTV/46″ TV and it still looked good. Unfortunately the commentary is garbage and they sometimes start the live stream pretty late in the race…

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