15 July 2014

The American Voice in Cycling

Rebooting American Cycling Coverage

I have been listening to a number of British cycling podcasts lately (How to watch the 2014 Tour de France). I enjoy them, but honestly I can barely tell the accents apart and can only picture a few of the prominent cycling journalists in my mind while listening. They seem to be quite versed in history, with tremendous memory for who did what in which year, but they discuss in a very different fashion than Americans.

I also enjoy the Australian Media influence in cycling as well. Their enthusiasm, humor, quirky vocabulary, combined with organized minds and entertaining presentation, seems well-worth my time. I hate to generalize too much, but my point today is, I seem to be spending much of my time reading and listening to Brits, Aussies, Irish and Dutch - where is the American voice in cycling these days?

My parents love Christian Vande Velde.

This is something worth noting, because most Americans watch the Tour on TV and many of those fans are well over the age of fifty. My Mother explains that she is "really learning" from the commentary by Bob Roll, Todd Harris and Christian Vande Velde this year. If it is adding to their enjoyment of watching race coverage and creating more fans, I say all the better for America cycling.

Christian Vande Velde knows bike racing. It wasn't too long ago when he wore yellow (Colorado, 2012). Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer

Most of the people I know who are recreational cyclists, don't follow pro cycling. Most of the weekend amateur racers I know, are too wrapped up in their own wattage to follow what the pros are doing or attend pro races. When it comes to professional cycling, I think we need to rethink the target market and how the media delivers news.

Media should cultivate interest in sport for the regular fan.

Yesterday was a big news day at the Tour de France. Journalists scrambled to sort out rumors of bikegate and exactly how and if Contador's bike was broken. What ensued was a perfect example of the untruths and rumors that fly unfettered on Twitter (a lousy place to find real truth). It was also an example of a young crop of journalists scavenging for the early scoop and getting it all wrong (VeloNews).

Press must have two things to be solid - access and experience. In addition, Press must have two things to reach the people - integrity and the quality of keeping it real. It also helps if they have humor, are somewhat humble (sort of like Frankie Andreu caring less when James Starrt corrects his French), and can convey true love of the sport.

Being a respected newsman is not about being young and cool and being able to race a bike, being effective comes from years of making connections and knowing how to move around at a bike race. From being out there and seeing it all, and then finding a way to share it with others as if you were a friend sitting at a table discussing the best sporting game you ever saw.

That is why podcasts are endearing. 

I think that is also why people have warmed to Christian Vande Velde. He has experience, access and the warm tone of a friend (even if at times he is a frazzled friend). Who would have thought a rider who gave modest interviews would be such a good commentator, but Christian will only get better. Who would have thought five years ago that Greg Lemond would be co-hosting on Eurosport!

Yesterday I made the comment that I had tired of the commentary of Phil and Paul. My opinion was based specifically on their over-exuberance regarding Tony Martin's performance and how everyone "respected" him. Well, I don't feel comfortable seeing the same rider in a breakaway for too many days in a row. I also don't feel comfortable with Phil and Paul thinking we so easily forgot their masking the truth of the sport in past years. Although I do agree their sound is cycling tradition.

Back on topic of who I do want to listen to .....

I have been wishing we had our own American cycling podcast. Who would I want to hear on this entertaining roundtable of discussion other than Charlie Rose? I think the people who have something to say that I would be interested in hearing more from are:

Joe Lindsey, James Starrt, Frankie Andreu, Matthew Beaudin, Andy Hood, and James Huang. I would like to hear some guests join in, like Ted King, Chris Baldwin, Craig Lewis, Timmy Duggan, Matthew Busche, Andrew Talansky, Whit Yost, Cosmo Catalano, Gruber Images, Chef Biju, Dirk Friel, Dale Stetina and many others I could name including my brother who has some great concepts of the business of cycling. I thought it was funny when one of the British podcasts recently referred to Chris Baldwin (PR agent for Astana USA) as an "eccentric America." You see, we have characters right here in America.

Who would I like to see sponsor this podcast - TREK. Why? because their pro team is really lacking leadership or great inspirational riders (other than Busche and retiring Jensie), and because Americans continue to buy Trek bicycles, which means the company has the ability to bring pro cycling into mainstream America. I think Trek should say thank you by giving us something that will re-root the foundation of the sport of cycling in America and clear their name of Armstrong. Give us personality and a voice of American cycling to be seen internationally and be proud of.

For now, please read Ted King's recent blog post. 

I think Ted's storytelling demonstrates the humor, outlook and slang vocabulary Americans use when talking about experiences in sport, ... often in a group, sometimes around a table, usually over a cold drink. It's the kind of story I would like to listen to.

Read and enjoy: Yeahby Ted King July 15, 2014

And then watch Tour Talk with James and Frankie Tour Talk: First Rest Day July 15, 2014

Ted King (Cannondale) leaning in at Amgen Tour of California, May 2014.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
James Starrt (Bicycling) at the Tour de France, July 2012.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
Franki Andreu and Joe Lindsey (Bicycling) tracking the race in the media tent at ATOC in May, 2014.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
James Huang (CyclingNews and Bike Radar) at CX Nationals, January 2014.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
Matthew Beaudin (VeloNews) at CX Nationals, January 2014.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
Andrew (Andy) Hood (VeloNews and much more).  Photo from his @Eurohoody
I figure many of us walk the dog, or wait to pick up the kids, or sit on the porch in the evening with a glass of wine, or need to fill our commuter drive time to the office with something fun to listen to. I've been listening to the podcasts during my daily floor exercises, truth. Why not take our eyes off the smart phones and listen to a jam-packed educational entertaining friendly American podcast.

I hope you enjoyed your rest day. Tomorrow back at it: TOUR DE FRANCE

p.s., and wouldn't you know it, I went to pull up The Telegraph Cycling Podcast to have a listen for the day and their guests are Andy Hood and Matthew Beaudin! Well that was fast, I asked for it and I got it, except the Americans are on the British podcast (well actually they renamed The Telegraph podcast to VeloNews podcast - tricky).