A bit off-topic, but Matthew Yglesias wrote Friday that "bicycle racing -- at least as broadcast by VS -- isn't a very interesting television sport." He's right. When broadcast by VS, TDF isn't very interesting and hard to follow. You just can't get into a rhythm with the frequent, repetitive, and long commercial breaks. This year's coverage is better than last year's, which was far better than before. But still, it sucks. For example, on Sunday's exciting Stage 8, what happened to Robby McEwen? Stuart O'Grady? Bare mentions during the race, no real comment, and nothing even in the "expanded" (condensed really) coverage in the evening. (McEwen's out because he missed the time cut off. O'Grady crashed about the time Levi's chain skipped, got back on the bike, but left for the hospital complaining of back pain.)
Sadly, the VS coverage must be supplemented by the TdF site (stage 8 specific), Eurosport, Pez Cycling (don't miss the distractions). My recommendation is if you are watching live, is to watch the live feed from VS, mute it, and listen to EuropSport's live audio (caveat: that was my recommendation in the past, I haven't listened this year). Phil and Paul are descent (I like Paul's reality, Phil's color gets old), but they leave out so many, too many important details. Al and Bob are descent (Bob's good), but again, too many details are missing. More Bob's would be good and that's what you get (got?) with EuroSport coverage.
It's almost funny that EuroSport has literally start to finish coverage and rarely if ever leaves the scene (they've figured how to put commercials in the corner or bottom of the screen) and yet it isn't boring like VS's abbreviated, commercial's over action, coverage. PLUS, EuroSport TV has these cool after-event Q&As w/ a bunch of cyclists at once, in addition to the one-on-ones VS shows. Last year this time I was in Madrid and watching in German (I have some competence), which was way better than VS any day.
Yglesias, you're right. VS does not make TdF very interesting. If you can get past it the limitations of US coverage (and its fanciful color that leaves out many of the real nuances), it's a very exciting sport.
Better yet, is being there, riding in front of the race, and hanging out to watch the swag caravan and then the race go by and snapping photos as you cheer. There's no matching riding the Alps or watching the Tour in person.
(photo credit: MountainRunner)