Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chasing Lance

One benefit of the Discovery Channel sponsoring a pro cycling team is that the Discovery Channel makes documentaries. They have slipped a bit over the years, with shows like American Chopper ;), but they still turn out the occasional winner. One such series that plays on the HD Discovery Channel is Chasing Lance. I'm sure part of Discovery's sponsorship agreement includes making documentaries about the team. I think yesterday's show was the last one, because it was a summary show.

The series covered much of the team's preparation, from an early winter training camp near Solvang, CA, to the Spring Classics in Belgium and France (including a lot of coverage of Hincapie's 2nd place at Paris-Roubaix), to the warmup Tour De Georgia. We saw race tactics, Johan Bruyneel on the radio with Lance relaying information during events, bike maintenance and washing, the European equipment garage jammed with spare parts, the chef preparing meals, warmups on trainers, stretching, and so forth. Major competitors and other team members got good coverage as well, in the stage highlights of the Tour itself.

Some of the tech segments were very interesting. Trek did a lot of wind tunnel testing, Nike supplied time trial jerseys with dimples like golf balls, Steve Hed (of Hed Cycling) consulted on aerodynamics, and so forth. Trek even was curious how hot the wheels got during braking so that added temperature strips.

While the Spring Classics were taking place, Lance would ride in California. He'd ride off with Bruyneel following behind him in a car, just out climbing hills all day. They'd pull over and check the map, Lance would wave his arm down a road and say "Let's go this way for a few hours" while munching on a bar. No definite route, just him and a support car! His preparation included previewing the entire route, sometimes riding important sections multiple times. He said he used to be the only person there so early, but now more and more teams are doing the same thing - riding important stages at least. The crew showed a squad of T-Mobile riders and later some Phonak guys, all out riding various sections.

I think this series was interesting enough that people who aren't into cycling would enjoy it. All in all, the series was great... and in High Def to boot. :)

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