The rain ceased and the sun came out from behind the clouds. At last, it was the kind of California day natives dream of. It was the kind of broadcast day that always features the Rose Bowl.
January 1st is almost always bright and shiny even though December 31st has inevitably been cloudy, overcast and cold. Not to be outdone, January 2nd usually goes back two days and assumes the mantle of dreariness as its own.
As a Californian, I am actually glad because what happened this race day will not prompt the cold masses back East and in the Midwest to say, “Let’s go there and maybe leave the cold permanently.” However, as a producer and one of the owners of the race, I wanted the entire race to be a showcase. Especially the finish, which is usually exciting.
Oops! No such luck!
When AEG told us they were moving the race to May instead of February, my partner David Salzman and myself objected vehemently. David voiced his opposition even more so than I.
He went so far as to memorialize our objections in memo form to the administrative head of the race. He pointed out that we had selected February five years earlier after weighing all the options. We took into consideration many important items.
First, we considered the weather. To this end, we consulted with the National Weather Service. We discussed various options with broadcast meteorologists up and down the state. In particular, we talked to every meteorologist at those stations that we felt might be along our proposed route, especially for our first year.
We sat with military weathermen at installations that studied the conditions along our route. Our research took us to Edwards Air Force Base where the shuttle sometimes lands, the Sea Bee Base in Ventura County, El Toro Marine Base and Pacific Fleet Headquarters in San Diego. We pored over charts they provided us.
Into the mix, David and I put our own considerable television backgrounds to work and analyzed how we could get the most exposure with the least sports competition being aired. In February, the March Madness had not yet started. The NBA playoffs, as well as the NHL playoffs, were not even on the charts and as for baseball, spring training was just getting started.
We factored in the knowledge that many of the European cycling teams were training in the hills around Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. We secured a date from both the United States and international cycling governing bodies so that we would be the opening event on the calendar prior to the start of the European season.
Finally, we consulted the tried and true Farmer’s Almanac and dissected its 100-year forecast. Then we made our decision to go in February.
The first three years the weather cooperated. Last year was not the best. In their wisdom, the race administrators, without the benefit of all our research, decided to move the date. It was bad enough that Stage 2 this year had the single worst day of weather in the five years of the race, but they also programmed the Tour head-to-head with the NHL and NBA playoffs, and worst of all they put it on Versus.
Versus is the home of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and in that network’s vision, the NHL playoffs are more important than letting the cycling fan see the podium ceremony of an exciting competition. On Monday and Tuesday, just as each stage was concluding, Versus cut away for a commercial and then went to the start of that night’s Stanley Cup playoff.
Couldn’t Versus tape the start of each hockey game and begin 10 minutes or so later, in such a way that would satisfy both hockey and cycling fans? I don’t know. However, it seems logical that this would be a good solution. We need to apologize for shortchanging the racing fans who never got to see David Zabriskie of the Garmin team put on the Yellow Jersey and become the overall leader after Stage 3.
Furthermore, the viewers never found out that Levi was in third position, only 6 seconds behind the leader after Stage 3. Nor did the viewer have a chance to hear Len and Phil describe what might be the Radio Shack team’s (headed by Lance Armstrong) strategy to put Levi back in the lead.
We, the race organizers, should be ashamed and the viewers deserve an apology.