Do you like the Tour de France? Do you enjoy watching the top cyclists battle for stage sprints? Are you looking forward to hearing announcer Phil Liggett say, “The rubber band has snapped!” to describe the peloton coming apart on a steep climb?
Then this is your month. The 2011 Tour de France rolls out on Saturday and runs through July 24.
Once again, Versus is televising the Tour live beginning at 8 a.m. (ET) on most mornings (earlier on some big mountain stages; here's the Versus TV schedule). However, the online component of Tour coverage will be at NBCSports.com.
That's because Comcast (owner of Versus) purchased NBC earlier this year and rolled Versus into NBC Sports.
Free and subscription services
NBC Sports is making some making quite a few free services available online. Among them are 21 stage descriptions and previews hosted by Bob Roll (available now), top contenders, daily video recaps and highlights from the day's stage, and interviews with the top cyclists.
The website also is offering a “premium subscription product” that includes live streaming video of every stage in HD-quality, live GPS tracking to follow riders' progress and see how stages are shaping up on an interactive map, and the ability to track your favorite riders or teams through the Tour.
The cost for a three-week subscription is $29.95 (the price drops as the Tour progresses).
All the subscription features also are available in All Access apps for IPhone, IPad, and Android. See the website for costs.
The free web features also are available for free on IPhone and IPad; a free and a subscription App are available for Android users.
Some 100 channels worldwide are offering some type of Tour de France coverage; about 60 are offering live coverage.
In my opinion, the Tour de France live website itself offers useful live coverage with its ticker and real-time profile that shows the location of the cycling jerseys in relation to the stage leaders.
In addition to the “official” Tour de France sources, there are several webmasters and bloggers offering interesting Tour content.
One of the most unique is Dutch bicyclist Dennis Wegewijs's Cycling the Alps website. Dennis is taking every stage of the tour and offering a profile, 3D Tour, and (if available) a Streetsview verion and a flyover (game) version.
Dennis' expertise about the Alps will come in handy in 2011, as this is the 100th anniversary of the Tour's first visit to the mountain chain and the Alps are being featured predominantly in this year's stages.
He provided that to the BikingBis website during the Giro d'Italia, and now it's available to anyone. I certainly plan to use it in my coverage.
Video, photos, chat
Another place to track the Tour de France this year is the Cycling Fans website. Everyday, the website will list the best options for live video feeds, live audio and live tickers.
Steephill.TV offers a Tour de France dashboard with video and photos from the Tour, as well as previews, results and highlights.
If you like to chat about the Tour, then check out Neil Browne Live Chats at the cycling author and coach's website.