Getting a Better Picture of What's Happening at the Tour by Reading On-site and Off-site Weblogs

After blogging two of the major races in the United States in person this season, the Wachovia Cycling Series and the Dodge Tour de Georgia, I've come to the conclusion that blogging a pro cycling race in person is really hard.

To see what I mean, read Sammarye Lewis' account on Velogal of getting from the start to the finish of Stage 8. Even her experience on the first rest day was pretty arduous. I've been to France before, but I didn't see many autoroutes with two different exits labeled with the same exit number.

Her trip is made more difficult because she's doing it alone. Most media people seem to travel with at least one other person-- two sets of eyes are better than one when you're in unfamiliar territory.

It's got to be even more difficult to cover a race like The Tour de France in person because the media center is so well appointed:

  • At the USPRO Championship we could watch the race go by our tent across the street from the finish line, but we had nothing more than dialup access to the Internet.
  • At the Tour de Georgia we had race radio in the media center and WiFi.
  • At the Tour de France journalists have flat panel monitors and live TV. No doubt they have WiFi and high speed Internet access. They also have a buffet at the media center that's probably difficult to ignore.

In other words, there are many more distractions at the Tour de France than there are at other big races. All of them compete for your attention once you make it to the media center.

You may be asking, what difference does all of this make? When I'm watching the Tour de France in my living room in Pennsylvania, I have the ability to stop the action and replay what I just saw, thanks to my TiVo. If I need to be really productive, I go into my office and I sit in front of a Blogging Workstation with dual flat panel displays. This lets me look at what all of the other Tour de France-related weblogs are saying at the moment.

When you're on the scene, you don't have time to look at an aggregator like Bloglines. This is why you'll find links to other commentary about the Tour on Frank Steele's Tour de France 2005 Weblog or here on Operation Gadget, while you'll find fewer or none at all on blogs being written on site.

A great example of the kind of analysis that I look for from bloggers who are watching on television is what Frank Steele said in his Stage 10 Wrapup:

One thing I'm keeping an eye on is Armstrong's back. He's been stretching on the bike more than I ever remember seeing, and as soon as today's stage was over, he went over to a trailer and doubled over both from the effort, and it looked like, to stretch his back.

When you are in the finishing town with a media credential, you're probably out there at the finish line looking for a story yourself. It's hard to sit there and watch what's happening on TV when you're only a short distance away from the action. If you had no choice but to watch TV, however, you see things like Armstrong's posture after the race. Maybe this will be significant later in the Tour, maybe not.

I think it's fun to read commentary from the roadside or the media center, but it's hard to get a complete picture of the race from those reports alone. That's why it's important to read some of the blogs that are being written from afar as well. Distance sometimes helps bloggers put things into perspective.

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