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He’s a familiar sight to cycling fans in the United States. After a professional cycling career spanning over 15 years, Christian Vande Velde found success off the bike — but not too far away — commentating on the biggest races of the year for NBC.
And he’s an even more familiar sight to Bobby & Jens co-hosts Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt. At various points, Christian has been both a teammate and a rival, as well as a co-worker in the commentating booth with Jens, and a neighbor to Bobby.
Like any old friends, they have plenty of stories to share, especially ones involving towed cars and speeding tickets while working the broadcast booth at the Tour de France. In recent years, there haven’t been many opportunities for similar problems, both because the network now provides a driver, implemented after one too many speeding tickets during post-stage transfers and because for the last two seasons in the age of COVID the commentating has all been done remotely.
Christian takes us behind the scenes of commentating on pro cycling, both before COVID and today. It’s a demanding job that involves long days and hours-long transfers on unfamiliar roads in cramped cars. And though that part has disappeared with remote commentating, there are now some early wake-up calls — and even odder hours during the Tokyo Olympics.
And there are plenty of other challenges for commentators when they can’t be on the ground, whether it’s not knowing the exact weather conditions or not being able to recon the finish. “There’s no ambiance, so you don’t really get that touch and feel that you do in France,” said Christian. In a normal year, mingling with commentators from other countries broadens his perspective, enhancing his commentary along the way. That’s all lost in the remote commentating. And, there are the missed serendipitous moments of being at the Tour for a retired professional — the running into old teammates, riders, and icons of the sport.
Even with all the changes to the job recently, one thing has remained constant: It’s as exhausting as ever. After a hectic summer of commentating on the Tour and the Olympics, and a couple of weeks of the Vuelta still to go, Christian is looking forward to a well-deserved break.
Listen to the latest episode of Bobby & Jens for the full conversation.
“Bobby & Jens” is a weekly VeloNews podcast brought to you by Zwift. It stars former pros Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt and features conversations with top athletes, coaches, emerging stars, and other newsmakers from the wide world of cycling. A new episode drops every Friday. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.