By Neal Rogers
Daily footage of the Amgen Tour of California will kick off Versus’ 2008 cycling coverage, which will again include many of the sport’s biggest events as well as live daily coverage of this year’s Tour de France.
Though Versus will offer daily coverage of the Tour of California and Tour de France, the bulk of its cycling programming will fall on its “Cyclysm Sundays,” which will often be one-hour highlight shows. The Giro d’Italia will be featured across four Sundays, while the Vuelta a España will be shown just once, after its conclusion in Madrid.
Following the scandals of the 2006 and 2007 Tours, there was some question within the cycling community whether Versus would return with the daily Tour coverage that began in 2001 — when the network was known as Outdoor Life — and carried on through the Lance Armstrong era. Though Versus carried Tour coverage in the years following Armstrong’s retirement, the demise of the Discovery Channel team last year marked the end of an Armstrong-affiliated team.
Marc Fein, Versus executive vice president of programming, production and business operations, told VeloNews the network’s commitment to the sport “has never been stronger.”
“We intend to continue the same high coverage of the sport in 2008 as we have in the past,” said Fein. “We’re happy to be the home of the Tour de France in 2008.”
Versus’ 2008 cycling coverage began on Saturday, February 9, with an Amgen Tour of California preview narrated by Al Trautwig that included a recap of the 2007 event and interviews with defending champion Levi Leipheimer as well as several Slipstream-Chipotle team members.
Versus crews spent the last several weeks attending both Astana and Slipstream-Chipotle team camps in New Mexico. However with Leipheimer’s Astana team recently barred from all 2008 ASO events, including Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de France, Versus is likely to focus more directly on Slipstream to draw in American viewers.
Fein was not available to discuss Astana’s exclusion from ASO events. Earlier Fein told VeloNews that the network is “glad to see Slipstream emerge as the new American team. Whenever there is a strong American team, viewers take notice.”
Versus returns in 2008 as a race sponsor of the Amgen Tour of California, and brings its commentating team of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll, who will deliver live, on-site commentary for the race.
“Versus is the only network in the United States that gives the type of in-depth and all-encompassing cycling coverage that the sport deserves,” said Gavin Harvey, president of Versus. “The intensity of the competition among the top teams in the world coupled with the picturesque landscapes in the Golden State makes the Amgen Tour of California a can’t-miss event.”
Two events not yet listed on Versus’ 2008 programming include the Tour of Flanders and the Amstel Gold Race. Asked if those races would be added, Fein answered, “Any changes or additions to the schedule will be announced as details become available.”
Versus Amgen Tour of California schedule
February 17 Prologue, 5 p.m. EST (2 p.m. PST)
February 18 Stage 1, 11 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST)
February 19 Stage 2, 11 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST)
February 20 Stage 3, 11 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST)
February 21 Stage 4, 11 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST)
February 22 Stage 5, 11 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST)
February 23 Stage 6, 5 p.m. EST (2 p.m. PST)
February 24 Stage 7, 5 p.m. EST (2 p.m. PST)
Versus 2008 Cyclysm schedule
February 16 Tour of Qatar
February 17-24 Amgen Tour of California
March 9 Paris-Nice
March 16 Paris-Nice
March 23 Milan-San Remo
March 23 Tirreno Adriatico
March 30 Critérium International
April 20 Paris-Roubaix
April 27 Liège-Bastogne-Liège
April 27 La Fleche Wallonne
May 11 Giro d’Italia
May 18 Giro d’Italia
May 25 Giro d’Italia
June 1 Giro d’Italia
June 29 Tour of Pennsylvania
July 5-27 Tour de France
September 21 Vuelta España
October 12 Paris-Tours
October 19 Giro di Lombardia
November 4 Tour du Faso