July 12, 2011
NBC Sports All Access iOS app gets on-demand stages
I typically watch Tour stages with one display on Versus, and a second showing the English-language video stream they provide, with commentary by Matt Keenan, then Phil and Paul once the on-air broadcast is underway.
I have paid for the Flash-based video stream to my Mac, but last year, I used the Versus iPhone app on my iPhone and iPad (using the iPhone app double-sized) to track the race during broadcast commercials or when I was away from a TV.
This year's app is much better, with far more video, at least a dozen good quality photos per stage, full iPad support, and fewer crashes. In one way it was worse, however. Last year's app allowed (and still allows, if you've got the 2010 Tour app installed) you to go back and watch the full video of the stage, while this year's offered only highlights (typically, crashes and finishes) once the live video was done.
Until today, that is. There's a new version 1.2.0 of the iOS app that allows subscribers to go back and watch previous Tour stages in their entirety. For now, the full stream goes back to Stage 6, but it's promised that previous stages will be available soon. It's done through a browser window, launched by the app, and allows you to scrub through the video to look for your particular highlight. Stage 6 and Stage 8 have about 3:20 of video, Stage 7 and Stage 9 around 4:15. As I write this at 7:25 Eastern on Tuesday, Stage 10 hasn't yet appeared.
Video quality may be a bit lower than the initial stream -- I'm not in a position to test it with a good quality broadband connection right now.
July 06, 2011
Today's favorite Tour Twitterers
I'm working on an updated survey of all the Tour Twitterers worth following, but I wanted to give a nod to five who have already really added to my enjoyment of this year's Tour.
- Craig Lewis, HTC-Highroad - Lewis is home recuperating from a crash at the Giro d'Italia. His loss has been our gain so far, as he's tweeting very actively, and giving a rider's perspective on stage tactics
- Mark Cavendish, HTC-Highroad - Cav the Twitterer is like Cav the rider: brash and ready to go at the drop of a hat
- The Inner Ring - Twitter feed for The Inner Ring weblog
- Gerard Vroomen - The cofounder of Cervelo bikes has an interesting perspective, especially given Garmin-Cervelo's success so far this year
- TdFLanterne - It's been a treat to watch @TdFLanterne morph from her single-purpose weblog to snarky crusader
July 18, 2007
Unmasking the Tour tech impostors
James Huang at CyclingNews has been keeping an eye out for Tour team equipment that doesn't look like it comes from team sponsors, and he's found quite a few.
The most flagrant I can remember is one Huang mentions, Lance Armstrong's Litespeed Blade, rebadged as an Eddy Merckx, when he raced for US Postal.
Many teams have tire sponsors who don't make clinchers or make a limited range of tubulars, so many team bikes are wearing tubulars with labels advertising sponsor tires.
In other cases, teams are using frames that differ slightly from production frames, or using forks or components that don't match the sponsor kit.
February 21, 2007
Adobe's California Tour Tracker: Amazing
I've been trying to follow the Tour of California through the race's official website, and its very pretty Tour Tracker, but I've been unable to get into it during the race most days. I've been making do with the usual race diet of text updates from CyclingNews.com and VeloNews, and meaning to get back in to check out the Tour Tracker.
I've gotten in before and after stages, and thought I therefore had an idea what the Tracker does, but I was woefully mistaken. I thought it was just another GPS and map interactive tracker, but with nicer graphics. It is so much more than that.
In fact, the Adobe Flex and Flash-based application also includes streaming live video, which, by default, displays at the full size of your browser window, with the translucent panels overlaid over the video but still active. Mark Shimahara of BikeZen.com is adding photos during stages, and including Flickr in the distribution. In the right sidebar, there's a scroll of the VeloNews live ticker.
It's not perfect: It seems likely that the app's load time and its unavailability during stages are related. There are reports of browser incompatibilities, and some of the information could be handled better: I would rather they use the “Tour Standings” panel for intermediate sprints and KoM points, especially since they're not keeping that updated (tonight it's still showing standings from before today's stage).
But that's complaining about pigeons on the Statue of Liberty: When it's working, this app combines the best of Cycling.TV, VeloNews, excellent cycling photography, and real-time race tracking all on one page. We should be so lucky during the Tour.
RIAPedia, a site tracking Flash and Flex-based rich internet applications, calls it the “absolute coolest, sexiest Flex application. Ever.”
July 09, 2006
Tour Web Tech
Upping the ante in online tour tech is the Interactive Feature: Tour de France from the NYTimes. Like the Velonews Ticker, the feature includes live commentary, standings, and profiles, but it's more polished and complete.
July 07, 2006
Wired on illegal bike tech
Wired takes a look at the state-of-the art with racing bike technology, noting the variety of bikes that are “banned from the race.”
Most notable are recumbents, of course, which were banned by the UCI after they rewrote speed records, but there are also a number of frames that require ballast when they're built up to meet the UCI's minimum weight requirement of 6.8 kilograms.
They also give a shout-out to Softride, whose beam bike is banned for providing an aerodynamic advantage.
Tomorrow's time trial will bring out all the latest in trick aero frames (like BMC's 12,000-euro carbon nanotube frame for Floyd Landis, at right) and rims, faired helmets, shoe covers and anything else riders can get away with to beat the wind for 52 kilometers.
June 21, 2006
LeTour Goatse?Tour de France webpage, you're taken to a landing page where you can choose your language.
This year's edition bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the most famous Internet gross-out images of all time, Goatse.cx (Wikipedia link).
May 26, 2006
Fly the 2006 Tour route without leaving your computer
Earlier this month, I mentioned that a 2006 Tour route map was underway for Google Earth.
It's done. The entire route of this year's Tour is now available for download. It's an amazing demonstration of what Google Earth can do, as you can tilt and zoom to get an idea of a course's elevation profile, overlay roads to plan a Tour trip, and easily pick out intermediate sprints or mountaintops.
It's both convenient and awesome.
Harry Love, who participated in last year's Google Earth map, has posted a number of suggestions for how people can extend on this year's map, including geotagging photos at sharing sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Google Video, using the "tdf2006" tag, and, for riders and teams, providing data feeds that could integrate with the course map.
Above is a still from Stage 15, which finishes atop Alpe d'Huez.
(Spotted at Bikeforall.net.)
July 10, 2005
US improving in TdF frame representation
The New York Times looks at the big role American bike frames have come to play in the Tour de France, improving from the occasional rebadged Litespeed to the point where 4 teams (I think: correct me in the comments) are using US frames on their Tour bikes:
Discovery Channel: Trek
Saunier Duval-Prodir: Scott USA Correction: Scott USA has been headquartered in Switzerland since 1997, and started selling in the US again in 2004-2005.
CSC's Cervelo is a Canadian company, as well.
July 06, 2005
First Subaru Tour blogger headed to France
Subaru is wrapping up its Race to the Tour contest. The first winner, Ted Darling, is on his way to France, and the 2nd winner should have been drawn last week, and should be announced shortly.
Winners get a Trek Madone and a computer and cellphone to use while they follow the Tour for a week.
Ted's first post is here.
Detailed shot of Armstrong's “icon” wheel
Finally - a clear shot
Brewer also got a picture of three guys with the worst job since the ice-box carrying “portable Coke machines” from the Atlanta Olympics: The guys he photographed are portable TVs, with a harness that elevates a color flat-screen a foot or so above their head, so people in the crowd can watch the race.
July 02, 2005
That awesome aero wheel from Armstrong's bike
Nike's Mark Smith took the suggestions and developed a set of 40 icons printed in a double line running around the circumference of the Bontrager aero wheel Armstrong used in Stage 1 today. They're yellow on the black background of the wheel, and the frame has a yellow “10/2” logo that matches the icons in color and size.
There's a little Eiffel Tower, a map of Texas with a star for Austin, an "LIG" for the kids (Luke, Isabelle, and Grace), and more.
I'm looking for good photos of the wheel; the images here are grabs from the NikeCycling.com site.
Kind of reminds me of the BMW art cars of the '70s. Very cool.
It's a little hard to link, since they're stuck in the late dot-com bubble, and build every page in Flash. Just click on anything that moves for a while and it's bound to come up eventually.
June 30, 2005
Ullrich using hypobaric chamber in training
It's probably no big surprise that elite aerobic athletes use pressure chambers to simulate living at high altitudes, stimulating red blood cell production that improves their performance at normal altitudes.
I've always thought those were 'hyperbaric' chambers, but it turns out they're 'hypobaric' chambers, and that Jan Ullrich recently had one installed in his basement in Switzerland.
Earlier this season, Robbie McEwen's Davitamon-Lotto team had a portable chamber (called an Altitrainer) seized by Italian police.
Although hypoxic devices are not prohibited under UCI or WADA rules, they are illegal under Italian law 376, an arcane rule that prohibits use of any method to increase blood values for sport competition. When asked about the Alti Trainer at the post-race press conference today in Rossano Veneto, McEwen said, "I don't know anything about this...I don't use it, but some of my teammates do. It's a machine that simulates the effect of altitude."
Even elite amateurs are using these: I remember a story in Outside about a group of long-distance runners living together in Pennsylvania in a house with a pressure chamber whose use they shared.
June 29, 2005
SIRIUS to offer daily Tour podcast
Welcome to new TdFBlog.com sponsor SIRIUS, who would have gotten a plug for this no matter what: They're offering a daily podcast from Lance Armstrong's regular SIRIUS co-host, Mark Higgins, every day from July 2nd through July 24th. Armstrong himself, who hosts a weekly Sunday night show on the network, will be checking in with Higgins regularly.
There's a 90-second preview available now. The content will be broadcast first over SIRIUS, then made available on the web.
On a vaguely related note, Apple rolled out a new version of iTunes today, with support for podcasts provided from the iTunes Music Store, but the SIRIUS podcast will work with older versions of iTunes or other podcast clients.
June 26, 2005
Phonak unveils their nanobike
Phonak's bike supplier, BMC, makes some of the coolest looking frames on the planet. By building primarily with carbon fiber, the company is able to shape the frame members to optimize aerodynamics and function, not just as a collection of tubes.
This year, BMC is providing Phonak with its latest "carbon nanotube technology" bike, dubbed the BMC Pro Machine. RoadCycling.com has the first look at what Phonak's co-leaders, Santiago Botero and Floyd Landis, will be riding in the 2005 Tour.
The only metal in this frame is reportedly the threading for the bottom bracket.
This isn't the first use of nanotubes in sports: Wilson has three different golf clubs that use nanotubes in their shaft.
No word on pricing for the BMC Pro Machine.
June 07, 2005
Trek's newest time travelers
It's pretty common for the Dauphiné to be the testing ground for technology targeted at the Tour de France, and Discovery Channel is trying out a new time-trial frame from Trek.
ThePaceline.com has a couple of pictures of the frame here (both of Armstrong), which looks remarkable primarily for its integrated steerer tube/stem/handlebar, and a smoother interface between fork and head tube.
The article says both Armstrong and Hincapie were using the new bar, but if you check out the CyclingNews.com prologue photo gallery, you can see that, while the handlebars are similar, the frames are anything but. Hincapie (who, remember, won the prologue) is on the same frame the team rode at the Tour de Georgia in April, while Armstrong's has a sort of a bow shape to the head tube and a top tube that fairs smoothly into the head tube, and likely a few dozen other subtle improvements we can't see in the photos. Oh, and that cool "TTX" paint job.
Update: There are a few clear "product shot" pictures on Trek's The Road to the Tour page.
Here's the new frame (click through to see both pictures at ThePaceline.com):
Armstrong's Dauphiné bike, from ThePaceline.com
Below is Armstrong's TT ride from the Tour de Georgia.
Armstrong's Tour de Georgia Time Trial bike, by Frank Steele
Shamelessly stolen from Dave at Operation Gadget.
July 21, 2004
Voeckler's time machine
Cyclingnews.com offers a look at the bike Thomas Voeckler rode for 10 days in the yellow jersey. It's a carbon-fiber compact-frame Time model, with an interesting mix of Time, Campy, Mavic and Stronglight components, and with some of his componentry painted red, white and blue to celebrate his French national championship, won just before the Tour.
Brioches La Boulangère is one of the teams riding Michelins, and they have used the new tubeless clinchers on the mountain stages.
July 07, 2004
New TT helmets a major effort
Last year, the UCI ruled that all racing helmets, including those worn during time trials, must meet safety standards. Previously, riders wore one-off aero helmets with no real provision for crash protection.
The new UCI ruling didn't leave much time for helmet companies to develop, test, and build new helmets. The usual turnaround is 2 years, but this time, they had about 8 months.
To get certification, Giro claims to have spent $100,000 for 2 Giro helmets and a Bell, and they claim that the Rev 6 helmet US Postal will be wearing is good for 17 seconds in a 60-kilometer TT ridden at 30 mph.
Also details the massive Lazer helmets Lotto is wearing, and the super-aero Uvex helmets worn by T-Mobile, and everybody else's.
July 05, 2004
Riding the Tour on tubeless tires
Lennard Zinn files a report on Hutchinson's tubeless tires, being ridden by 3 teams at this year's Tour: Saeco, RAGT, and Brioches La Boulangére.
Traditionally, the pros have ridden tubulars, tires that were sewn around an inner tube, then glued directly to the wheel's rim. More recently, many have adopted clinchers, the tire most of us ride, with an inner tube, and a tire that hooks to the wheel's rim.
These new tubeless tires have a combination of the advantages of tubulars and clinchers; like clinchers, they won't roll off the rim, but like tubulars, they don't have a separate inner tube adding friction and stiffness to the tire.
The tires still require professional mounting, so they're not available to the public, at least not yet.
July 01, 2004
Daily Peloton offers a profile of Tyler Hamilton and his squad for the 2004 Tour. Hamilton looks very strong and very motivated, and his Phonak team did very well in the Dauphiné Libéré. They're going to be a strong team for years to come, as well, as Oscar Sevilla looks poised to step right into Hamilton's cleats when Tyler can no longer hang in the big tours.
Over at PezCycling, they have a look at Hamilton's time-trial bike, which looks like it would be more at home on a Formula One track than a bike race. It's got carbon fiber everywhere, and a strange new, patent-pending fork-stem interface.
June 30, 2004
What Lance means to Trek
Here's a good Tour tech story, a look at Trek's business, and what a difference Lance Armstrong and his 5 Tours de France have made for the Wisconsin company.
Even if Armstrong fails to capture his sixth successive yellow jersey at the end of the Champs Elysee in Paris this month, the payoff for Trek is incontrovertible.
Ten years ago, a typical high-end Trek road bike sold for $2,200, according to Andrews. This year, a typical price tag is $4,800.
Rolling out of its frame factory in Waterloo this year are versions of the bike Armstrong rides that will sell in stores across the country for up to $7,000, and possibly more.
Trek is the only US manufacturer to win a Tour.
June 17, 2004
Weapons of the Cycling Samurai
With the Tour coming up, a number of sites are starting to offer looks at the bikes and components we'll see in the Tour this year.
PezCycling offers a look at the Phonak team bikes ridden by Tyler Hamilton and his team, which are surely one of the most unconventional bikes in the peloton.
Since they're working in carbon fiber, BMC was free to look beyond cylindrical tubing, and shape every tube on the bike to match its function. With the Phonak team colors, they certainly stand out in the peloton.
Cyclingnews provides a look at the frames Iban Mayo and Lance Armstrong used in the Mont Ventoux time trial at the Dauphiné Libéré this month.
Armstrong's Trek Madone SSL is actually fairly conventional, an evolution of the Madone SL, but with improvements so it just tickles the UCI weight limit of 6.8 kg or 14.96 lbs.
Trek found a way to bring its OCLV frame technology to a new level by using a carbon fibre material usually used for space satellite construction: 55 gsm OCLV. This material uses a carbon fibre lay-up process that is "far more meticulous and challenging than that we use for any other OCLV frame we build," say Trek's people. And if the stress tests on the Madone SSL showed that OCLV 55 wasn't the optimum material, Trek used OCLV 110 to enhance durability.
Armstrong also rode with custom Bontrager race wheels using the 55 gsm carbon fiber, and a clip-on carbon fiber aerobar.
Mayo's Orbea features a very tight aerodynamic rear triangle that snugs the back wheel right up under the rider. It's also got an aggressively sloped top tube, like the Giant TCR. Rather than carbon-fiber, Mayo's rig is aluminum from Columbus, the metal company whose Nivachrome steel was for decades the standard for Tour frames.
July 27, 2003
Samuel Abt talks to a number of riders and former riders on the team radios used by riders and team managers in the Tour. Perhaps not surprisingly, almost all the retired racers oppose the system, while all the current riders favor it.
Hennie Kuiper, a Dutch rider and team director, is an outspoken opponent of the system:
"A true professional doesn't need to be told about his every move," he said. "The radios do more harm than good."
Frankie Andreu, the former Motorola and US Postal pro who is working with the OLN TV Tour crew, thinks the radios have made an important contribution:
"The best thing about the radios is that the race is safer. That overrides everything else. You don't have team cars coming up to the pack when you're going 40 miles an hour and telling the riders to move to the front or move back.
"Not having the cars coming up is a huge difference. It used to get scary."
July 14, 2003
VeloNews tech editor Andrew Juskaitis starts off with a fairly ho-hum report on the new Trek frames Lance Armstrong is riding, and that he's the only one riding the 2004 Shimano Dura-Ace componentry. Way down toward the end he slips in some really useful stuff, his Tour de France driving tips:
Driving Tip #1 While driving down the L'Alpe d'Huez this morning our European correspondent Andrew Hood learned the hard way of the concept of downshifting to prevent brake overheating. By the time Hood captained our Volkswagen down to the bottom of the climb, our front brakes had thoroughly overheated producing voluminous plumes of smoke. Even the Saeco and Crdit Agricole team cars which passed us took notice and thoughtfully informed us that our brakes were nearly on fire.
Driving Tip #2
With my first taste of "maximum attack" Tour driving today, I learned you can never go too fast through a round-about directly into a pitch black tunnel while passing a motorized float shaped like a giant inflatable rubber ducky.
July 13, 2003
RoadCycling.com offers a look at some of the weight-saving equipment teams are using to get through the Alps a little faster, including the Trek Madone 5.9 frames being used by the US Postal team, next year's component groups from Shimano and Campagnolo, and the Cervelo R2.5 frames being ridden by Tyler Freaking Hamilton's CSC team.