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July 05, 2008

Versus ditches Trautwig

It's Christmas in July for U.S. Tour fans, as the Versus network has revamped its broadcast team.

Gone is Al Trautwig, who combined bombast and ignorance in staggering proportions. Replacing him is Craig Hummer, a former competitive swimmer and professional lifeguard who also has anchored bull riding and sailing coverage for Versus.

Hummer kicked off the network's broadcasters' jersey competition by picking outstanding climber Riccardo Ricco to win today's stage which finishes with a “sprinter's hill” over the last 2 kilometers.

Update: Ricco was 5th, so that was a pretty good pick after all.

I can't tell if Trautwig's absence is just because of all the pre-Olympics events on NBC, but best wishes to Hummer.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2008 in Riccardo Ricco, Television, Top Stories | Permalink


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I don't know if Craig was fed his first pick, but Ricco was in the top 10. I for one am interested to see how much better Hummer can be than Trautwig.

Posted by: Jeredb at Jul 5, 2008 11:19:54 AM

I remember Hummer doing Tour coverage back in the 90's or so, maybe when it was on ESPN2? I was happy to see him there the 4th seat. I definitely consider it a big improvement.

Posted by: CH at Jul 5, 2008 1:04:59 PM

Speculation in my house was on either 1) Hummer is a much better advocate for the race and the cycling purists who may be the only ones left after last year and 2) Trautwig was busy with the Olympics. Hope it's the former.

Posted by: natalie at Jul 5, 2008 3:44:30 PM

I am disappointed at the loss of Al Trautwig. He never claimed to be a cycling expert but he ballanced the other commentators. There are already three former cyclist in the booth. What does this former lifeguard (Craig Hummer)Bring to the program? Cycling has already lost a huge following because of the dopping scandal. What is the point of throwing out someone that has been supportive of the sport?

Posted by: velopro23 at Jul 5, 2008 7:00:09 PM

I much prefer Al. I hope that he is only busy with the olympics and will be back next year. Maybe I just don't like change? If they ever get rid of Phil, Paul or Bobke the tour would not be the same. I hope they know this.

Posted by: d at Jul 5, 2008 7:04:01 PM

I for one miss Trautwig.

Posted by: OC at Jul 5, 2008 8:11:28 PM

After the first day's broadcast, I miss Trautwig already. While he may not have been a cycling expert, he at least had done enough research to know how to pronounce riders' names. And he brought a "calming" influence that balanced the others (thank goodness for Sherwen). I hope Hummer calms-down during the coming weeks (and avoids the emotional high-notes).

Why WAS Trautwig fired?

Posted by: Lew at Jul 5, 2008 9:54:48 PM

I suspect he's just unavailable because of the Olympics coverage, but it's also possible that Versus is trying to develop more of an on-air personality, and wants to use Hummer, who also helms some of their other coverage.

If you follow the link in the post, you can see Trautwig's penciled in for the NBC Olympics coverage, which starts August 8th. With all the trials and qualifiers already underway, he's probably just otherwise engaged.

Still, if Hummer does a good job, I would like to think the network might have him back. So far, he seems to do a reasonable job directing traffic and playing viewer's advocate.

Posted by: Frank at Jul 5, 2008 10:11:59 PM

Al Trautwig's absence from anchoring the panel of commentators for the Tour de France is a major disappointment. I hope he's only gone temporarily because of the Olympics, because the prime time coverage of the TDF now sounds decidedly ameteurish. No offense to that new guy with the thin, weak voice, but he actually makes the event sound boring.
My brother used to make comments to me about what an "idiot" Al Trautwig is, because Al pointed out obvious things and asked elementary questions. I, on the other hand, was new to cycling and found that Al made a seemingly esoteric pursuit into an approachable and interesting sport. I consider him one of the ambassadors to the U.S. of the cycling world, not because he's a technical expert or because he used to ride himself, but because he paints the drama with his beautifully modulated voice, and by being accomodating and welcoming to viewers who aren't yet familiar with the sport, Al draws and keeps new viewers and helps create new fans (like me). The tension he helps create in the booth really brings out Bobke's goofy side and makes for a friendly competitive spirit with the British commentators in a way that can't help but draw in more American viewers.
If you care about cycling, then you want to spread its popularity. Step one is anchoring the coverage of cycling's premier event with a *professional* broadcaster.

Posted by: John at Jul 5, 2008 10:26:37 PM

Al brought the subtlety, complexity, and vocal bass Herman Munster to the proceedings, and his encouragement of all the "Bobke" goofery made for a lousy primetime show short on insight and short on space between words.

The formula is easy. During the race, put Phil and Paul on, and leave them on, and you'll have a great show. For the studio show, have someone ask Paul and Phil, and since Bob has embarrassing pictures of someone powerful, and because he's utterly madcap, I guess throw Bob in in small measures. Put Robbie V. on rider interviews, because no one talks to Frankie "The Rat" Andreu. There's your formula versus.

Posted by: Jeff at Jul 5, 2008 10:34:13 PM

I kinda miss Al as well. He provided a touch of professional anchor to the booth; Phil and Paul are the voices of cycling, Bobke makes the Tour understandable for the Everyman. I'm willing to give Hummer his chance but after the first day, I'm wishing we had Traut back.

Posted by: Kevin at Jul 5, 2008 10:43:26 PM

I miss Al. He has a great voice. The new guy's voice is annoying. He is trying too hard. He should host X Games or something. Al was relaxed, calming, amusing, there was a great rapport between Al and Bobke. I actually watched each stage twice. I watched the original broadcast at 5:30am with Sherwin and Ligget (both are great together) then watched it again with Al and Bob. Al and Bob had their own chemistry and actually explained things to the average viewer. It was fun. It was fun seeing them interact with the younger guys Robbie and Frankie.

Posted by: Tony at Jul 6, 2008 12:51:59 AM

I for one miss Al. I agree that his voice and calm demeanor bought balance to the show. I am not a race expert though I have watched the tour since Greg Lemond, so his so called "gaffes" was not noticed. I hope he is back next year!

Posted by: Alyshia at Jul 6, 2008 1:35:58 AM

I feel lost without Al! Very disappointing not to have him anchor the coverage. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he did the summer olympics for NBC 4 years ago AND work for OLN on the tour, so why can't he pull off the 'double' this time? Very disappointing.

Posted by: charlie at Jul 6, 2008 2:03:15 AM

They need to balance the coverage with a women. I guess Vs. demographics are the 18 - 30 yr old male, watching Tapout, but during the tour many women also tune it. Kirsten Gum was great.

Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 6, 2008 12:06:35 PM

Kirsten Gum was a ding-song who made watching Tour on OLN excruciating. I miss Al, but I'm willing to give Craig a chance. He's easy on the eyes and he's put in his time doing grunt work for OLN/Vs during past Tours. The real trick is just to watch Phil and Paul in the morning. Thank God for Tivo!

Posted by: Rebecca at Jul 6, 2008 2:48:55 PM

Count me in as another who'd rather have Al back. His first season or two I couldn't stand him either, but he grew into the job and as has been pointed out already, he's calm, enthusiastic and very professional. The effect this Hummer dude has is very nails on chalkboard.

But man, I love Phil, Paul and Bob so much. Indispensable!

Posted by: noelle at Jul 7, 2008 1:56:50 PM

Well I can't really be sure that his real name is Hummer....BUT he is OK as long as he doesn't do race commentary! Let's leave that to Mr Phil Ligget. What is really bugging me is that terrible Versus ad "take back the tour" UGH - how freaking depressing is that? Do we really need to be reminded? Let's move on guys.... it's the tour after all! Ah for the Sean Kelly days....hehe

Posted by: Alli at Jul 7, 2008 7:16:03 PM

Bring back Al! This new weenie even slips up on grammar...and the tenor of his voice makes my dog bark at the screen. From the network name-change (ridiculous) to the replacement of Trautwig (discouraging), Versus's business plan has me wondering how and by whom the executive decisions are being made.

Posted by: mont at Jul 7, 2008 9:48:44 PM

I am sure Al is preparing for the Olympics - NBC will pay way more than Versus will... hopefully he will return next year.

I echo the comments about him being a professional. He brings a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to the telecasts - plus I felt he did a great job handling the drama of the expulsions last year. That's when experience shows.

See you next year AL!

Posted by: Ian at Jul 8, 2008 4:56:23 PM