Sunday, February 25, 2007

Long Beach, cont'd

The Courtyard Marriott in Long Beach gets a solid thumbs-up, four out of a possible five stars. Here's the breakdown:

Check-In: A-plus. Only 68 seconds elapsed between the moment I entered the lobby and the moment I exited, key in hand. No waiting line.

I timed the whole process on a Timy. I'm sending the audit tape to Francesco Cattaneo at F.I.S. tomorrow, along with a hot poker and instructions to shove both the timing tape and the hot poker up his useless Swiss ass.

Shower: A solid "B". Water pressure is fantastic. Nice big shower head, located overhead rather than the despised sternum-high location. The bowed-out curtain rod (for additional maneuvering room) was a nice touch. However, I never give a rating higher than a "B" for a shower that's built in a traditional-sized bathtub. The whole thing is too small. In order for a shower to earn an "A", it must be at least 5' X 5', and the shower head must be a minimum 6'4" off the floor, since I'm 6'2". If I can palm all four walls without moving my feet, the shower is too damn small.

I wonder if there is one shower in all of Europe that would rate an "A". The Euros may have designed the Airbus 380 and the Ariane rocket, but they have zero engineering expertise when it comes to shower technology. Perhaps that's why they all reek.

Morning Beverage Availability: A-plus. There's a local java place across the street. I got my usual half half-caff, half decaf, with a twist of lemon.

Just kidding. I don't like coffee. I drink tea.

Starbucks is about 6 blocks away, but I don't like Starbucks. Starbucks serves a brand of tea called "Tazo", which tastes like dirty socks. If I have no other choice, I'll go to Starbucks for tea, because at least the water is hot and clear. Nothing worse than drinking tea where the hot water is run through a coffee-maker, and tastes vaguely like coffee before you even insert your teabag. Bleccccch.

I always carry emergency backup teabags in my briefcase. Sometimes, like last night on the way out of Santa Clarita, you find yourself stuck at one of those huge gas station trucks stops, and they have nice clear hot water but a lousy selection of tea. I still have a bunch of TeeFix tea bags I bought in Kitzbuehel a few weeks ago in the pocket of my ski jacket, which I was wearing. Surprisingly, Austrians drink a lot of tea, and Austrian tea is damn good. So I bought a cup of hot water and used my own tea bag.

This season, my Precision Timing partner Ted Savage and I bought nifty red Spyder jackets for our FIS World Cup timing crew. I insisted on zip-off sleeves, which make the jackets a lot more useful (in my opinion). Well, before the Tour of California, I had worn mine maybe twice. During Lake Louise, the weather was too damn cold for a ski jacket (-37C!!) so I wore my coach's coat, and then during Kitzbuehel, it was 50 degrees and raining most of the time, so I mostly wore a raincoat. But since this gig started, I have worn my Spyder jacket, with sleeves zipped off, at least 12 hours a day, every day. It's pretty filthy, so on Monday night when I get home, that puppy is going into the washing machine. After I take a nice long hot shower in one of my squash-court sized showers, of course.

Long Beach: Which Marriott?

The Phoenix Sports crew had a group dinner tonight at California Pizza Kitchen in Long Beach. Naturally, the place was filled with biking people. Fred's friend Vincent, who is a mechanic for Discovery, came by the table and told us Hincapie fractured his wrist today. Instead of starting the crit tomorrow to protect Leipheimer's lead, Hincapie is going into surgery.

It was my turn to fuck up today. But I had some help.

All the American networks have a graphic "look", i.e. fonts and shells for their graphics which identify the network just in the way the graphics look. It is an extremely pretentious, extremely stupid, extremely wasteful, and uniquely American affectation. No other country in the world does it, and it's a waste of time and effort.

Versus (formerly OLN), which is televising the Tour of California, is no exception. They have a "look", and it is without a doubt one of the ugliest, most cluttered, schizophrenic, and dysfunctional graphic "looks" I've ever seen. It truly blows. But I'm sure there's some highly paid executive at Versus, with a shaved head, a goatee, an earring, and a $2500 Hugo Boss suit, who proudly claims credit for designing it.

The Versus "look" sometimes has as many as 4 different fonts on the same page. The athletes' first names and last names are in a different font, for example, which is dumb. And the graphics are way too big. If Jackson Pollack had gone into TV, he would have liked the Versus look.

Typically, for an event like this, a network would send me their shells a month or two in advance and make one of their design people available by phone for any questions. This is particularly true for timing graphics, as networks almost never have anything in their style guide for a sport-specific clock layout with time-to-beat, and so forth.

Well, the fuckwads at Versus sent me their shells & fonts - literally - the afternoon before the race started, and half the stuff wasn't even complete. Some intern at Versus got on the phone with me and apologized as she headed for the airport to start her weekend, and wished me luck. Gee, thanks.

Normally, I would have all the graphics software tested, approved, and burned to CD before I left home. But a week ago, there I was in the parking lot of the Rennaissance Hotel in Burlingame, holed up in a motor home, trying to make all the clock and standings graphics fit the Versus style guide for a race starting in about 12 hours.

Turns out one of the clueless knuckleheads at Versus complained to the producer, John Carter, that my graphics didn't fit their "look" closely enough. Carter told them something like "gee, for all the guidance you gave him, you're lucky it's even close". So today in Santa Clarita, I had to re-write all the software. Again. It was purely a cosmetic thing, but I had to make a few database changes so that I could render the athletes' first names and last names in separate routines SINCE THEY USE A DIFFERENT FONT. Aaaargh.

Well, the new software worked great all day, and when the race was over, I had the stage results up there off my photo-finish interface almost instantly. I was feeling pretty good. Then Carter called for me to change the page on the standings, and page 2 was blank.

Aw, fuck.

They had to re-do the whole segment, not only because of my fuck-up, but also because of a bunch of other fuckups with the RF, the helicopters, the cameramen, and who the f$%^& knows what else and who else. There was so much screaming going on in the truck, I couldn't make out most of what was happening.

I kinda feel sorry for Carter this week. I don't think the guy has produced many bike races OTHER than Le Tour de France, which is a big problem, because he's accustomed to a multi-million-dollar media machine dumping huge buckets of information on his head in real time all day long. At this race, the budget for remote cameras, aircraft, GPS, and scoring & timing is about 90% less. It's like a surgeon who was trained at Harvard Medical School who then gets assigned to a M*A*S*H unit in Korea. Hey, that sounds like it could be an interesting TV show.


Anyway, so everyone in the TV truck got screamed at today, including me. Especially me. I screwed up. Then again, I never should have been forced to do a major software re-write an hour before a show. That certainly didn't help, so a resounding "fuck you" to Versus Network, but ultimately it was my bad, end of story.

Tomorrow should be amusing. Stage 7 is, in essence, a big criterium on a 7 mile course. I wonder if Carter has ever produced a crit show. I doubt it. Carter is struggling with the transition to this lesser level of technical television. Perhaps AEG should have gotten a Director with more experience in making TV the "old fashioned" way, i.e. digging the story out of cracks in the woodwork. For example, his P.A. (whom we call "The Slipper Girl") is a cute young thing who fetches him a latte on command, but she's never seen a bike race before. He would have been way better off hiring a girl with a big, muscular bike-racing ass, who happened to be a former hard-core bike racer. She could go beat up the Commissaires for information, dig for tidbits behind the scenes, and figure still more out on her own, out of experience and instinct, rather than disappearing periodically to brush her hair and re-apply her makeup. But no, he wanted Slipper Girl, ostensibly because she looks good in tight jeans.

At this race, there are two remarkable books issued to every race support person: The Technical Guide and the Housing Guide. The Technical Guide describes every stage down to the smallest detail. For example, if you're a tent guy, the technical guide tells you the exact position and layout of the finish line in every city, down to the inch, so you can get to the site, figure out where your tents go, and get started putting them up without having to ask anybody. The caterers can look at the Technical Guide and know where to park their truck, where all the trucks, motorhomes, and tents which require catering are located, and how much catered food they require. The Housing Guide is issued to all 880 people associated with the race. It has directions and rosters for all housing in all cities. There is a woman named Elaine who has done a remarkable job with those guides, They are full-color, high-gloss magazine stock. They are works of art.

Unfortunately, Elaine fucked up today too. My housing group (#30) was listed as staying at the Courtyard Marriott at 5855 West Century, near LAX, for tomorrow's Long Beach Stage. I put the address into my GPS, and we skedaddled out of Santa Clarita. When we arrived at that address, we found it was a Marriott, not a Courtyard Marriott, and they didn't have our rez. So we hopped back in the motorhome and drove a few blocks to the Courtyard Marriott at a different address on West Century. They didn't have our rez either. We called Elaine. She said a page from last year's Housing Guide had mistakenly appeared in the 2007 Guide, hence the mistake. She had assigned someone to tell everyone, but we were never notified. She said we were staying at the hotel for one of the Start Groups, which is a Courtyard Marriott at the Long Beach Airport.

Turns out that wasn't right either. We spotted some of the support trucks at a Courtyard Marriott in Long Beach, about 2 blocks from the race course. THAT's the right hotel. So here I sit, sucking free bandwidth.

Elaine, I don't know you, I'll probably never meet you, but I think your Housing Guide is a work of art - despite today's trevails.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Do The Math, Part II

This morning I discovered I was two pairs of underwear short of making the flight on Monday wearing clean drawers.

Today's calculus:

Cost to have one pair of underwear laundered at the Hyatt Valencia in Santa Clarita: $4.00

Cost of a 7-pack of Hanes Mens Cotton Briefs at Super-Target (across the street): $5.49

Do the math.

I'm now wearing underwear that's not only clean, it's brand new. I wonder if the maids at the Hyatt are pondering why there's a bunch of dirty undershorts in the trash can of room 644.

I'm sure they've seen stranger things.

Santa Clarita: My Kind of Town

Santa Clarita is my favorite town in the Tour of California. Why? It's the simple things.

Last night when we arrived, I was so destroyed, the only things I cared about were, in order, a room key, a long hot shower, and a pillow. If somebody had dropped a million bucks on the sidewalk in front of me, I would not have had the energy to bend over and pick it up. I skipped dinner for the 2nd straight night and crashed. (NOTE: the Hyatt Valencia gets deductions for lousy water pressure in the shower)

Sometime in the middle of the night, I vaguely remember hearing a few vague "clang" sounds. Not a clear sound, like a bell; more like an aluminum baseball bat connecting with a ball.

This morning I woke up early, feeling surprisingly good. I headed downstairs in search of a hot mug of tea. Upon walking out the front door of the Hyatt, I discovered that the finish line of the race is literally at the hotel. I don't mean near the hotel, I mean at the hotel. Last night we couldn't find a parking spot amongst all the big rigs and box trucks carrying tents, staging, sound, etc, so Fred stuck the motor home over in the far corner of the parking lot next to a huge garbage dumpster. This morning, I discovered that we don't even have to move the motor home to do the race, because the garbage dumpster is now obscured from view by the stage, which is erected right on the finish line. The occasional clangs I heard in my sleep last night were race contractors erecting staging and tents outside my room, six floors down.

At this point, anything that makes a day even marginally easier is more valuable than platinum to me.

And that's the very simple reason why I love Santa Clarita.


Greetings from Santa Clarita California.

We're back in a nice hotel, a Hyatt. A Stephen Colbert Wag of the Finger, however, to the management here at the hotel. They must have known there would be 300 tired, pissed-off people checking in tonight within a two-hour period, yet there were only two people on duty at the front desk, and both their electronic check-in machines were on the fritz.

Stuff like that drives me bat-shit. I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math. If you're so damn concerned with customer satisfaction, GET ME MY FUCKING ROOM KEY SO I CAN GO UPSTAIRS AND TAKE A MOTHERFUCKING SHOWER. I REALLY DON"T GIVE A SHIT IF THERE ARE FLOWERS ON THE NIGHT TABLE, I JUST DON"T WANT TO STAND ON MY FEET ANOTHER MOMENT.


Time Trial went well for us today. We got plenty of good information on the air, and our EvDO wireless stuff out in the middle of the countryside at Int 1 worked just fine. Kudos to Fred Patton for buying the EvDO stuff and arranging for us to give it a try. Fred's a swashbuckler, he dreams up bold ideas, then straps on a set of brass balls and tries them on live TV when a lot is on the line.

I can do a better TT than we did today, but the Phoenix team worked well together, I would give ourselves a solid "B+". Once again, the truck had massive RF problems, and the promised aircraft didn't show up until only 3 riders remained on course, so if we had dropped the ball too, TV would have had precisely nothing. I just watched the show on VS and it looked pretty decent.

We're on live tomorrow for two hours. Leipheimer pretty much has the race locked up unless something outrageous happens. But if there's one thing I've learned this week, it's this: In a road race, anything can happen - both on the course and off.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Solvang: The Time Trial

Last night we arrived in Solvang for the decisive Time Trial. Solvang is a weird place, best described as "Little Denmark". It looks like a contingent of Danes settled this area many years ago, and have kept their spiritual ties to their homeland intact through generations. Danish names and flags all over the place.

Danish cuisine, like all Scandinavian cuisine, is pretty awful but not nearly as revolting as many other types of Eurofood. The worst Eurofood, of course, is French. French food is famous for its sauces and wines, both of which were invented to mask the fact that the meats and other ingredients making up the underlying French cuisine are so disgusting and indigestible. The disgusting-ness of French food is a possible explanation for the fact that the vast majority of French people are foul-smelling, rude, bitter, sour-dispositioned assholes. If anybody from France is reading this blog, FUCK YOU and FUCK FRANCE.

As you probably know, Maui (my home) is the #1 island tourist destination in the world. From time to time, I'll be out on my bike and a carload of tourists will ask me for directions. If the tourists are anything other than French, I will carefully give them directions to the best of my knowledge. But if they are French, I always give them the most incorrect, inconvenient, and awful directions I can plausibly make up off the top of my head. Hopefully I have ruined the vacations of dozens of French tourons, the way so many French have ruined every single one of my way-too-many trips to France. About ten years ago I vowed to never again set foot in France, no matter how much money a potential customer was willing to throw at me. This vow has served me well, I have never been tempted to waver from it in the slightest.

Once again, if anybody from France is reading this blog, FUCK YOU and FUCK FRANCE.

Now back to trashing the Scandinavian countries.

Making Scandinavian food is easy:

1. Cook your favorite meal, serve it up on a large dinner plate.

2. Take the plate and dump the entire contents, en masse, into a big pot.

3. Add some really disgusting scrap fish, such as eel.

4. Simmer for about four hours, until it is an unintelligible, congealed goo.

There you have it: Swedish / Norwegian / Danish food, at its finest.

Solvang's hotel of the day was the first lousy hotel of the Tour: The Best Western King Frederik. The towels were small and threadbare, and the walls were thin to the point where, when cars passed by in front of the hotel, they sounded so close and so loud that I expected to hear THUMP-THUMP as they ran over my ankles.

I suppose I should be grateful, however, as I heard Medalist Sports put us here because hotel space in Solvang is extremely scarce. Many of the 850 people in this crazy show had to stay as far away as Santa Barbara, which is \an hour away. Given a choice between the King Frederick, 5 minutes from Friday's racecourse, and a Four Seasons or Grand Hyatt an hour away, I would definitely take the thin walls at this point.

My ingenious and ultra-cool nephew, Christo Wilson, is coming out today for a visit. He's studying for a Masters in Computer Science at U Cal Santa Barbara, so he's driving up to say hello and check out the show. That should cheer me up a bit.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Levi Tosses His Transponder

I just saw one of the guys from AEG responsible for producing the GPS TourTracker on He had a long face. Apparently, as CSC, Adobe, and AEG were struggling yesterday with throughput issues, cellular coverage issues, and bandwith issues, Levi Leipheimer reached into his jersey pocket during a crucial climb, grabbed the 80-gram GPS transponder assigned to him, and tossed it out on the road, where it was run over by a passing car.

As I told him several weeks ago, technology - however exotic - is pretty straightforward; once you get it to work, it works. The problem is usually the stupid practical shit.

Oriental Fantasy in San Luis Obispo

Last night sucked. After the San Jose stage finished, we had a 5-hour drive ahead of us, to San Luis Obispo. We stopped in Monterrey for dinner out on the pier, which was nice. We arrived in SLO well past midnight.

After almost 25 years touring the globe on these sports gigs, I thought I'd seen it all. But then I checked into The Madonna Hotel in San Luis Obispo.

I would imagine, without a shitload of careful thought and a lot of construction, The Madonna Inn would be just another nondescript highway-side Motel 6 in the middle of nowhere. But somewhere along the line, some clever person came up with the idea of a hotel in which every room has its own unique, campy theme, and then they apparently hired Elvis and Liberace to decorate.

When you check in, there's a wall of postcards for sale (75 cents), and the display contains a unique postcard for every room. I was assigned room #209, "Oriental Fantasy". When I walked in, I just started laughing. The room looked like it was designed and decorated by Fu Manchu. It was a nice big comfortable room. Everything was covered in glitz and chintz and oriental camp. The headboard behind the bed looked like a poster for the movie "The Last Samurai". Too funny. Huge shower. Maybe 5' x 5'.

Showers are my thing. Anybody who has ever been to my house can attest to this. I built all the showers in my house myself, and they are a minimum of 8' x 5'. Some are bigger. The showers in my house are so huge they don't need doors. The water can't possibly spray far enough to splash the bathroom floor, the showers are just too big. If I ever sell my house, I imagine the next owner may convert a few of the showers into squash courts.

Anyway, I walked out to get my suitcase from the car, and a bunch of the guys from TV and from AEG were wandering around at 1AM, checking out each others' rooms. One guy was staying in a room with a caveman theme. The shower was a big, hollowed-out rock, and the water sprayed out of a boulder on the wall.

Everyone in the TV compound this morning was walking around talking about the theme of their hotel rooms at The Madonna. You've got a lot of jaded road warriors out here, and the fact that they were enthused about The Madonna and not complaining about this or that is a good thing.

Time Trial tomorrow in Solvang. Big day for Scoring & Timing, the whole show depends on us.

Pissing Down Rain

When I was a little kid, I saw a movie with my parents entitled "If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium". It left an impression on me, because 40 years later, I still remember parts of it.

Today is Thursday, and so this must be San Luis Obispo. And it's pissing down rain to beat the band. It's about 48 degrees and pouring.

The race just started back near Seaside, and we have no RF yet. The choppers so far are finding a ceiling of 2000 ft, which isn't bad, but the weather is fine in Seaside. Once they hit this storm, the RF feeds will vanish and we'll have jack schitt for pictures.

Instructions for finding the TV compound in each new city:

1. Go to the Finish Line.

2. Find the bunch of blue TV camera triax cables.

3. Follow them for a block of two until you see about 6 big semis and a satellite uplink.

Lunacy. This is Lunacy.

I remember once reading an article by Eric Heiden, one of the most amazing overachievers in sports history. Heiden won a bunch of Olympic gold medalsin speed skating at Lake Placid, then won a bunch of US and World Championships in track cycling, then raced in the Tour de France. THEN he went to medical school and became an orthopedic surgeon. Now there's a guy who should be tired. Heiden said something like "on the morning of the second stage of my first Tour de France, I woke up convinced that the organizers would cancel the stage due to the fact that all the riders were too exhausted to ride. We had battled so hard in that first stage, there was absolutely no way anybody could possibly race the next day. I couldn't get out of bed. But somehow I did, and we raced, and we did it again 18 more times before we reached Paris. It was numbing".

Well, Dr Heiden, I've got news for you, it's not just the riders. It's Day Four of an 8-day tour, and I can't get out of bed, either. The sound guys, the staging guys, the drivers, the chopper pilots, the TV production crew.....we all feel the same way. This event has a US Open-like Death March feel to it. The US Open is way longer (3 weeks), and the hours are way longer (TV on the air from 11 AM until past midnight), but at least at the US Open I sleep in the same bed every night and I don't have to get into a car from the time I arrive into LaGuardia until the day I leave.

Hence, I've come to the conclusion that working at stage races really sucks. This is the best-produced, best-organized stage race in the world, yet for me, every day pretty much blows. I'm not having any fun at all.

Here's a typical day:

7AM Wake up. Long, hot shower and 30 minutes of stretching & yoga.

8AM check out of the hotel, trudge out to the vehicle with my suitcase. Drive to breakfast on the way to the site.

9AM finish breakfast

9:15 AM arrive at TV compound, set up my stuff.

Work like hell all day in a TV truck, which, if you've never been in one, is like working in somebody's bedroom closet with the door closed, on a desk the size of a dinner plate.

Never have time to eat lunch.

5 PM. Stage finishes. Walk to Starbucks, get a venti tea, and cool my heels for an hour while the timing crew packs up. Check e-mail, watch the 650 support people (staging, lighting, sound, fencing, commissaires) pack up all their crap into their trucks and hit the road.

6:30 PM Dinner. I'm all grimy from working all day, but I'm not currently checked into a hotel, so I can't shower before dinner. Wash my hands at the restaurant and eat like a zombie, staring off into space.

8PM Hit the road. Drive 2 hours to the next day's stage finish.

10 PM Check into a new hotel. Trudge across the parking lot with my suitcase and go upstairs.

10:03 PM FINALLY...... a hot shower.

10:13 sound asleep.

At least the hotels are nice. Mostly Hiltons and Hyatts. Big beds, good showers, big fluffy towels. That's all I ask for out of a hotel, and I'm getting it every night.

Thank heavens I refused to go work the Tour de France all those years I had the opportunity to go. Le Tour not only has the same shitty hours and ridiculous levels of chaos, but the hotels are all these crappy little shitboxes in the middle of nowhere, the showers are awful, and the people are all French, and therefore malodorous grumpy assholes badly in need of a bath and a smack upside the head with a crowbar. And of course the food is disgusting, and by the way don't drink the water.

The Governator came to yesterday's stage in Sacramento, which really screwed things up. His security must have been trained in Berlin in 1945. Fucking bunch of Waffen SS wehrmacht jarheads. I have a credential with a picture of a key on it, which means I can go anywhere at any time. But Arnold's Assholes wouldn't let me in to the scoring & timing motorhome 30 minutes before the stage finished. So I had to call an ATOC official on the phone to come out and chew the guy out.

Another Harvard graduate working security. God Spare Me from event security guards and the highly trained technicians at the TSA.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

GPS Transponders

Tomorrow is the Prologue, which is only 2 miles long. 3.2 kilometers. That's a tough distance. These thoroughbreds aren't used to doing track cycling distances. Should be interesting.

I walked past both Bobby Julich and Dave Zabriskie today at the hotel. Those guys look like genetic freaks. They're built like supermodels. Their legs are so long, their crotches are approximately where a normal person's belly button would be. No wonder they're so fast, with levers like that.

Since almost all the timed events I do are either outside the US or are Euro-centric sports, the people here in TV production think I'm weird because I talk in meters and kilometers. I asked a tech for a "two meter cable" today and he looked at me like Dr. Pepper was oozing out of my ears.

All my TV equipment is installed in the truck. A lot of my stuff was damaged in shipment, it took me two days to repair a lot of stuff, reload software, and reconfigure. I had 3 CD-ROM drives damaged in transit, for example (out of a possible 4).

We had a good production meeting today. The CSC guys passed around this transponder. This is what CSC are using to track the whereabouts and speeds of the riders. They are putting these things in the seat packs of the top 5 riders on GC, a few other riders, and on 3 or 4 race vehicles. I really wish those CSC guys luck, they've never done this before and it's a tough technology. 50-milliwatt signals from the riders' seat packs are amplified and relayed via aircraft. They've got both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft following the race. Eventually, the data winds up on a server in Pennsylvania. From that server, some guys from Adobe are doing a tracker map on the Amgen Tour of California web site. I have access to the same data; I can feed it though one of my character generators and put it on the air in a textual format:

Breakaway 112 Km
Yellow Jersey +4:23
Peloton +6:33

Something like that.

You won't see that GPS stuff during the Prologue, because, obviously, it is irrelevant. We'll start with it on Monday. If you don't see it on Monday's broadcast, then it's not working, and rest assured there's a lot of screaming going on somewhere very close to the TV compound.

Amgen Tour of California

Kickoff. Another event. Tour of California.

This should be interesting. I've never done a stage race before. I declined
the Tour de France in 99, when MatSport started using my TTWare product, because I despise France, I hate French people and I just didn't want to
deal with Frogs. The Tour of Calif is produced by an American company
(Medalist Sports) and obviously it's in the US, so I'll give it a try.

Versus Network, formerly OLN, is televising. That's a problem because they
haven't hosted a race since they changed their name, so their artwork and
Style Guide is half-baked. John Carter, the guy who has produced all of
OLN's TdF coverage, is producing here. After a million e-mails, I finally
met him today. He seems like a pretty cool guy for a sports producer.
Pretty much every other producer I've ever met falls in between "dick" and
"unbelievable dick". We'll see what I think after a week. He's from
Colorado, not NY, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Two minutes after I checked in at the TdC office, Medalist Sports Prez Jim
Birrell hooked me up with a guy named Joelle Felicio from Versus, to start working on getting my timing graphics shells tailored to the Versus "look". Joelle was in the hotel restaurant having lunch with Paul Sherwin and Bob Roll. I joined them for a few minutes. Bob Roll looks about 30 years older in person than he does on TV. He looks like he's 65. And he's nothing like his "charmingly cracked pundit" TV personna. He seems like a real asshole. I mean John McEnroe-league asshole. Sherwin, on the other hand, is a soft-spoken gentleman who introduces himself to strangers with a handshake and a smile. He had just flown in from his home in Uganda (!!!!), so he was feeling pretty rough.

I spent all afternoon coding frantically while on the phone and internet
with 3 people back at the Versus graphics department in Connecticut. I
didn't eat or drink anything between 6 AM and 6 PM, but I'm starting to
make some progress. My timing graphics are starting to look like Versus

I just went and checked myself into the first of 8 hotels I'll be staying
at in during the next 10 nights. I'm not sure how this is going to work. I'll
either love the challenge or I'll hate the hassles. Probably both, to the extreme.

It looks like this event, despite being perhaps the best-organized and
best-financed stage race in the world, may be on a par with the US Open in
terms of sheer chaos. That's my first impression.

The teams were rolling in today in their fancy rolling palaces and support vehicles. I had no place to work (nobody does), so a friend let me set up all my TV broadcast CG gear in his motor home with a generator out in the parking lot of the official hotel, the Crowne Plaza in Burlingame. The motor home was parked next to the Toyota United motor home, which looks like perhaps they bought it from some rock star, and the Health Net team support truck, which has perhaps a half million bucks worth of gear inside. Ten pairs of carbon wheels stacked up against the curb, perhaps 50 carbon frames, all sorts of bike geek happy horseshit.

All the stars are here, I saw them wandering around. Bettini, Hincapie,
Horner, Zabriskie. I 've been too busy to really check out the scene or to
take any pictures. Maybe after Sunday's Prologue things will settle down to
the point where I can absorb any of this.

Funny though, almost all the support people - the truck drivers, mechanics, PR people - have shaved legs. Not me. I don't even shave my legs when I'm racing, and I don't walk around the US Open carrying a racket, either.

Frankly, the prospect of setting up 8 TV compounds in 8 days in 8 cities is
absurd. Pretty much every event in every sport sucks for the first few
days, until things settle down. The problem with a stage race is that
things never settle down. EVERY day is setup day. EVERY day is breakdown day. It's insane. EVERY DAY you're in a new hotel room.

We'll see how it goes. Even if it sucks and I hate it, I needed to do one
of these at least once before my days are done. I owe it to The Fred to give this a try since I blew him off for the Tour de France.