Monday, July 04, 2011

Free the Tour. And support the Wheelmen charity

Canada's Canada Day got hi-jacked by some charming and photogenic foreigners this year (but some of us got to ignore most of it at someone else's place by the lake).

Less easy to ignore is TSN's hi-jacking of the year's sports highlight for this blog, the Tour de France.  For years the Tour has been broadcast in Canada by the Outdoor Life Network, a specialty channel but not a pay channel.  But last year's tremendous race by Canadian Ryder Hesjedal caught the attention of TSN's vultures, who bought up the Canadian rights...

... and then consigned Tour coverage to TSN 2, their high-on-the-dial, accessible-only-to-subscribers backup channel.  They have already reneged on their promise to run the Tour's abbreviated daily wrapup program each night on the main, more accessible, TSN 1.  OLN always ran both.  Even on the pay channel, the TSN coverage is larded with ads.

Here's hoping TSN will discover serious Tour fans are not going to be TSN subscribers and let the Tour go public and ad-supported as soon  as possible.  OLN!  OLN ! OLN!

Meanwhile, the best coverage of the race AND Ryder Hesjedal's part in it comes from Cleve Dheensaw of Hesjedal's hometown paper the Victoria Times-Colonist.  Here -- picked up by the Montreal Gazette -- is his latest.  And the Tour's own website has nifty stuff for the televisually starved.  Canadian cyclist Michael Barry, whose Sky team decided just a couple of weeks ago not to include him in its Tour lineup this year, will be covering the Tour for the Toronto Star -- besides competing for Sky elsewhere.

Before last year's Tour, I wrote a piece about Canada's cycling history that Canada's History published under the headline "Wheelmen Ride Bicycles."  After his great success, Hesjedal and his people decided to launch a charitable foundation to assist young and needy cyclists, and they were inspired by my article to call the charity "The Wheelmen."

Check out the Wheelmen (and Wheelwomen) website.  Buy a handsome T-Shirt.  Help a good cause.  And while you are there, you can read the story that found the project a name..
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