When a tree falls in the forest and the only people who can see it are the costumed fanatics on the side of the road, did it actually fall? It seems like every stage in this year's USA Pro Cycling Challenge has been plagued at one point or another by the grey screens of death when the motorbike cameras can't seem to get their signals out.
On stage 4, nobody outside of Beaver Creek was able to see Jens Voigt's dominating climb to the finish, or what must have been a furious battle for second place (and the yellow jersey) just behind. On stage 6 we got the same problem in the final kilometers, if not to nearly the same degree, but the recurring video problems that are happening with clear skies overhead and helicopters circling that should be able to help relay signals to our TVs is an embarrassing reminder that for all the corporate sponsorships that this American race offers, not one of them will apparently pay for a consistent broadcast.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge presented by Exegy – with its Waste Management sprint points, United Healthcare overall standings, SmashBurger starts, Radio Shack trackers, GoPro aerial images, RoadID rides of the day, Nissan Leaf drive electrics to the finish, and Lord knows how many other absurd sponsorships that I've lost track of – has been a fantastic race, but it has also been a mentally exhausting display of unrestrained commercialism that only underscores the fact that this race seems to exist to sell us things rather than to promote our cycling heroes in all their glory.
Now I've been watching cycling long enough to know that signal problems happen in big races in Europe too, but they are usually limited to the rainiest of days or the most overcast of mountaintops. And rarely have I ever seen a spectacle like on Stage 4, where 15 minutes of pans and zooms of the finish area are finally broken by the lone figure of Jens Voigt struggling to the line, on a perfectly sunny day at a modern ski resort that probably has fiber optic service in every condo's living room.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Perhaps I'm just too used to the more restrained European approach to televised cycling, where they show you commercials during the commercials rather than at every possible minute along the road, but it's hard to watch a bike race when someone is constantly shouting their brand in your face and trying to sell you something.
So one piece of advice to the organizers of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge presented by Exegy – other than a plea to just call the damn thing the Tour of Colorado – is to get your act together and spend some of that sweet, sweet sponsorship money on making sure your cameras work.
They figured it out a long time ago in France, in Italy, in Spain, and let's put an American race on the map not only for the racing and scenery, but for good old-fashioned production value as well.