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The ESPN Lifeline?

I'm not into starting unfounded rumors, but... well, here goes:

ESPN is going to take over coverage of Cycling in 2006.

Disclaimer: I actually have no idea what I am talking about, not in any informed sense at least.  But it makes perfect sense.

First the facts: ESPN is covering the Tour of California on a nightly basis throughout the race.  As far as I can tell, that's the only indication that any serious American TV outlet is showing any race coverage this entire year.  OLN is conspicuously silent about their plans, kinda like they were right before they pulled the plug on the Vuelta two years ago.  So there is a void in coverage, including the Tour.

Next, the logic: Why would ESPN not want to do this?  OK, money, and I can't say one way or the other what the financial incentives might be.  But it can't possibly cost all that much to cover European cycling, they get feeds from the local TV networks -- I assure you, OLN did not have helicopters and motorcycles blanketing the Tour.  Then you pay Phil Liggett his ransom to wear an ESPN blazer, switch the graphics to English, and boom!  Time to start selling ads!

ESPN doesn't have all that much going on in Summer; plenty of baseball coverage, the NBA draft... yawn.  The races run live early in the day when ESPN usually shows poker or billiards, something to help insomniacs who haven't gotten to sleep yet.  ESPN also has a history of following Lance, and used to run nightly recaps until OLN took full control.

Really, I don't see what's stopping them, other than the economic calculations that make putting on cycling an issue to begin with.  I suspect they have noticed the opportunity, but will wait to see how things go with the Tour of California, their chance to test the waters.

So, write them emails, watch the ToC, buy expensive things from their advertisers during those timeslots, and before you know it, Dan Patrick will be live from the Muur de Huy.