24 March 2009

Planet Armstrong

What little time we spend in front of the television in Paris is spent almost entirely with Eurosport. Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo (yes, there are bike races without hyphens in them) were all shown live, and a steady stream of other sports similarly neglected in US television coverage, such as biathlon, ski jumping, alpine skiing, means that there's often something interesting to watch if we happen to be home and in need of entertainment.

Though Eurosport is a British venture, the video feeds get local commentators in the other European countries. Jacky Durand, a French former pro cyclist known for long, usually (but not always: see several TdF stage wins, Paris-Tours 1998, and Tour of Flanders 1992 after 200+ km in a break) futile escape attempts, is one of the Eurosport France cycling commentators. During the Tirreno-Adriatico stage 5 time trial, I swear I heard him say, "This is the perfect stage to get in a breakaway and go for the stage win." Crazy Jacky.

But I'm most entertained by the silly, and a little snarky, Planet Armstrong episodes, 2-3 minute productions that follow Big Tex's comeback to the pro peleton. The opening sequences and graphics tell you pretty much everything you need to know about where the vignettes are coming from. While the European press has viewed Armstrong with suspicion throughout his post-cancer career (one Irish journalist referred to Armstrong's return as the cancer being out of remission) and has been less than excited about BT's comeback, Planet Armstrong is more amused by and gently mocking of his star power than accusatory of his methods of winning. Maybe that's because he hasn't won anything, yet. Still, they don't miss an opportunity to show his foibles (having his Livestrong press conference in Austin shut down because they didn't get proper permits, highlighting the interviews with other riders who can't quite hide the fact that he's still not one of the people). Interestingly, the French versions seem less intent to dwell on those angles than the British.

You can view a few episodes here and here in French, and in English here and here (same as the first French one). The best part of the English versions are the brief twisted ads featuring suicidal Cadbury Creme Eggs (more easily viewed in these YouTube clips: 1, 2, 3, 4the rest). 

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