In an ironic twist of fate, after providing hours of daily coverage for three weeks of Lance Armstrong's attempt to become the first six-time winner of the Tour de France cycling extravaganza, the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) missed showing live the record-breaking Texan in the yellow jersey when he crossed the finish line triumphantly in Paris on Sunday.
As it turned out, after more than 20 days of racing across France that included almost a week climbing on wheels for hours per day in the mountains, a handful of the Tour's sprint specialists were still racing in the final day's conclusive stage to settle the rankings in their specialized category. Television cameras focused on the finish line captured and broadcast worldwide images of the small sprinting group, the first to complete Sunday's stage. Meanwhile, history-making Armstrong -- once again the overall, cumulative winner of the grueling bicycling endurance competition -- was somewhat further back in the main pack, enjoying his sixth straight victory in Paris with a comparatively relaxed final stage ride, surrounded most of the way by his U. S. Postal Service teammates. The TV cameras missed sharing a live broadcast of the record-setting moment when cancer survivor Armstrong crossed the 2004 finish line in the heart of Paris.
It was an unfortunate and undeserved conclusion for the OLN cable TV network, more typically known for its hunting and fishing programs, after its splendid daily Tour de France coverage that began on July 3. Expert commentators helped make sense (for non-bike-racing fanatics) of the various stages of the century-old sporting event, not one that -- despite Armstrong's legendary stature -- enjoys the visibility and significance in the U.S. as it does in many European countries.
OLN even invented a term -- "Cyclysm" -- around which the network based its expanded Tour de France coverage, which not surprisingly included numerous interviews with the American super-athlete -- from both past and the current Tour -- as well as a significant amount of bicycling-oriented advertisements, many featuring (and promoting) the leg-strong Armstrong.
Among the OLN tributes and commemorations of Armstrong's singular achievement is a free-to-download, PDF-based poster [PDF: 546kb] of the winner, proclaiming "The Cyclysm Is Upon Us."
It could become a true collector's item, as Armstrong is apparently undecided at this time as to his plans for competing in the 2005 Tour de France.
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