Versus, the exclusive U.S. television home of the Tour de France, is gearing up for its ninth year of pedal-to-pedal coverage, which in 2009 will feature each stage produced in high-definition for the first time.
Comcast's national sports service begins its coverage, encompassing some 250 live and encore hours, on July 4 at 9:30 a.m. (ET), preceded by a one-hour retrospective of seven-time champion Lance Armstrong's career and his comeback season.
Throughout the 23-day, 2,000-mile competition, the network will air an average of 13 hours of race action per day. Daily coverage includes live race action and an expanded primetime show. A complete schedule is available at www.VERSUS.com . Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen will once again call all the race action, with Frankie Andreu and Robbie Ventura returning as field reporters. Craig Hummer and Bob Roll will host the primetime show each night.
This year, the last four Tour de France champions-Lance Armstrong (1999-2005), Oscar Pereiro (2006), Alberto Contador (2007) and Carlos Sastre (2008)-will all be competing against each other for their chance to once again wear the yellow jersey in Paris. Armstrong and Contador will both be riding for Team Astana.
"As we head into our ninth year as the home of the Tour, the network's commitment to cycling has never been stronger with more than 250 hours of HD race action this July," said Versus president Jamie Davis in a statement. "The 2008 race was Versus' most-watched Tour in network history, but with four past champions competing this year, including the return of cycling legend Lance Armstrong, there is no doubt that this year's competition will be even more captivating."
Versus will place a camera on the U.S. cycling team Garmin-Slipstream's bus to give viewers an insider's look at the team's daily meeting as they prepare for the day's stage. Other enhancements include profiles and features on teams and riders; advanced on-screen statistics/biometrics to illustrate the intensity at which the riders are competing; and a telestrator to analyze and breakdown sprint finishes..
Meanwhile, the network's Web site will redouble its offering, providing 24-hour access to all things Tour.