Thursday, June 21, 2012

The more things change, the more they stay the same (except Djamolidine Abdoujaparov)

In tempestuous times like these, cycling fans will often look for a proverbial rock within the storm. They look for some solid idea or person that will remain unchanged, in order to find comfort in the fact that at least one thing is as it always was. In previous times, for example, fans could count on a rider like Charly Mottet, who was always hailed for being clean during a particularly unclean period in the sport. Sadly, fans could no longer find comfort in Mottet, once they saw this picture:

Thanks to Chris for sending this picture, and thus alerting me of the fact that Mottet played the part of Quico in the French version of the Mexican kids show El Chavo Del 8

Since Mottet is no longer able to comfort cycling fans, these days (unusual as it may seem) some take comfort in the fact that a rider like Djamolidine Abdoujaparov will always look and behave like a caveman/KGB hitman. That bit of unchanging reality is enough to get many through a tough day. But then a picture like the one below surfaces, and you suddenly realize that Abdoujaparov has turned into some kind of fourth rate Vegas magician/Nikki Sixx impersonator hybrid. Suddenly all hope is lost.

Still, there are reminders that some things never change. This year's Vuelta a Colombia has been one such reminder. Allow me to explain.

This past weekend, I stood transfixed, frozen in the middle of my kitchen as I listened to the live radio broadcast of the Vuelta a Colombia. The reason why I stood there was because I was suddenly overcome by how similar this broadcast sounded to those I heard as a kid during the Tour de France in the 1980s. Some of the same commentators were there, along with similar commercials and radio jingles. More importantly, the same spirited style of commentating was there, as the same unbelievable amount of reverb was used on every voice. As I thought about this, my wife (who speaks just a little bit of Spanish) walked in. She saw me standing there, frozen, and heard the unbelievable excitement in the voice of the commentators. Still, she couldn't figure out what they were saying, but figured something amazing had just happened in the race based on the speed and enthusiasm of the commentator. Was the stage ending? Was someone attacking? Was there a crash? Had a rider been thrown into barbed wire again? Had something unprecedented happened, like a French rider actually winning something?

"No", I told her. "They're just saying that a rider is getting bottles from a team car."

She laughed a bit, as I realized just how different the enthusiasm in Colombian broadcasts can be to those in English speaking countries. Although I wasn't able to capture the very best examples of this (like when the broadcast is suddenly interrupted with a loud "GOOOOAAAAALLLLLL!" since someone in Europe scored during a soccer match), I did record three clips that you may enjoy. Listen to the clips below (they are each only about 15-20 seconds) and try to imagine what is going on, and what the commentator is talking about. Then read the explanation below. If you speak Spanish, you should still listen, because the clips are very enjoyable even when you know what they are saying.

Did someone just win a stage? Was there a crash? No. You know when Phil Liggett is done saying something, and merely finishes his sentence by mentioning Paul Sherwen's name, as his way of sending it off to him, and having him take over? That's all that's really happening in this clip. One person, sending it off to another.

Was this at the very moment that the race was decided due to an attack? No, this is when—not the first—but the second, third and fourth riders went over the top of the La Linea climb. Hence the sound effect of huffing and puffing.

Ok, this one actually warrants legitimate excitement, since it was a sprint finish. But it still struck me as a good clip to share.

If you'd like to keep up with the Vuelta a Colombia over its last couple of days, you can read my brother's daily updates. And if you'd like to listen to the live radio broadcasts, go here. Broadcasts start around 11am (EST).


  1. often the highlight of my morning routine is finding that Klaus has put up a new post. today is no different

    this year i will be following le Tour via some of the Colombian broadcasts as they seem to offer much more excitement than the traditional English-speaking blorb... and my Spanish is truly terrible.

    has anyone else noticed that since the big network has acquired the domestic broadcast rights to the ToC, TdF, etc., that Bob Roll has been rather brutally "groomed" to a more mainstream appearance (no more squirrel chops, for example) and his former enthusiasm has been toned down significantly? that's really too bad, in my opinion.

  2. Bike Master,
    I think Bob has always toned it down during the cycling season, and knows how to play the role. I wish he would do broadcasts in full winter time growth:

  3. One of my favorite TDF memories is of watching a Colombian reporter call in his race report on a public telephone..(it was quite a while ago!). The passion in his voice and the staccato Spanish he machine-gunned into the telephone has stayed with me all these years. Thanks for waking up those sleeping brain cells.

    1. From an article on Bicycling's website today:

      "Bicycling: Tour coverage has evolved dramatically. Are there any memories from the old days that stand out?

      Liggett: When the Colombians came, they brought all the big names—Luis Herrera and Fabio Parra. And the Colombian media came in full force as well, with TV, newspapers, and radio broadcasters. I remember these two Colombian radio broadcasters showed up with this cassette player with all of their advertising commercials loaded on a cassette tape. We’d see them trading their French francs for a bunch of coins, and they would run a one-hour radio program back to Bogota over payphones. They would be pumping coins into this pay phone and yelling into the phone, and then every now and again throw on the cassette tape for a commercial break. They would be commentating in a voice fit for a finishing sprint when the race had just left the start town. God only knows what they were telling listeners back home."

      Colombian enthusiasm and resourcefulness at its finest!

  4. Christian,
    Thank you so much for mentioning this! Unbelievable. As someone who listened to those broadcasts with my brother when we were kids, the memories are simply beautiful.

  5. Classic! Soy gringo puro, casado con una Portena, and there is nothing like the old school style that is wonderfully exemplified by these announcers!


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