The Tour de France started today, and I'm here with a somewhat live blog of the action...
7:30 a.m. - Versus begins the telecast with a dramatic narrator describing the geological forces that shaped the Alps.
7:34 - Ah, Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll make their first appearance.
7:36 - A lengthy conversation about doping. The past two Tours have been ravaged by drugs. Team Astana, including new signee and 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador, already has been banned this year for past transgressions.
7:44 - Top sprinter Tom Boonen has been barred from the tour for using a "social" drug: cocaine.
7:47 - Predictions for Stage 1. Sherwen: Oscar Freire. Liggett: Thor Hushovd. Roll: Fabian Cancellara. Craig Hummer (I miss Al Trautwig): Riccardo Ricco(?).
7:50 - The last time the race ended in Plumelec, in 1997, the winner was Erik Zabel. Zabel is in the Peloton today, too.
7:56 - There are two American teams in the Tour for the first time: Garmin-Chipotle and Team Columbia.
8:00 - We join the stage in progress and there's been a crash near a feeding station. A Cofidis rider went down in the Peloton. He has to abandon just 55 miles into the Tour.
8:02 - T-Mobile no longer is fielding a team in the Tour. This is the team, once known as Team Telekom, that had given us the likes of Jan Ullrich and Andreas Kloeden. They were like the Cobra Kai of cycling. They'll be missed.
8:08 - There's an early breakaway. I've never neard of these guys other than Thomas Voeckler. They have a 4 minute, 11 second advantage.
8:12 - Liquigas again is fielding a team. I will look up what Liquigas does before the end of the stage.
8:23 - The crashed rider is diagnosed with a broken wrist. Cyclists break wrists and collarbones like we get paper cuts.
8:33 - There's a guy playing bagpipes next to the road.
8:34 - A check of Wimbledon -- Serena Williams leads Venus Williams by a break, first set. NBC doesn't bother with last names in its score box.
8:50 - Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi is barred this year for too much nasal spray, says Liggett. Cycling is bizarre.
8:54 - Another crash and a Liggett-ism. Frank Schleck, a "pre-race fancied rider," is part of the crash.
8:59 - Back to NBC, where Venus has now won a break to tie the set.
9:05 - Venus wins the first set, 7-5.
9:10 - The Peloton has cut the lead to 2:29 behind the eight-rider breakaway. Twenty-five miles to go.
9:17 - Peloton is 1:28 back as a Cofidis rider goes on the attack. And now another attack. The group accelerates and decelerates. Sherwen says this will only help the Peloton catch them.
9:21 - Lilian Jegou and David de la Fuente do break away and there are six chasers 49 seconds behind them. About 20 miles to go.
9:27 - Sherwen says the chasers are only "prolonging the agony" now and the Peloton catching them is inevitable.
9:35 - Jegou and De la Fuente trade slipstreams. I love cycling etiquette. And now they chat a bit. Sherwen says most riders speak French.
9:36 - A crash in the Peloton. And one rider comes up with his rear wheel in hand. The Pelton continues its merciless push forward.
9:44 - The Peloton is only one minute behind the leaders. Ten miles to go. The leaders are trying to stay away and at least wear the yellow jersey for a day.
9:45 - A few hundred miles north, in England, Serena and Venus both hold serve, 3-3, second set.
9:51 - Peloton just 18 seconds behind the lead duo. Ten kilometers to go.
9:56 - Another crash, this time on a narrow climb. Another wrist injury perhaps.
10:00 - The Peloton churning forward now with three kilometers to go. Team Columbia at the front.
10:02 - There's a narrow stone bridge that everyone is worried about. Peloton makes it across intact.
10:02 - Erik Zabel, 1997 stage winner here, is near the front!
10:03 - And a rider attacks. Team Gerolsteiner reels him in and sends its own rider out.
10:04 - Now the attacks are coming from everywhere.
10:05 - And "fancied rider" Alejandro Valverde has some burst in his legs -- and takes the stage.
10:07 - Back to NBC, and Venus has won her fifth title at Wimbledon.
FYI, Liquigas is a gas product distributor in Italy.