August 16, 2013 (Edmonton, AB) – Alex Stieda of Edmonton, the first North American to wear the famed TdF Yellow Jersey, will be providing colour commentary for Rogers Sportsnet coverage of the 2013 Tour of Alberta (ToA). This is in addition to leading a VIP ride for those who want to experience the same stages as the pros. Stieda helped spearhead the concept for the Tour of Alberta some years ago before handing off the project to the Alberta Peloton Association which was formed to take on the role of managing the prestigious 6-stage pro road event.
“I will be providing live coverage for two hours each day of the ToA,” Stieda told us. “This is not the first time that I’ve provided colour commentary; I did so at the Worlds in Hamilton [Ontario] in 2003. I also provided commentary when Spaniard Roberto Heras challenged Lance Armstrong at the TdF.”
Stieda will not be alone in providing the commentary, but Rogers has not yet revealed the name of the host for this programming. “Whoever it is, I will be providing the cycling content,” explains Stieda.
“The challenge will be not to talk down to those who are extremely intelligent and already familiar with the sport, but at the same time not talking above the heads of those not yet familiar with cycling. If we talk above their heads, we’ve lost them…”
“I teach cycling skills, showing people how to improve. I will ultimately talking on an analyst’s role, explaining what’s going on in the cyclists’ heads, what is the strategy, how do lead-outs work, and the importance of teamwork.” Stieda mentions how very few cyclists know how to descend properly and sharply criticized Floyd Landis for coming down the Alps a few years ago with his hands on the brake hoods.
“You have to be down on the drops; it is a much safer position not only for quicker braking, but also for better balance. There are so many reasons why it makes sense!”
Stieda also knows other cycling commentators such as Phil Liggett and Scott Moninger. “No, I can’t compare to them,” he laughs. “Everybody has their own persona.”
Stieda admits that the ToA from Sept 3–8 will be a logistically challenging time for him. “I will be leading a VIP ride each morning [following the same route as the pros] then having to drive ahead each afternoon before the ToA finishes and provide the colour commentary.” The TV broadcasting will include two hours of live coverage and one hour of taped highlights.
For Stieda to be behind the microphone is only fitting, he had a distinguished cycling career and also played a key role in the genesis of the ToA. Now 52, he is one only eight Canadians to have competed in the Tour de France. In 1986, while riding for 7-Eleven – Hoonved Cycling Team, Stieda became the first North American to wear the TdF’s coveted yellow jersey.
Although he did not win any stage victories, Stieda earned the leader’s yellow jersey on the basis of intermediate sprint bonuses picked up during a breakaway on the second day. The same manoeuvre won him four other classification jerseys, the polka dot, the multi-colored, the red and the white.
While his time in yellow was short-lived, Stieda eventually finished the 1986 TdF in 120th place. Steve Bauer was the only other Canadian riding that year and he went on to make history as well wearing the yellow jersey for 14 days during his legendary career finishing 4th at the 1988 Tour which still stands as a record.
Prior to Stieda and Bauer, a lone Quebecer Pierre Gachon competed at the Tour for British team in 1937. This year Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) and David Veilleux (Europcar) made history at the Tour marking the first time three Canucks were on the start line – and all finished.
Stieda also won bronze at the 1982 Australian Commonwealth Games, and competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Today he works as the senior account manager at Long View, an IT solution and service company.
Pedal reported previously that Sportsnet is covering the inaugural ToA – read more here.