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Cyclysm Sundays 

Cyclysm Sundays (Sundays, Versus)

This Sunday marks the beginning of a new era in American sports television, as Versus is expanding its coverage of professional cycling beyond its wall-to-wall Tour de France programming in July to include coverage of obscure one-day, week-long and grand tour European and American races. The slate will include events like the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a Espana and -- this weekend -- the Paris-Nice race. In all, Versus will air 13 separate races (not including the Tour de France) over 17 Sundays.

Huh?

If you're confused, you're not alone. Since when do Americans care about professional cycling? Though the Tour de France coverage by Versus (formerly Outdoor Life Network) has been mildly popular, televised cycling tends to rank up there among American TV watchers with congressional subcommittee meetings on C-SPAN and live jai alai coverage.

That Versus has chosen to step up its cycling coverage is baffling. That it's doing so now is even more of a head-scratcher.

For starters, the days of American domination are over. Lance Armstrong -- God's gift to American cycling -- hasn't ridden a race since his seventh consecutive Tour de France victory in 2005. The year after that, an American (Floyd Landis) won the Tour again but was stripped of the coveted yellow jersey when he tested positive for illegal synthetic testosterone. Last year, an American (Levi Leipheimer) won third place in the Tour riding for an American team (Armstrong's former Discovery team), but the team has now dissolved, and Leipheimer may not even get to compete in this year's edition of the race because of his new team's history of doping.

The point is: Professional cycling is a bloody mess right now. A decades-old problem, doping blew up again after Landis' victory and smeared last year's race, too. It may even put a damper on this first edition of Cyclysm Sunday, as a political fight between the International Cycling Union and the group that organizes the Tour and the Paris-Nice race threatens to limit rider participation and hang a dark cloud over the entire affair.

Still, I'm not complaining. Cycling may be a gnarly mess of busted spokes and tangled derailleurs right now, but at least we finally get to see it for ourselves. Let's hope the riders dig into their suitcases of courage and give us one hell of a televised year of racing.

TiVo-Worthy

New Amsterdam

A 17th-century Dutch soldier is granted immortality by a Native American girl and has spent the last 300 years watching his friends and true loves die. Also, struggling with booze. Finding his true love will apparently make him mortal again. If it speeds the demise of this show, we wish him good luck. (Tuesday, 3/11, 9 pm, Fox)

Unhitched

More like unhinged. The series premiere of this 30-something comedy produced by the Farrelly brothers (There's Something About Mary, Shallow Hal) started off with the main character getting sodomized by an orangutan. Ouch. Rashida Jones (Karen from The Office) might save the show, but its pop-punk theme song suggests the show's as tone deaf as it seems. (Sunday, 3/9, 9:30 pm, Fox)

Cash Cab

There's nothing new or interesting happening on Cash Cab this week -- but a game show where surprised New Yorkers get to win money for answering trivia questions (or lose money for being stupid) while driving around Manhattan? I just can't get enough of this program. I don't know why. (Daily, 6-7 pm, Discovery)

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