TV Coverage of Cycling: You've never had it so good!

November 01, 2017

TV Coverage of Cycling: You've never had it so good!

Whilst preparing materials for this year's Rouleur Classic something sparked in my brain and it got me thinking about the past, more specifically when I first started my interest in road cycling in the late 1980s.

If you had have seen the sprawl in the office, surrounded by reading material from the 1980's such as the legendary Winning magazines and the impressive Tour books lovingly produced by the Kennedy Brothers it's little wonder!

Information back then, be it printed or on screen, was scarce to put it mildly.  In fact when you consider the quantum leap that has occurred largely thanks to the Internet, we can now find out the results of far flung races thanks to the likes of procyclingstats.com, we can enjoy written insight from authoritative blog sites like inrng.com and can view fly-on-the-wall documentaries thanks to the likes of Dan Jones who was behind the often-humorous Backstage Pass videos.

But sometimes, you just want to watch it on TV - well I do. This might be a generational thing, I'm writing this as my 11 year old son is watch a Danny Macaskill documentary produced by Red Bull TV on his XBox, but for me I cannot enjoy race coverage hunched over a laptop or iPad anywhere near as much as kicking back on the sofa and watching it properly on TV.

For me, there's no difference to quality reading material.  There's something special about the thud of the latest Rouleur magazine arriving on the door mat and I set aside time to read it properly, something that I can't say I always do if a long-read feature is online.

I digress. I will not bore you with years of history of cycling on broadcast television as I have no doubt somebody's done it somewhere else.  It's how it affects me and my viewing pleasure. 

During my formative years, it was a combination of dodgy VHS video tapes containing live TV recordings of Sporza sent from Belgium for us to enjoy in my local bike shop. The only other alternative was looking through the back of the comic to find David Bromley's latest advert where he would advertise the many professionally produced race and documentary VHS.

Fast forward 10 years and with the advent of DVD and easier-to-use production software, a host of behind the scenes documentaries about cycling emerged with the likes of Tour Baby, The Quest, Overcoming, Chasing Legends being sold (by us) for cycling fans to enjoy. Infact, Prendas Ciclismo even partnered up with Matt Rendell to create "Real Peloton Monthly" which unfortunately only lasted two issues.

With so much cycling on TV now, I find myself not wanting to watch and consume it all.   Apart from it simply not being possible for me, particularly with coverage starting at kilometre zero starts, I just want to watch the very best bits. 

On my wet and windy run today my mind began to wonder and consider what were my race highlights of 2017?  This is by no means a definitive list, there's only four afterall!

Nino Schurter's Perfect World Cup Season

Unless you've been under a rock (or only watch road cycling) the Olympic MTB Champion Nino Schurter has completed the 2017 World Cup season with 6 out of 6 consecutive wins, something never achieved in cross country before (although Rachel Atherton had her own Perfect Downhill season in 2016).

I've not watched the XC World Cup for a number of years, but you cannot help but enjoy the infectious enthusiasm of Rob Warner combined with the in-depth technical knowledge of Bart Brentjens as a complement to the furious action.  If you'd like to know who my favourite road commentators are it's Rob Hatch with Sean Kelly.

Nino Schurter looked perfectly in control all year - just a shame the Bike Channel went bust - so they won't be showing if Nino can repeat it in 2018!

Belgian Champion Philip Gilbert winning the Ronde

Go on admit it - when Gilbert attacked his fellow pros with 55km remaining of the 260km classic - you perhaps like me thought he had made a mistake.

But the chase made for some great TV - real edge of the seat stuff - and it was only when Sagan crashed on the Oude Kwaremont (along with Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet) that I was convinced that he'd do it!

Tom Dumoulin winning the 100th Giro

Sure the headlines were all about the roadside toilet break, but forgetting about that for a minute, it was fascinating to see the polar opposite race strategies of Dumoulin verses Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali unfold over the three weeks.

I was lucky enough to visit Italy during the Giro, which meant I missed a good deal of the coverage for three days despite being there in person, but thankfully the TiVo box had it all covered for my return!

Despite the battles for the Maglia Rosa, my favourite stage was Pierre Rolland's well-deserved stage victory into Canazei on stage seventeen.

Albert Contador attacking La Vuelta

What can I possibly say about Alberto Contador that hasn't already been said more eloquently elsewhere?  Bert's final race gave ASO the record TV audiences that they wanted thanks to his unwillingness to never give up whilst Chris Froome became the first to win the Tour-Vuelta double since it's move to September.

Mikel Landa looks to be Spain's next best hope of a grand tour winner, but his sutble and conservative riding style will be no replacement for the swashbuckling style of Alberto.  I for one will be congratulating him at the Rouleur Classic this year.

So what do you think?   We've created a Twitter Poll to see what you think was the best race you saw on TV this year?

 


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