The Tour de France is such a big event that you’d think cycling is a big sport in France. Perhaps but it’s a long way from other sports. Here’s a scan across the airwaves, news stands and servers.
France has six principle TV channels and sister channels France 2 and France 3 cover cycling. They show 150 hours in total but it’s deceptive because much of this is dedicated to the Tour de France. In rough terms, it’s about 100 hours for the Tour de France, meaning the remaining 50 hours soon gets spread thinly over Paris-Nice, the Dauphiné, the Spring Classics and the Worlds. There’s no coverage of the Giro or Vuelta, indeed when Sylvain Chavanel took the lead in the Vuelta the other day the daily “Tout le Sport” show (All Sport) dedicated 12 seconds to this national triumph. All this is good for a public channel but if you’re abroad, don’t get the impression that cycling is a big sport.
The main rival to France Télévisions is TF1 which is in the same corporate stable as Eurosport. The cable and satellite channel broadcasts a lot more hours… but to a reduced audience. In my view the commentary is better but that’s a question of taste.
If you want pro news then L’Equipe is brilliant. It is a daily sports newspapers with several cycling writers and even in the depth of winter you’ll find a few paragraphs. During the July the coverage is superb, a fine way to start to the day. It is from the same Amaury corporate stable as ASO, organisers of the Tour de France.
Next, France’s best selling newspapers are regional. Ouest-France covers the west of France and Britanny and it has some good writing, including plenty of local race coverage and the same is true for other regional newspapers. These papers are part of the sport, La Voix du Nord organisers the 4-Days of Dunkerque, Ouest-France backs the GP Plouay and until recently Le Dauphiné sponsored a long race.
The country’s two leading broadsheet national papers are Le Figaro and Le Monde but don’t expect too much. Le Figaro doesn’t print anything new, chances are if you’re reading this blog you visit the likes of cyclingnews.com or L’Equipe already so you won’t find much in Le Figaro. Same for Le Monde, except they do tend to like a doping scandal; at times they can be damning with cycling but their investigatory work has its merits too.
I can’t verify the stat but I think France has more magazines per capita than almost anywhere else. There’s an ample selection of cycling magazines.
Vélo Magazine is produced by Amaury but hires a range of writers. It’s generally good and covers pro racing and a snapshot of the amateur scene, as well as a growing focus on consumer reviews and the cyclosportif rides. Personally I like it.
Le Cycle is heavily focused on bike reviews, testing several bikes in each monthly edition. They use a lab to test bikes for their rigidity, a useful way to avoid bike test bias. In addition there’s plenty of tips for riding and a monthly destination, usually within France with routes to ride. There’s no coverage of racing.
In addition there are several others. Top Vélo is similar to Le Cycle, La France Cycliste is produced by the French Cycling Federation and focussed on the French racing scene and there are several others.
L’Equipe’s website is useful but for brief news rather than deeper coverage. Instead velochrono.fr and cyclismactu.net seem the top two websites. I once joked on twitter that the difference between these two sites was only a matter of seconds. As soon as a race is finished or some other news breaks, these two websites sprint to deliver the news. The cover pro racing in full, as well as some other local racing and riding. Velo101 used to be good but seems to have slipped behind, at least in my personal take but they cover more of the cyclo scene.
Radio and podcasts
There are no podcasts I can think of. The excellent RTL-Equipe radio show has stopped meaning there’s almost zero audio coverage of pro cycling.
When a major race is on you will find live radio coverage, for example Paris-Roubaix or the Tour de France, on several radio stations. RMC Info is the most sports-orientated station and you’ll find Europe 1, RTL and France Info cover races too. France Info’s Fabrice Rigobert covers cycing for the rolling radio news station and he brings reports throughout the year on the sport.
L’Equipe is good amongst the general sources but if you want daily pro cycling coverage, it pays to specialise. Whilst you might think of France as a land of big races, the coverage isn’t as big, especially when the Tour de France is not on. Cycling trails behind soccer, often sitting alongside tennis, athletics and rugby. But even finding results from the Vuelta in the mainstream media can be awkward.