Cycling Fans Versus The Mass Market Audience

Thursday, 3 May 2012

You’re probably male and aged between 25 and 45. No, this blog doesn’t have some high-tech way to monitor readership, it’s more that men in this age group are the biggest followers of cycling in the US, UK and Australia and other English speaking countries so there’s a good chance you fit into this category as you’re reading an English-language niche cycling blog.

Regardless of your age, gender or location, I’m pretty certain you’re a big fan of cycle sport. A casual fan might visit cyclingnews.com from time to time, a blog like this one is more specialist. But in both cases we’re talking about some actively seeking news, results and more. And this is quite different from the vast majority of those who watch races. When it comes to watching bike races, cycling fans are a minority.

In the light of yesterday’s piece about new funding models for the sport, let’s distinguish between fans and the audience. Note this isn’t to categorise and above all it’s not to oppose two groups. Just some handy labels for illustration.

Fans are those with an active interest in the sport who go out of their way to find information and take enjoyment from following the sport whether on TV or maybe travelling some distance to watch a race.

The Audience are more passive, viewers who turn on the TV mid afternoon to catch a race, perhaps they know the TV schedule says there’s a race on but maybe they hopped channels and decided to stay tuned. We’re also talking about many of those who watch the big races like the Tour de France because it’s a nice day out.

The thing to remember is that the broad audience is much bigger than the fan base. That’s why teams are mainly sponsored by companies selling banking or car rental instead of specialist niche things like bicycle frames or cycling shoes. We’re talking mass market consumerism instead of niche hobby.

Zoncolan

Riding home to watch the Giro d'Italia

Do you know who the biggest watchers of bike races are in France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland? The over-60s. And the second largest component of the audience? Women aged 35-55. Yes, the sport you love is mostly watched by “pensioners” and “housewives”. It’s obvious when you think about it: there’s a massive amount of racing on week days. Most sports time their events for the weekend or prime time TV slots. But the Giro, Tour and Vuelta offer 45 days in total of mid-week viewing and that’s before you add on coverage of all the other weekday races, like stages in Tirreno-Adriatico, the Vuelta a Murcia, the Tour de Suisse and many more, not to mention one day events that don’t happen on a weekend. In short, the majority of racing and TV coverage is shown between 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm, a time when most Europeans are at work, leaving a relatively small audience of people at home. It’s no surprise that the “best” mountain stages of the upcoming Giro coincide with Saturday and Sunday, the TV audience will swell and the organisers want some action to hook the viewers.

As well as knowing who watches, market research reveals why many are tuning in: to watch the countryside roll past rather than watch the racing. The graphic above from a French agency shows 31% of people say they follow the Tour de France for the “beautiful countryside seen on TV”, ahead of 20% who follow for “competitive sport” although in between this we have 26% who want to see the “mountain stages”, perhaps for both scenery and sport.

Because of the Tour and Giro it is possible to imagine France and Italy as places where cycling is wildly popular. Not quite. This might horrify readers but the average Frenchman would struggle to pick Alberto Contador or Thomas Voeckler in a police-style line up. Come July the recognition rate improves. The millions lined by the road tend to cheer whoever is doing battle on the roads. But even if they are there to cheer “the yellow jersey” without knowing the rider’s name note the applause and support is genuine.

Perhaps fans should thank the more casual audience members? You might pity someone who can’t tell their yellow jersey from their polka-dot but without the millions who tune in to watch the races then sponsorship would be rare and massively reduced. It’s because cycling can literally reach parts of rural Europe that other sports can’t that we have many well-resourced teams and giant races that go on for weeks, contests that dwarf almost every other sport.

Divergence?
The only conflict here is perhaps different people want different things. I’ve heard talk of making race radios available for fans to listen to mid-race. For example with digital TV or a webcast you could open up the channel of a team and hear what’s going on. More broadly fans could be encouraged to root for particular teams as well as their sponsor. I like this but for now the vast majority of the audience are neutrals who probably don’t even know about race radios.

The Belgian exception
This is drifting into stereotype but Belgium is the place where fans and audience overlap substantially. Many locals will know who is in a particular race and are often knowledgeable on the subtleties of the sport. Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert are instantly recognisable.

Conclusion
It’s a point I’ve made on here before but the single largest segment of the audience for a bike race is probably composed of senior citizens tuning into watch the landscape. But that’s great, it is thanks to the mass market appeal that cycle sport gets its funding.

All the same, cycling fans and the TV audience are not the same fans are just a subset of the broad audience. Of course I’ve simplified things here. Two labels is reductive and there’s plenty of overlap. A casual observer today can easily find an infectious pleasure and become “inoculated by a spoke” as Louis Nucera once said.

The sport enjoys fast growth in English-speaking countries and this can be seen by growth in the number of racing licences, participation and cycle sales. But it is the reach into millions of ordinary households that brings the big money to the sport. As pro cycling looks at new models a major consideration is how to reach more households and hundreds of millions of consumers rather than a better connection to existing fans. It’s about tapping the mass market rather than consolidating existing fans like yourself.

Lee May 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Cycling TV programmes need to be made more interesting to keep audiences interested. Explaining tactics and various happenings as much as possible. For example does the average member of the audience understand the significance of ‘doing work on the front’ or being ‘on someone’s wheel’?

Roadie61 May 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm

@Lee: I agree that programming needs to be more interesting to keep the mass audience “hooked.” Everyday people (I suspect) would like additional, non-technical information that helps them relate to these cyclists. Semi-technical definitions, as you say, “doing work on the front,” etc. would also likely help hook an audience even more. Imagine watching golf and not knowing what a birdie or a double-bogey is, or a 7-iron or a sand wedge.

Living in the US and having been a sports fanatic my entire life, I fondly recall the “up close and personal” features that the US network TV stations had (and still have) during the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. I’m a sports fan, not in the demo of the audience, but I do appreciate insight into the lives and possible hardships many athletes endured as youngsters. These snippets are cool, they feature athletes from around the globe and it was a small window into the personal side of the athlete.

During a bike race there are many boring kms where this type of “personal” snippet could be interjected into a broadcast (or online streaming). The camera breaks away from the boring race for a few minutes and a pre-produced feature is shown. I would guess that both fans and the mass audience would really appreciate being given information that provides insight into riders and teams. After all, we’re all just people behind our chosen profession.

That being said, fans will already be better-informed than the mass audience as they likely read everything they can get their hands and eyes on, but the general audience likely knows very little about these athletes.

Molyneux1000 May 3, 2012 at 10:55 pm

What’s a ‘birdie’?

Sidamo May 4, 2012 at 12:53 am

Anyone watching Phil & Paul’s commentary would have the “drafting saves you 30%” meme drilled into their heads every two minutes :-)

benDE May 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I am a fan and fit ritght in the middle of you demographic. Bingo. I am also at work but catch a lot on well hideable popup streams on my computer screen. Is there any talk of sponsorship cooperations where all those illegal feeds will become better quality and punt shoes to me as well? I am no moralist but would rather see some adds and know I am playing straight than how it is now. I need a new pair anyway.

p.s. is their any tabulation of the numbers watching these feeds? I’m guessing 99% are ‘fans’

Q May 3, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I agree. I’d really like to see someone create a virtual “cycling channel” that one could subscribe to and get the ability to watch high quality legal feeds of all the major races. It seems like there are enough fans who would pay for this to support such a thing (and for that matter similar channels for a variety of other sports with small but devoted fan bases). It would be ideal if it covered all the major races, but I’d just settle for something that just covered everything not already on TV. It seems like this sort of thing is inevitable, but unfortunately it will probably take a while because it messes with the business models of a lot of powerful interests (like the cable company that I would consider unsubscribing from if such a thing were available).

Martin May 3, 2012 at 7:55 pm

I think I’m right in saying the Giro this year is streaming live, without ge0-restriction, every stage on their website. I think this the right direction for the sport… as much as i would love to see a Netflix of cycling with live coverage too, the cost of becoming a broadcaster (which i’m sure must be expensive) probably prices a specialized service like this out of the market for now (at least as an independent operator).

The Inner Ring May 3, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Yes, the Giro will be streamed for free around the world. But in Italian… although the commentary is excellent.

Roadie61 May 3, 2012 at 9:17 pm

@Q: Sign me up! I don’t have cable TV here in the states because it’s wildly expensive in my region and I hate commercial TV anyway. I prefer to watch the Euro feeds online, even though (sadly) I’m monolingual. Doesn’t matter, though, I pick up a little here and there in Dutch, Flemish, Italian and French, AND, I know the riders, so it really doesn’t matter — I can see what’s happening and that’s mostly what I care about.

DNAtsol May 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm

For cycling channels there are a few options currently available.

Universal sports (http://universalsports.com/category/cycling/) has a cycling package that allows as live and on-demand replay of several spring classics and the GIRO. My wife and I stream it to our plasma 50″ and it’s awesome – Gogo and his sidekick take a little getting used too, but that’s a separate issue)!

There is also cycling.tv which has live and on-demand coverage for a number of races through out the season. However some coverage is highlights only and the exact coverage tends to be determined at the last minute. We were able to watch paris-roubaix for free this year.

Also, check around for live streams of Eurosport or British Eurosport (1&2). Sites like http://www.tvsector.com/eurosport-2-hd/ allow you to subscribe to HD streams so you can pay to support your cycling obession. So, there are legit sources that you can cobble (pardon the pun) together and watch almost the entire UCI season.

Prospero May 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I’m thankful for the English-speaking demographic. Because of this, at least the commercials on TV are for sports cars and bike parts. I’d rather those than the typical commercials seen during the evening news (chronic disease pharmaceuticals, etc.). Of course, no commercials would be preferable, but then nothing’s for free!

campbell May 3, 2012 at 1:50 pm

You are absolutely right about the demographics. I remember a few years ago I had to tell a 35 year old female friend who lived in Stuttgart that the world road champs went within 1 block of her flat. She associated cycling with drugged up Tmobile members. She was amazed I cared (me being from Australia) about bike racing. Point of note. The Australian Financial Review which is the local equivalent of the FT or WSJ has a weekly 300 worder q and a with business people of note about how many bikes you have, your favorite ride, do you stop for stop signs etc

Roadie61 May 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm

@campbell: I have to speak up for the 2nd largest component of the audience demographic (women aged 35 – 55). Though I’m in this age group and I’m female, I’m a fan, not part of the mass audience demo. But, you and INRNG both have made stereotypical comments for different reasons.

@campbell, you quickly placed your female friend into the demographic of the mass audience; what you failed to realize is this: as a person living in Germany, she obviously has knowledge about pro cycling as she remembers the doping scandals of T-Mobile and likely knows who Jan Ullrich is. She may have been a fan in earlier years but got fed up with all the scandals. Germany, in particular, stopped broadcasting the TDF (some channels) in protest of the ongoing doping. At least give her credit and don’t assume she’s in the mass audience demo. You could also just ask her about her past relationship with cycling.

@INRNG: “And the second largest component of the audience? Women aged 35-55. Yes, the sport you love is mostly watched by “pensioners” and “housewives”.

I’m surprised to see these words written by you. To imply that women in the mass audience aged 35 – 55 are “housewives” (I doubt that you meant all of them) is quite demeaning to those women who are working (most, I suspect) just like their male counterparts. I don’t live in Europe, though I do know that the economy is horrible throughout most of Europe (minus Germany). The same goes for here in the states. I know almost no women (35 – 55) who have the luxury of staying at home and being a “housewife.” Is that even a word in 2012?

Owen May 3, 2012 at 10:48 pm

I imagine, though I have no evidence, that the vast majority of women watching cycling between 3 and 5pm are doing so because their job is to look after their family, and they are vainly searching for something half interesting to watch on the TV while they work. This isn’t demeaning to them, or anyone. Just fact. and unrelated to the World-wide economic down turn.
It is no more demeaning to be labelled a housewife, than it is a fire fighter, doctor Postman or priest.

I can, however, assure you that whilst shift working has it’s drawbacks, the ability to watch the Tour live on a weekday is a true boon, though the dog might miss its walk.

Roadie61 May 4, 2012 at 12:02 am

@Owen: We seem to have a difference of semantics with the word “housewife” between Europe and the US. Here in the US, the word housewife (in this day and age) is derogatory to many women, as it implies that a woman mainly stays in the home, is not highly educated and is therefore less productive in society.

Housewife used to conjure up images (in the US) of a woman with an apron over a dress, holding a dusting tool. Post WW-II, women could afford to stay at home and care for their families because living was so affordable. Here, that changed in the 1970s and 80s. Women were being forced into the workplace by living demands; in 2012 I know of almost no women who can afford to NOT work (but that’s here in an expensive region of CA). Certainly in other states where living is more affordable, women are able to stay at home with their families, and BTW, many men are what we call “stay-at-home-dads.” Traditional role reversal, but quite popular.

Here in California (of my friends and relatives), I know of only one woman (35-55) who stays at home all day with her children, but it’s only because one son has severe Type I diabetes. Most women in that age group have to work because the family needs a double-income just to afford to live here. The average price of a small, 2-bedroom home in the county I live in is over $650,00 US dollars. Whether folks rent or own, rents are sky-high and mortgages are high (though the bad economy has allowed for good re-financing and lower loan rates).

In the states, firefighting is a profession, as is being a doctor, mail-carrier or a Priest; these aren’t labels here, they’re names of professions. “Housewife” is a label that offends many modern-day women (here).

Sidamo May 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

It’s the same situation here in Australia (women often needing to work due to cost of living, rather than choosing to do so). All the same, I don’t think the term ‘housewife’ is regarded as demeaning. The images you conjure up are, as you say, of a 70s-80s stereotype, but I think now people realise that a stay-at-home-mum (if that’s a preferable term?) is generally a preferable way to raise a child and not a comment on the woman’s worth or abilities.

Roadie41 May 4, 2012 at 4:50 am

Roadie61: you clearly have a chip on your shoulder. Move to a less expensive location; make different life choices; live within your means; budget; learn what is a “want” vs what is a “need.” I’ve lived in the Midwest, southern California, and now in D.C. all as a working, tax paying adult. I am married, have two children, and my college educated wife elected not to work so she could raise our children. She is proudly a “housewife” in the year 2012. She runs the household and the money; it isn’t easy but we do fine because we budget and consume related to our needs and not our wants- we certainly don’t live in “luxury.” Your comments are presumptuous that “housewives” don’t work and are living a life of “luxury.” Your attitude is offensive.

The Inner Ring May 4, 2012 at 9:34 am

Nothing bad meant by the word “housewife”, it was the literal translation of “menagère” which featured in the marketing report I have.

Mid-week races, like much daytime TV, gets modest audiences but those at home are the most likely to watch. Advertisers prefer to know more, to categorise and segment. Amongst those at home we’ll find all sorts of people, those on shiftwork, the unemployed, those working from home. But there are stay at home mothers and note that in France, Italy, Spain there are probably more of these than in the US. So it is not to say all the audience are “housewives” or “stay at home moms” or what ever label the ad agency uses, rather that within the audience they make up a big segment.

Hope this makes it clearer.

ToTheBillyoh May 4, 2012 at 10:47 am

When I worked in advertising we used the word “Gatekeeper”, to name the individual responsible for deciding which consumer brands entered their houses. Everybody else was relatively unimportant. Given that women (who work as well) often do the overwhelming lions share of the jobs at home, the majority of gatekeepers were women.

Bundle May 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I must admit I find this off-topic discussion most informative and entertaining. My 2 cents: words are generally not derogatory for themselves, it is their users who choose to make them derogatory or not, and portray themselves in doing so.

InTheGC May 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I’m a huge fan, I am under 25 (just), I work 9-5 but record every single race or indeed watch the hightlights of every single race. Looking at the statistics above though, it does make sense and I suppose its a good thing that so many passive people are being turned on to cycling in some way shape or form, at least.

Must say though I get irritated by the band Wagoners and Fair weather fans who seem to crop up for 3 weeks in July and pretend to know everything about pro-cycling, only to fade back into obscurity when the Tour is finished (like it’s the only race in existance). I don’t mind people taking a genuine passing interest, but the showy three week ‘know-it-all’ fans spoil it abit for me. (I wish everybody was either as obsessive over cycling as me, or didn’t pay any attention at all, would make my irrational aggression towards these people dissapear!)

AndrewAlpen May 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I think the tour is the “hook” which can get a lot of these people to pay more attention to the cycling that goes on during the other 49 weeks of the year.
Our job as true disciples, InThe GC, is to hide our disdain, switch to charm mode and gently persuade these people to tune into, or attend some of the other events on the cycling calendar.
Throw in the odd flattering question: “Geeze Bruce, you are spot on, this Schleck fella can climb, but do you think he will bring the same dominance to the cobbles next spring? (cough)”
or, “Wow Barry, you certainly know your cycling… Do you think Keise/Thomas/Swift/Lancaster/Bobridge will still have the top end to perform well on the track next winter?”
If we help to recruit fans and/or audience for other races, the tv networks will cover more events, sponsorship will grow, (and the July experts will learn more and hopefully irritate you less).
;-)

InTheGC May 3, 2012 at 3:36 pm

begrudgingly. I concede defeat. :)

AndrewAlpen May 4, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Hey InTheGC, I just saw your blog. Nice work!
You are already spreading the word like a true disciple! Keep it up!

Roadie61 May 4, 2012 at 1:27 am

@Sidamo: Maybe Australia is similar to Europe (I don’t know), but here in the states, “housewife” in this 21st century is often considered derogatory. The images I described were of “housewives” of post-WW-II (1950s, 1960s), not 70s and 80s. In the 1950s and before the feminist movement began in the late 60s, early 70s, women were more submissive and fit into traditional, gender-related roles. Housewife was a common term applied back then and it had a much different connotation than it does now (in the US).

I agree that a “stay-at-home-mom” or “stay-at-home-dad” is much preferable for raising children:)

“Put another way, roughly one of every five stay-at-home parents is a father.”

“The remaining share of households without stay-at-home parents — the majority of U.S. families — are cases where both parents work full-time while their children attend school or day care or are watched by nannies or grandparents, or where fathers work full-time while the mothers work part-time and care for children part-time.” – CBSNews.com, 26 April, 2011

Roadie61 May 4, 2012 at 6:33 am

@Roadie41: You’re completely off-topic in telling me where I should live, how I should live, what life choices I should make, budget advice and learning what a “want” vs a “need” is. Wow. I didn’t complain about where I live because I adore where I live. Mentioning the median cost of homes in my region was only to point out that some women (and men) need to work in order to live the lifestyle they choose.

I’m also married with a son and a taxpaying citizen.

Ask your wife if she likes you labeling her a “housewife.” That she’s home raising your children is fantastic, but I doubt a college-educated woman in 2012 wants to be called a housewife. “Stay-at-home-mom” might work better if you ask her, but clearly, if she’s raising your kids, running your household and managing your money, don’t you think she deserves a better “label” than housewife, which is an outdated term anyway?

The most difficult job in the world, I always say, is being a mom and running a household. I just think that women (and men) deserve titles that better-describe all that they do. How about “Superwoman” or “Saint?”

Most of us Americans are the 99% and we cannot afford to live in luxury and consume all of our “wants.” It’s the 1% that are living high-on-the-hog. You completely misunderstood my post.

Men and women who stay at home, full-time, raise kids, etc. are definitely some of the hardest working people around. Living in luxury would be having the money to have a full-time nanny while you go off on your yacht while the kids grow up and don’t really know their parents. Again, you missed my whole point: use better “titles” to describe women (or men) who work so hard.

Student Cyclist May 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Unless my schoolboy French has gone awry, I find it sadly hilarious that 6% of people tune into the Tour for the doping

Bundle May 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I don’t know what to make of it. Maybe the question was formulated in a way that allowed that answer… Or maybe people actually like the scandals, or at least they somehow feel drawn to the unfolding of the scandals.

FAQinc May 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm

One thing that I believe might imrove TV viewing of cycle races for the average Joe is current speed. I believe the Vuelta used this feature 2 years ago. And for your experienced viewer might not be as insightful but the question I hear most from people that “crop up” in July is what speed are they doing.

a different ben May 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Not just the average joe – i think we’d all be amazed at the speeds they do. I think it would be pretty simple to hook up a moto’s speedo to a dongle to a widget and a blivet to display current speed on moto cameras. If I had the skills I’d do it and try to sell the tech.

Rui May 3, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Its even simpler than that. If i recall correctly, the tour already employs GPS tech to measure time gaps, so they have the speed as well.

However having constant access to speed on the screen, would negate the need for the classic,” moto cameraman films the speedometer while the cyclists descend an alpine pass at speeds over 80 km/h”, and I don’t know how I feel about that.

Sally Gap May 4, 2012 at 2:24 am

They had quite frequent speeds on screen during the Tour of the Basque country this year, I think it worked quite well. They also used a side on camera right on the finish line, which gave a good indication of the actual gaps, and was a nice extra. See here from around 12’50″:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRgt-iB5Fp4&feature=related

Paul May 3, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I completey agree. I think cycling fans and average Joes want to know how fast the riders are going, and please, for an American audience, please tell us that information in mph.

(I also love to see live data reports on a rider’s heart rates and/or wattage, but I admit that has less appeal to the average Joe.

Roadie61 May 4, 2012 at 12:12 am

@Paul: Here’s an easy conversion site for km/hour to mph. Your not gonna get Euro channels and feeds to give mph for Americans’ benefit. Most of the world uses the metric system, makes better sense anyway.

http://www.onlineconversion.com/speed_common.htm

Paul May 4, 2012 at 12:32 am

Thanks. I use Google to quickly convert kph to mph, but let’s face it, but it is often not worth the effort to jump ontop to a phone or computer — and most folks won’t bother.

Anyway, when a broadcast is made to an American audience, the commenttors should report speeds in mph.

Roadie61 May 4, 2012 at 12:38 am

Yes, if the broadcast is an American one, like CBS or NBC, they should give speed in mph.
There must be some hand-held gizmo that readily converts this like a bike computer does (for the armchair cyclist)!

Ross May 4, 2012 at 2:09 am

Nearly everybody who half-seriously rides a bike these days has a bike computer that displays their speed, so the idea of displaying the speed of cyclists during a race makes a lot of sense. People can get an idea of just how fast these guys are compared to themselves. To avoid overkill it should only be displayed on climbs, descents and maybe sprints, as I believe people would be amazed at how fast these pros go up a mountain, and the incredible speeds they achieve going down. The speed should be in kilometres/hour as the rest of the world is metric and it’s time the USA joined us.

Bomsie May 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm

The average person might tune into the Tour and enjoy it for three weeks enough to be conversant with certain elements of the sport. This is the same for me with Wimbledon! Apart from the TV coverage of Wimbledon I have no interest in tennis throughout the year and no idea what other tournaments are played. In fact a couple of weeks ago, I was chatting to a guy riding our club run for the first time who had no idea that we were in the middle of the Spring Classics!

Dave May 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

In 2005 and 2006 I tuned into the mountain stages at the TDF. 2007 I went to watch the prologue in London and then watched the highlights of every stage religiously in the evening and was utterly rivetted by the drama of Vino, Contador, Rasmussen, doping etc.

Following year I watched all 3 GTs and got fit enough to do the dragon ride. Now I watch every bit of cycling I possibly can, race, am signed up for my 3rd marmotte etc.

So I made a clear move from the broad audience to the die-hard fan and enthusiast.

Reckon it doesn’t take much to get anyone with a passing interest in sport into cycling

Dave E May 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I agree there is a massive difference between the fan and the casual viewer, I really wish someone would point that out to the Wendyball….oppps sorry, football obsessed sport media

Julius Kusuma May 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

It’s no surprise one of the first commercial team sponsors was Nivea, maker of soaps and skin care products. It’s also no surprise that Virenque’s dancing-on-the-pedals style earned him the enduring affection of Desperate Housewives of France!

Bundle May 3, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Very nice article, very thorough.
I would add one more element of the audience: children. Although not as much as pensi0ners, they usually have more time to watch cycling than employed aduults. Sometimes, they might even be with their grandparents, watching together. Needless to say children are the fans (and riders) of the future. When you see brands who target children using cycling as their communication vehicle (remember Lemond’s “Z” jersey’), it means the sport is looking good for the future.

Tom May 3, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I’ve always wondered why crowds would swell in bars during the day when the World Cup was on, yet they would be completely empty during July when the Tour was on. Now I know why.

Pamela May 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I’m an avid cycling fan from Canada who is often frustrated with the lack of race coverage except for the TdF. I’m female but not a housewife so often turn to the Internet to follow pre and post TdF races that are not broadcast here. I wouldn’t mind seeing more advertising on the sites I visit if it means more coverage.

Roadie61 May 3, 2012 at 10:25 pm

@Pamela: The Giro’s being broadcast free online everywhere, so you can cheer on Ryder Hesjedal…
it might help to know some Italian, but you’re an avid fan, so the video is all you really need:)

cd May 3, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I’d guess that cycling has one of the highest ratio of fans who also participate in the sport, in racing or just for fitness. Golf may be similar. I’m a huge hockey fan but have never laced up the skates and played. Thus viewership may only grow along with participation, particularly outside of traditional European cycling countries. This is an advantage to some degree. Lot’s of people jog and do 10-k’s but don’t seem very keen to watch a marathon etc.

TheDude May 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I’d guess the “knucklehead” quality observer that will typically focus on U.S. football, baseball, basketball, NASCAR, is interested in viewing bicycle racing for the crashes, post mortem damage images, sprints, and maybe the random girlish cat fights that break out amongst the waif like 55kg riders sometimes showcased in the TdF coverage. Oh, don’t forget a Mark Cavendouche moment flipping the bird at the finish line. Perhaps a graphics intense “dashboard” on televised coverage would gather more of the “so 28 seconds ago” obsessed with HD video, replay, and performance data… e.g., telemetry shown in auto racing, speed, rpm, gforce, etc. :-o

Roadie61 May 3, 2012 at 10:51 pm

@TheDude: You profess to know precisely that “knucklehead” types focus on “U.S. football, baseball, basketball, NASCAR…” and this type of viewer “is interested in viewing bicycle racing for the crashes, post mortem damage images, sprints, and maybe the random girlish cat fights that break out amongst the waif like 55kg riders sometimes showcased in the TdF coverage.”

Show me the statistics to back up these ridiculously ignorant and immature comments. Don’t have any? That’s because you have a made-up, preconceived notion in your uninformed head.

People globally tend to watch and participate in (maybe) the sports they grew up with, the sports that are popular in their region. If you grew up in Europe and watch and/or participate in sports from your region, then you can profess to have some knowledge about that. But to slam the American sports viewer is to also slam the integrity of the people who watch them. That’s not cool dude. I’m an American who was raised with US football, baseball, basketball and by age 19, bicycle racing…amongst Alpine skiing, swimming, track and field, volleyball, softball, US soccer, golf…shall I go on?

You write like a schoolboy (“Mark Cavendouche”) you sexist ignoramus. And you offended lightweight cyclists (“waif like”) in your rant. Do you have a cell in your body that knows how to play nice? Because this blog doesn’t need your uneducated negativity.

TheDude May 4, 2012 at 4:36 am

Wow Roadie61
Too many Monster Energy drinks today? Perhaps my posting was “tongue-in-cheek?” Perhaps you may want to look a bit in the mirror and ask yourself why you are so upset. I definitely do not want reactions to my vitriol to cause you a rush trip to the emergency room with hyperventilation. Take care of yourself. Herbal tea works for me. :-) Oh, I think VeloNews has the stats your looking for. I’m not that good with measures of central tendency.

Anonymous May 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Oh my God, do you have to be so tightly-sprung ALL THE TIME. and comment of every post!? Believe it or not, not everyone wants to hear your opinion on everything.

TheDude May 4, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Anonymous
I’m not sure who your comment is directed to. But, I personally have posted at the most 5 comments on INRNG over the past year. More so, only one person has had any reason to follow up with a derogatory reply. So, I assume your note is not directed at me. Cheers.

Anonymous May 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

You assume correct – Sorry should have made my post clearer :)

Jim May 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm

I am reminded of the origins of the Tour de France, where newspaper men looking to gin up sales come up with an event with men riding bicycles accross large swaths of countryside. The appeal was in the heroism of the men and the scale of the spectacle. Today I am able to sucessfully encourage older non-cycling relatives to watch the televised TDF because images are just so marvelous.

Steve May 3, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Dear Jim,

You are so correct, I found my self on a vacation with my wife and mother in law in California.
The only way I could watch live coverage of TDF during breakfast was to point out all the lovely
French country side they were cycling through. Mom in law happens to be English so it helped that I could get her mildly interested in Cavendish and Sky.

As well, I remember quite vividly standing on the steepest longest hill at the 84 Olympic Road race
in LA. watching all the various country flag waving fans from all over the world, chanting and yelling and yes drinking. Truly a great time shared with all those fans. ( perhaps some are reading this )

The more eyes on cycling on TV, live or online is better for all of us regardless.

Ken May 3, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I think your distinction between “fans” and “audience” is artificial. It’s a continuum. As I follow cycling, I continue to learn more and more, moving gradually from the audience side of the scale to a fan.

The Inner Ring May 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Yes and I tried to suggest the two labels help define the argument but they’re not completely opposing camps, instead there’s a lot of overlap. Hopefully this came across.

Alfonsina May 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Well I’m in the 25-45 age bracket but was not last time I checked a man – quick check – no still not a man.

I’m lucky I have a job that allows me to watch most races all season long live and I am happy to say it is one of the reasons why I still do my current job for substantially less than I could earn elsewhere as for me it is one of those quality of life things. My job also allows me lots of time to get out on my bike and travel to lots of places with my bike and ride.

I’ve been a fan since the age of four and the 1986 Tour. My dad was a semi-pro back in his day and we would watch the meagre coverage in the UK on Channel 4 in the evenings. Anyone remeber the great theme tune and graphics? Anyone who knows where I can get that theme tune as a ring tune I’d be eternally grateful. Better than the Rodania one anyday! Anyway I was hooked from 1986 when I was old enough to sit still long enough to be engrossed by the battle between LeMond and Hinault. I also remember later being captivated by the Z Team jerseys making my mum buy one for my dad for his birthday in 1990. I remember him wearing it all the time and it’s still sitting in his wardrobe along with a few other classics.

As an added bonus the 1994 Tour came right past my house, I like to think just for me and my dad. I think the grand tours, especially the TdF are important for getting peolpe interested. For me it was the only cycling televised that I knew of as a child.

But I am far from typical as a fan. As a British fan at least they now show some of the grand tours on terrestiral TV for longer than an hour of highlights, although the numerous ad-breaks where they try and flog you washing detergent and ask if you’ve been in an accident at work make me very happy for my eurosport subscription.

Alan May 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I also got hooked in by the Channel 4 coverage in the 80s, and by my fellow Scot Robert Millar’s Pyreneen stage wins. Loved that music so much.

heres a couple of Youtube links featuring the music

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IMjb6sU5Mg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inxg017BAi4

Rider Council May 4, 2012 at 12:06 am

I heard the rumors of housewives watching cycling during the day but I still haven’t come across one yet.

Willy T. Ribbs May 4, 2012 at 1:18 am

Isn’t that the point? Fans interact with other fans, the audience generally does less so. So you wouldn’t come across ‘housewives’. I am now interested in cycling because of the TdF, it’s as simple as that. A hook like that is a good way to fall into a minority sport. I don’t know if I will like cycling all my life, I might stop watching the sport as I have with others, but I will probably always watch Le Tour. I am almost old enough to be part of the main demographic identified. I have to admit that if I had a 9-5 job a few years back I don’t think I would have become attached to the sport. Being a university student gave me the free time during the summer months to watch Le Tour. So in that regard I’m like a housewife (a clumsy term, one which I take to meaning having free time or television access during afternoon hours), but I am also like a fan in so much as the competitive aspects of the event were what got my attention. I do enjoy the scenery too, I may add.

GluteCramp May 4, 2012 at 1:23 am

I still think there’s a massive gap in the conversion of ‘audience’ to ‘fans’ – a gap that’s (relatively) easy to fill.
Here in Australia, where there are three kinds of football, and then also soccer, two of the three major codes (rugby league and Australian Rules) both have prime time TV shows called “The Footy Show” on weekly during the season. It’s a live audience show that’s more or less general entertainment themed around that particular code. The regular panel members are all ex-players who are now commentators or TV personalities, and they review the previous week’s games, preview upcoming match-ups and add a bit of ‘entertainment’ to keep people attracted to it for the show as much as for the sport.
SBS (the channel that has covered cycling in Australia best over the last two decades) has a Sunday afternoon program called Cycling Central, which wraps up recent racing and shows race highlights across all disciplines, but the timing is terrible – Sunday afternoons are not prime TV viewing time!
A mid-week, prime-time (ish) TV show along the same lines as the footy shows, adding actual entertainment value in addition to the cycling coverage, could really only benefit cycling as well as the general audience, and keep the ‘fans’ happy. Mr Tomalaris, I love your show but honestly, some of the people on it – even though they were great cyclists or are very capable print journalists (whose articles I enjoy reading) – really don’t add much in the way of ‘entertainment’…
And as a further idea, there’s no reason the UCI couldn’t support an international show, primarily produced in English but also in other languages, as a way of promoting the sport, in line with this tried and proven format…

James May 4, 2012 at 2:14 am

Great article as usual and, I think, spot on in a number of ways. One think I’d like to add is that there are many contingent historical reasons for why some sports gain such popularity in places and others do not (just look at the the disparity in popularity of cycling in Belgium vs. the rest of the world, or soccer in most countries vs. the US). So, while I don’t mean to ignore these historical reasons, one barrier that cycling has is the complexity of how racing works. Soccer (football, or whatever) is the most popular sport in the world and part of that may be due to its relatively simple rules- get the ball in the net without your hands. A casual fan can pick it up quickly. I am a big American football fan and, while that sport is somewhat complex, the basics are easy enough to get without understanding all the rules. You can look at the score and see who’s winning; you see a sack and you know it’s bad for one team.

Saying that cycling is about getting to the finish line first, of course, doesn’t begin explain what actually happens in a race- perhaps in part because there are so few rules that actually do explain how the sport works. Drafting on riders is not anywhere in the “rules of the game” but it is the basic idea behind so much of what happens. Actual rules like “no drafting on motos and cars” are broken all the time.

The amount of explanation and nuance that is required to make sense of things is relatively high. I remember once trying to explain to a girlfriend why riders were given the same time if they arrive in a group and why even those high on the GC were not sprinting for every possible second at the finish on every stage…my explanations were not satisfactory. Similarly, it’s not easy for casual viewers to understand why so many people want to be in an early break when they know that there is often no chance of that break surviving to the finish. Or why a sprint train is important, or why a leader might have a teammate put in an attack that he wants to have caught. There’s also the issue of there being many types of specialized riders; there’s a huge variance in specialties and abilities (eg, Rujano compared to Greipel) which is unlike most racing sports, whether human or motor-powered. The organization of the sport as a whole is also not like most others and is not easy to get at first. Teams are sponsored by companies and organizations. The importance of a race is mostly based on its prestige and history. There’s no playoffs or championships (even the Worlds) that count more than all other races.

Having things like race radio feeds and rider data in the broadcast doesn’t really get at this issue. Having announcers offer such explanations goes some way in addressing it, but would probably have the undesirable outcome of alienating the more involved fans who don’t necessarily want to hear such “obvious” things being said over and over. So, I’m not sure exactly how this issue could be addressed, even if it’s not the most central one. I bet anyone who has tried to explain racing to a non-fan has some sense of what I’m talking about.

diamondjim May 4, 2012 at 4:36 am

My mother-in-law is a pensioner housewife who watches the TdF mainly for the scenery.
:-)

Ankush May 4, 2012 at 5:41 am

Here’s a suggestion: the Indian time zone is the most suited for watching the races on telly. The classics, stage races finish between 8-9 PM when most of the people are at home. With the increasing popularity of cycling & penchant for foreign travel in India, it will not be a bad thing if the organisers look at the sizeable audience in the east. There a couple of channels (NEO Sports, NEO Action) who might be interested to telecast races as they have lost their contract to show “cricket” matches.

I think once before we’d the discussion on this blog about how to engage audience during the cycling. I hope Inrng, you can pitch some of the good suggestions when you meet people with authority during the Giro/Tour.

ToTheBillyoh May 4, 2012 at 8:04 am

An interesting point indeed Ankush. The rise of consumerism in India and China potentially adds billions to the viewing audience and then perhaps fandom. The telecasts offer cost-free tourism of exotic foreign countries.

Rather than a UCI sponsored World TV Road Racing program it may be more viable to have a World Tours TV program focusing upon the scenery of the stages and less on the racing. SBS here in Australia is selling a DVD of the just the Chateaux of the Tour, no racing. I wonder how that sold?

Simon May 4, 2012 at 10:21 am

I want to be a house husband. Put the word out ladies. I’m ready to commit and settle down.

Steve May 7, 2012 at 1:53 am

Roadie61 and you Simon, you both have cycling in common and will have lots to talk about!

Not sure if she is available, Roadie???

She maybe warming to Dude

Winternet_ May 4, 2012 at 11:38 am

Let’s hope China starts to like watching cycling and for that to happen a Chinese cyclist with good results needs to appear and for that to happen cycling teams must grow in China and for that to happen UCI and the big teams need to invest on Chinese cycling teams.

Also, I’m a 22 male from a non-English country. Take that! :)

Beth Leasure-Hudson May 4, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Another excellent piece of journalism. Thank you. And I’m proud to be an outlier in every respect!

I also took no offense to the housewives description, because 1. it’s apt as a demographic term 2. it’s a respectable profession 3. while I’m a professional, I’m also a part-time housewife and love both roles- there’s something as soothing and profound as listening to one’s laundry spin as there is in solving some of the bigger performance/physiological questions in my work/study life.

Barbara N. May 5, 2012 at 12:40 am

Besides all these presumed statistics there’s a whole (serious, funny, sarcastic, intelligent etc.) FANgirl-blogging-and-twittering-world going on between women ranging in age between 15 – 100 years of age, from all the continents, meeting each other on the world wide web. Few of them are simple fulltime housewives or pensioners, most (at least a lot) have had a good education, are still studying or have a demanding job.
Strange that this is completely ignored in the post above…… (although they might even have some influences here and there, once in a while :-) )

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