Great Expectations

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As returns to normality go, yesterday’s stage of the Route d’Occitanie brought some familiarity and certitudes with Team Ineos riding on the front of the bunch all day, then setting the tempo on the final climb for their leader to win.

Only it wasn’t live TV, we might imagine the prospect of a summit finish with Bernal, Froome, Pinot, Porte, Bardet, Lopez and Barguil as valuable but it’s expensive too and for many races it’s their biggest cost.

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Rewatching The Races

Sporza showed the 2015 Gent-Wevelgem last Sunday and it felt like a hard watch, why sit down for a couple of hours to see something old you know the result of? Well because there wasn’t much else to do and it was a lively edition…but it turned out to be a much better experience that expected. Once you know who wins you can watch and see how they win but there’s more.

Many of the sports channels you’re used to watching racing on are going to be replaying vintage editions instead of the planned live coverage. It’s not the same but here are a few suggestions to make watching repeats more interesting.

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A Different Route To TV For The Ardennes Races

There was no live TV coverage of women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Flèche Wallonne and now the new criteria from the UCI means events must have a minimum of 45 minutes of TV coverage to be part of the World Tour. There have been reports that race owner ASO could drop these events from the World Tour calendar leading to angry responses from many who want to see progress rather than regress. What if there could be a political solution to this?

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Gradient Inflation

Television is the driving force behind pro racing today and course design reflects this. The Vuelta is an interesting example because of the trend for uphill finishes. This year’s race has 11 of them.

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The TV Boom

Surely there’s never been so much racing on TV as this year. As well as the entirety of the Tour de France, there seem to be more small races on TV and this week the Tour du Limousin, the archetypal rural French race, now has live TV. A boom? Perhaps but nobody is getting rich on this, there are more hours than ever but this isn’t necessarily worth more to the sport as a whole.

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The Sanremo Paradox

Peter Sagan leads on the Poggio having blown the field off his back wheel. Michał Kwiatkowski and Julian Alaphilippe are chasing and there’s just 6km to go. If you’ve been watching on TV this is a moment of almost unbearable tension.

Milan-Sanremo is the longest race on the pro calendar yet it’s often dependent on events in the last five minutes. Why all the hours of airtime when surely you could just tune in for the final 10 minutes? All the details make the Poggio’s ascent and descent so thrilling.

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The Reasons Why Every Tour Stage is Shown Live in Full

When Guillaume Van Keirsbulck took off yesterday we got to see his attack live on TV and then the rest of the 200km procession. Good TV? Perhaps not unless you’re tuning in for the scenery but it’s better than the alternatives on a midweek afternoon.

Having all the stages televised live from start to finish is a novelty for 2017. Why? It’s a story of supply, demand and dull daytime TV schedules.

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More is Less

There are hours and hours of the Giro d’Italia on TV and some of the upcoming stages will be shown live from start to finish, a novelty for 2017. The Tour de France will have every single stage live on TV from start to finish too. It’s great but is it too much?

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Competing For Attention

Enjoy the Flèche Wallonne yesterday? A series of breakaways tried their luck until a small breakaway reached the foot of the Mur where the winner attacked to take an impressive solo win. If this scenario sounds unfamiliar then it’s the story of the Women’s Flèche Wallonne and by all accounts it sounded more exciting than the men’s version, even if both races were essentially repeats with Anna van der Breggen and Alejandro Valverde each winning again and again.

This week is packed with high quality women’s racing thanks to the revived Amstel Gold Race, the established Flèche Wallonne feminine and the newly-created Liège-Bastogne-Liège for women. It’s great to see this growth but the deliberate schedule clash forces the women’s race to compete with the men’s race for media attention and the inevitable outcome is the women’s race barely registers.

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Shrinking Audiences and Unintended Consequences

Looking forward to the Giro? You must be, once glance at the start list and you feel like the astronaut David Bowman in the Arthur C Clarke novel “2001 A Space Odyssey” as you exclaim “my god, it’s full of stars“.

If you’re Dutch it’s even better as Steven Kruijswijk is back for revenge with Tom Dumoulin, Wilco Kelderman and Bauke Mollema all in the mix too. So far so good but broadcast deals mean the race will no longer be shown on the main public channels because the rights have been bought by Eurosport. This may pose problems for some teams and their sponsors as it means a shrinking audience.

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