Back in my day, bicycles had two wheels, no chain, no pedals, no brakes and, dammit, I was happy to have one….
Oh wait, that’s not true … But media coverage of pro cycling was just as primitive as that first push-bicycle, known as a “dandy horse,” back in the 19th century.
Back before the 7-Eleven cycling team (Davis Phinney, Eric Heiden et al) raced in the Tour de France in 1986 and American Greg LeMond riding on a European team burst on the scene with the first of his three victories, few Americans had even heard of bike racing. Before those first Americans, however, it was almost impossible to get news about the Tour de France except. At my local bike shop in the 1970s were posters of Bernard Hinault, the top cyclist in the world at the time, with five Tour de France wins. We’d gather at the shop and ask if anyone knew how the Tour de France was going, who was ahead. On Saturdays, you could get a short update on a week’s worth of bike racing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports (the thrill of victory! The agony of defeat!). That was it. Even as Greg LeMond became a superstar in pro cycling, it was only through the graces of Wide World of Sports that you’d even get a glimpse of him.
Fast forward a few years when that Texan started “winning,” the U.S. media realized the potential advertising goldmine — aided by cable TV — and began airing races for hours, live, every day. We all thought that was amazing – to get to watch the race from the comfort of our own sofas. And there were real commentators, too!
Of course, today, you can download an app and get not only minute-by-minute live updates on the race in progress, but there’s usually a video feed or TV broadcast for hours that you can watch on TV or on your phone/tablet — including replays! My favorite online racing obsession is Live Update Guy, an online community of other passionate bike racing fans scattered all over the world and anchored by a lawyer/state legislator/university instructor in Wyoming and a cartoonist/journalist in New Mexico. It’s like hanging out at the old bike shop catching up on race news. But, best of all, all of this — the live video feeds and our online bike shop can be followed at home, in the car, on vacation or – best yet – AT WORK!