Beware partners and family members who live in the same house as a bicycle racing fan: the European racing season is just around the corner. And this means you will probably have to put up with the annoying habits of your resident bicycle racing fan(s). To prepare you, here is a short list of some of the worst viewer habits—perhaps you will recognise some of them. We are genuinely sorry for you, but we are also guilty as heck. Our sincere apologies in advance.
Bicycle racing fans always hog the biggest screen in the house for hours and hours (and hours). At first this will be mainly during weekends. But as the year progresses, it will be for days on end. This means constant streams of men and nowadays (thankfully) also women racing bikes through the rolling landscapes of Belgium, Italy, France, and Spain.
Race magazine stress
One of the problems with the annual guides that are published to accompany the Grand Tours, is that they look like magazines. But they are in fact not normal magazines to be stacked away with the other magazines. They are race guides! This can cause a lot of stress. When the guide for the Giro d’Italia or Tour de France goes missing (often when it is mistaken for a ‘normal’ magazine) this can cause a lot of stress. For the bicycle racing fan(s) and for those who have to live with them.
These guides (which often include tables for fans to write the top 10 of each stages) gain Biblical importance. The worst-case-scenario is that the Grand Tour guide is taken to the recycling before the race finishes, simply because it was mistaken for an old, scribbled-in magazine. In certain households this could be seen as grounds for divorce.
Snacks and 0% Beer
The sofa area will be permanently surrounded by beer cans and snacks. But because this is the area where a bicycle racing fan is located, the snacks will be healthy salt-free nuts, dates and the like. And the beer cans will be 0% alcohol beer, as this has roughly half the calories of normal lager and even less than high-alcohol craft beers. This all does not make the scene and neat and tidy, though. To make matters worse, many bicycle racing fans will have been training in the morning so may well insist on watching TV the whole afternoon with their legs as high as possible, ‘to let the blood flow out’. It’s all rather unpleasant to look at.
The racing on TV has just got very exciting! There is a strong headwind, one of the major teams is struggling, and their leader may fall out of the top 10 because of this move! Suddenly the doorbell rings, and your family arrives for a visit. Not good. There have been two and a half hours of boring nothing during the race and this is the moment which the bicycle fan has been waiting for. Not a good moment to visit. But it is the weekend, and that’s when families visit each other, you are told.
The bicycle racing fan will find it very difficult to concentrate on being sociable. He/she will constantly flick their eyes to the screen and back. Best-case scenario? One of the family visitors is also a bicycle racing fan! Worst case scenario? Huge argument after the visit has left, and a sour taste to that particular stage during that particular race. Best solution? Only schedule family visits to arrive after the latest time estimate at which the race will end.
Long, flat sprint stages invariably only get exciting in the last 15 minutes. However, these stages must be constantly monitored by hard-core bicycle racing fans. Why? There might be a crash involving a major contender, or unexpected crosswinds causing chaos. This never happens. And actually, this is a time for most fans to get some well-earned sleep. After all, rest is also training. Warning: non-fans should never turn off the racing during these power naps!
“…only 150 kilometers to go on this sprint stage” Photo: Getty Images.
Multiple races at once
At some points in the season there are two races on one day. This means the bicycle racing fan will have one race on the TV and one on the laptop or tablet. This can lead to some members of the family disagreeing with the need to watch both races. The bicycle racing fan will obviously have the most important race on the biggest screen, and the minor event on the other device. So, no: the bicycle racing fan still needs the sofa and the TV.
We are lucky in the Low Countries, as there will be at least three TV channels covering the big races live. This means we can surf through the various options. The images will be the same, provided by the race TV, but the commentators will all be different—and that’s very important. The Belgian commentators who are mainly journalists are excellent, but can become rather too poetic during the less exciting stages. In the Netherlands, former professional riders like Maarten Ducrot, Karsten Kroon and Michael Boogert provide interesting insights from a riders’ point of view.
English-speaking viewers can also switch to the English-language commentary on Eurosport, in order to listen to Sean Kelly’s incomprehensible analysis. Non-cycling fans in the room will see the screen flickering, and hear different voices. They will ask optimistically: “has the race finished?” No, it hasn’t…