Adventures in TV viewing

17 03 2015

Hello, it must be Tuesday. Or maybe it’s Wednesday?

If you’re setting your clock by the cycling coverage on Sportsnet, it’s easy to get confused.

The European cycling season has started in earnest. For the past few years we’ve actually been able to watch many of the races on TV.

But save for the three Grand Tours, most of the coverage of one-day classics and the week-long stage races is delayed. Sometimes by a few hours. Sometimes by a day or more. Sometimes a race or a stage gets overlooked completely. Sometimes a scheduled race turns out to be cricket highlights or a tennis match from some obscure tournament in Cincinnati.

Sportsnet's on-air guide says it's showing Tirreno-Adriatico, but instead I'm watching cricket highlights.

Sportsnet’s on-air guide says it’s showing Tirreno-Adriatico, but instead I’m watching cricket highlights.

It’s a bit of a gong show. And thoroughly frustrating.

This past week has been particularly challenging with both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico juggling airtime. But finding those races was an adventure.

And the delay meant staying off all cycling websites and avoiding my BigRing1 Twitter feed.

Since Sportsnet acquired the Canadian broadcast rights to all three Grand Tours, it has been trying to position itself as the country’s cycling broadcaster and building the sport’s audience by showing more of the season’s myriad of races.

That’s a good thing.

For too long cycling on North American television consisted of the Tour de France and not much else. As far as casual viewers were concerned, that’s the only race big time pro cyclists did all year.

But even though Sportsnet has no fewer than five channels in its broadcasting basket, it treats cycling as little more than filler programming. That means races are at the bottom of the priority list when there’s a baseball game, a hockey game, a tennis match, or even cricket or darts fighting for airtime.

So we see the races only when Sportsnet manages to find a gap. That means Sunday’s climactic stage of Paris-Nice might be aired Monday. Next Sunday’s Milan-San Remo will be broadcast in the wee hours of Monday morning.

And when it does show the races, the delayed coverage is often subject to random edits so the program can fit into an allotted two-hour time slot.

This is particularly frustrating because European time zones mean most of the races would be live in North America in the early morning hours, when there is NO OTHER LIVE PROGRAMMING. And aren’t live events the reason for sports networks existence?

Perhaps Sportsnet could find a better home for cycling on its World channel, which is mostly populated by Euro football matches and the occasional rugby match. It’s a premium channel but I’m betting it would get more subscribers if live, or very close-to-live, World Tour races were in the mix. I know I’d pony up.

Or perhaps it’s time for a broadcasting entrepreneur to step up with a proposal to create a North American version of Eurosport. I know fans of World Rally and British Touring car racing share similar frustrations trying to follow their sports on North American television. I can’t even imagine the frustrations of a handball or field hockey fan.

In a country filled with multi-cultural communities, it sounds like a slam-dunk.





Tainted love. Or how my Garmin let me down.

8 03 2015

I went for a ride on Sunday.

I swear.

In fact, I even blew off road hockey to take the Lapierre out.

The weather was that nice.

But there is no evidence of my ride.

My Garmin seems to have failed me.

The data registered. I watched it, 65.65 kms. Even mentioned the final distance to one of my FRF companions.

But when I plugged the Garmin into my computer, all I got was the screen every cyclist, runner, rower, hiker addicted to its affirmation of effort dreads:

NO NEW ACTIVITIES TO UPLOAD!

The horror. The horror. If the Garmin didn't record a ride, did the ride actually happen?

The horror. The horror. If the Garmin didn’t record a ride, did the ride actually happen?

First time this has happened in the five years I’ve owned my Garmin.

I opened the .fit folder and there’s no data for today’s ride.

It’s as if it didn’t even happen.

Which is a shame. As I know there had to be some badges on there, maybe even a trophy or two.

It was good to be spinning this early in the season with some of the renowned FRF speedsters. The route was flat, so that made for a good pace. Important to tame the early chill.

Daylight savings time means a Sunday ride starts in the morning chill.

Daylight savings time means a Sunday ride starts in the morning chill.

But after the snack stop, the air temperature was definitely on an upward trend. Or we were.

Of course, when I glance down and still see the sustained pace a couple or few kms less that what I might be pedalling in July or August, I have to keep reminding myself it’s still early in March. Sometimes we still have snow on the roads this time of year.





February flora

1 03 2015

 

This is the blog post in which I get to boast about wonderful spring riding conditions… in February.

So, if  you’re in a part of the world where winter still has you gripped in its icy claws, and you’re going mad pedalling the stationary trainer, you may want to point your browser elsewhere…

For the second winter in a row we’ve… well, we just haven’t had much of winter. Sure we endured some cold snaps and stretches of rain that seemed never-ending. But the only snow happened right at the beginning, quickly melted and never returned.

That’s made for dry, mostly clean roads.

And, the best part, a lot of the nice days have actually coincided with riding opportunities!

The past two weeks have been exceptional. The crocuses are already starting to wilt, the cherry blossoms and daffodils are bursting. That’s the earliest I can remember that happening.

The cherry blossoms are already bursting!

The cherry blossoms are already bursting!

Daffodils are always a welcome sight in the spring. Even more so in February!

Daffodils are always a welcome sight in the spring. Even more so in February!

On the last day of February, it was warm enough to keep the tights in the closet and wear knickers.

A true February rarity: knickers!

A true February rarity: knickers!

The rides still aren’t long or particularly fast; the legs start to feel it at 60 km. But they’re more frequent than winters past, 400+ km in the first two months of the year.

Hopefully that portents well for the coming season. Which seems to be coming faster than ever!





Bikeman: The unexpected virtues of cycling

16 02 2015

Cycling comes with surprises.

A new discovery on a familiar route.

A lousy weather forecast that turns into sunshine.

A sunny day that turns into a cloud burst.

New vigour from leaden legs. Or vigorous legs that turn leaden.

Strava trophies.

Friday’s ride surprised in many ways. With a busy schedule of things to do and places to go, the ride itself was a surprise, made possible by an unexpected bonus morning of daycare for Little Ring.

The ride started in sunshine, but, unexpectedly, it started to rain as I ascended Burnaby Mountain.

My legs that felt good at departure, turned to stone on that climb. It was laborious.

But the best surprise came near the summit, when I passed a family of deer nibbling on early spring shoots right beside the separated bike path. They paid me no heed as I rolled by. Probably because by that point I was so slow, they knew they’d easily outsprint me if I turned out to be a wolf in bib tights.

A family of deer could care less as I ride by on my way up Burnaby Mountain.

A family of deer could care less as I ride by on my way up Burnaby Mountain.





Not that I’m complaining…

7 02 2015

I’ve got some bones to pick.

Dear Weather:

Why do you insist on raining my ENTIRE week off? This little bonus of vacation time left over from last year was supposed to be a nice chance to build some pre-season kilometres into my legs.

Instead, it rained EVERY DAY. Even on Wednesday, when the day started sunny, by the time I got half way through my 65 km ride, the clouds had rolled in and the showers started anew. The Lapierre and I were a gritty, soggy mess by the time we got home.

The nice thing about midweek mid-winter rides is the quiet solitude of usually busy pitstops. The down side is the rainy weather.

The nice thing about midweek mid-winter rides is the quiet solitude of usually busy pitstops. The down side is the rainy weather.

Thanks for nothing, Weather.

Dear Strava:

Why do you build us up, then bash us down? Surely you know by now we’re all addicted to those little badges and trophies of achievement?

Of course you do, that’s exactly why you decided to reset the clock at the beginning of 2015 so we could all rebuild those PB’s and overall records anew. That made for some pretty heady early-season rides; a leisurely flat jaunt on boggy winter legs would still achieve 20 or 30 icons of achievement as segments had been ridden so infrequently.

We all like that little ego stroke.

So imagine my disappointment when Wednesday’s ride (half of it in the rain; see above) realized exactly ZERO badges or trophies. Especially as my legs felt pretty good. Not July good. But good enough to chase down a “rabbit” at the tail end of my day out, and then elicit a “thanks for the pull” after I passed and dragged him along for a four or five km stretch. Surely there was an early-season badge or two buried somewhere in that effort? Nope. Bupkuss.

Thanks for nothing, Strava.





Snakebit

3 02 2015

I’m snakebit.

Of the five rides I was able to achieve in January, two of them were stalled by flats. Friday’s ride up Burnaby Mountain included TWO flats.

There’s a lot of crud on the roads.

Even though we’ve had a relatively mild, snowless winter so far, the grit and grunge still builds up along the shoulders and bike lanes.

Friday, a day so mild I wore knickers, I knew I was in trouble when I spied the small chunk of jagged plastic or ceramic that shot out into the roadway as my rear tire rolled over it. Sure enough, 100 meters along I could feel the tire softening. Deflate-gate this was not.

I pulled off and gave it a pip with a CO canister, hoping I just had a very slow leak. A second pip and a quick inspection revealed the leak’s source, a cut in the sidewall, likely from that earlier shard.

Too cheap to want to replace a new tube I’d just installed after my previous flat, and too stubborn to admit defeat, I rode on in hopes the tire would hold up until I got home.

It didn’t.

I pulled off the road again and resigned myself to swapping out yet another tube.

Another winter ride, another flat.

Another winter ride, another flat.

Now I’ll admit I’m not the quickest tire changer in the world, and my fingers aren’t always strong enough to manually run the bead into the rim without a little help form my plastic levers.

And that’s where I got into trouble this time.

I took care to ensure the tube was properly seated in the tire and managed to get most of the tire into place. But a little tweak with the lever must have nicked the tube. By the time I got home, it too was softening. Snakebite.





Double agent

28 01 2015

I lead a not-so-secret double life.

For 23 years I’ve played out my hockey dreams every Sunday morning, from early October through to early May or late April. On the road, not the ice.

It’s an adult continuation of the game I played on the street as a kid. Same hodgepodge of ratty equipment, same plastic orange ball from Canadian Tire that stings like the dickens when it gets cold.

October to the end of April is road hockey time. The season culminates with the Stanley Stick championship.

October to the end of April is road hockey time. The season culminates with the Stanley Stick championship.

The weekly games last a couple of hours and take a physical toll. Especially as my legs get older.

So Sunday afternoons are usually spent relaxing, or enjoying some family time.

But this past Sunday, after I lamented my sub-par performance that morning, Princess of Pavement suggested I take advantage of the spring-like weather and hop on my bike and ride the morning’s demons away.

It was a bold idea; I’d never before done the “double.” Never thought I had it in me.

But with Little Ring soundly napping, and P of P giving me her blessing, the opportunity to get in a Sunday ride was too good to pass up.

I didn’t push it, kept to a flat route of about 35 kms. And once I found my rhythm, the legs remarkably good.

A little afternoon delight of the cycling kind on an unseasonably warm Sunday.

A little afternoon delight of the cycling kind on an unseasonably warm Sunday.

Not sure if I could have gone dancing that night though. That would have been the “triple.”








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