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:


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!