Americans Watching Cycling Live

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I was talking to Dave Chauner at the Coor’s reunion about when the United States is going to fully embrace the sport of cycling. I don’t think the sport can be successful until people that don’t participate in the sport, come out and spectate and acquire knowledge about the riders. The sport can not be economically successful until the masses embrace it.

I’m pretty sure that it is going to be a tough sell trying to convince Americans, year after year, to come back and watch the finishes of these Pro races in the US. Not that the people that were in Breckenridge yesterday didn’t have a great time. But, I did hear, more than once, that it was over so quickly.

And I felt the same way. The last kilometer was completely lined with spectators. It was pretty hard getting somewhere to get a view. When the field came by it was pretty exciting, for 15 seconds, then done. I think if you want to keep American spectators coming back to watch live bike racing, there needs to be finishing circuits at the end. I really don’t think that detracts from the overall race from the riders perspective and it would add a ton to the enjoyment level of the people that are watching. The reason that soccer in the US is having a hard time getting a foothold is because of the low scoring potential of the game. I believe that is the same in cycling, a once and their done finish doesn’t sit that well with non-cycling viewers.

I hate to say it, but there needs to be criteriums in stage races. Americans like to watch the race over and over again. We could lengthen courses to make the races circuits, but there needs to be opportunities to watch the event multiple times. I think the Pro race in Philadelphia has proved that it can be a successful endeavor with non-cycling spectators. So the length of the course can be up to 10 miles, an over 20 minutes span between views, and can still hold the attention of the spectators.

Watching this race, it is easy to get exciting about a resurgence in the popularity of live cycling spectating, but it is going to take a lot of tweaking the European version of road/stage races to keep Americans coming back for more.

It is going to take a lot more people at the event to match the crowds from 1981 at the Coor's Classic.

Trudi hadn't seen Bromont for over two weeks, so they were both happy.

This guy was having a good time.

The top of Swan Mountain climb two hours before the race came by.

The stream in middle of Breckenridge was a kid's paradise.

This is Keith's normal attire once we get to a hotel room.

She was having a great time too. Pretty nice old Trek.

This bike path sign is near Lake Dillon. Nothing like riding straight into a brick/stone wall dead end.

10 thoughts on “Americans Watching Cycling Live

  1. H Luce

    Here’s an idea – put remote video cams at different places around the course, maybe do some helmet cams and chase/lead vehicle cams as well, and put the result on a big screen at the start/finish. That way people don’t have to walk all over the course to get more than 15 seconds of action, and if you guess wrong, you get nothing…

  2. steve wathke

    Seriously I don’t want to watch a criterium. I think if you are a spectator at any tour its all about the party. Mountain stages shouldn’t end with a criterium. The crowds are huge. At least television makes it appear that way. I sure it will grow more every year. Hell, I’m hoping to go next year if they do it again. I like the big screen idea.

  3. Phil Humbert

    I agree with you Steve. Having lived in Greenville SC since 2006 (the first year we hosted the US Pro Road and TT championships), I’ve seen a steady increase in attendance at these great races. They have a short 3-4 mile inner city loop done several times, followed by the larger 21 mile loop over the Paris Mtn. climb done 4 or 5 times, followed by several more of the short loop before finishing in the heart of Greenville. This keeps the spectators happy.

  4. Matthew Koschara

    Thanks for taking the time and pointing out the differences between American fans and European fans and what needs to happen (to make it more entertaining for Americans through the inclusion of criteriums/finishing circuits) so that the professional sport of cycling is both sustainable and profitable.

  5. robo

    Great roports,Steve !would like to see some cat 1-2 & catagory races incorporated into the event like the tour of the gila or joe martin . TT in the am crits in the pm . like they used to do it!

  6. Matthew Gibble

    The circuits at the finish in Denver made it worthwhile for me today to chase the race around. My wife had a blast running back and forth in the last hour during the circuits. This is the first big event I’ve seen since ’92 and I was blown away by the buses, team cars and equipment. A lot has changed since the days of the Team Shaklee Dodge Ram van!

  7. Juheesus!


    I like your ideas but USAC will never do it. Weisel and his crew of cronies like what they are doing for cycling now. Given that Superweek is what you are describing and USAC has done exactly nothing to replicate that event. In fact, they’ve only made it harder for everyone.

    I don’t see how the UCI would do it given their premier events are *only* of the point-to-point variety.

    I totally agree with you, but a good American product will need to be done outside the purview of USAC.

  8. bob

    definitely agree with the finishing circuit idea.
    Philly is amazing and it brings cycling to the masses. It becomes an event, like the Iowa State Fair, people say “Oh you have to come here during the fair”. And people do in droves. And the people saying they dont want to watch a crit probably have not been to a great spectator crit.
    I remember when the Memorial Day crit was in Moline. Belgian waffles everywhere, every organization cooking them up for fundraising. Then the people start cooking the brats, i remember flying down the back straight and practically choking on the smoke. Every house had a BBQ set up on the front lawn and the people really got into the race. Between 8-10,000 people all you could hear was a low rumble.roar as you flew by. Put a few of those together especially, as someone pointed out, with a TT in the morning and the crit at night and finishing circuits the race could really get cycling on the map in the US.

  9. Velosipedist

    I like the idea of ending some road races with circuits. How about some of these ideas. How about racing in the Mountains with at least 1 (if not more) summit finishes. How about using Mt. Evans for the ITT. How about recreating the Copper Mtn. Criterium.

  10. memogaribay

    Having been at prologue and race in Denver yesterday, the nearly 250,000 estimated to have watched yesterday’s race surpasses any crowds I remember seeing at any Coor’s Classic races. Your suggesting of circuits at the end of the race went over well yesterday. The best part about the huge crowds were that there were so many non-cyclist and recreational cyclist there. Professional bike racing as evidenced by the weeks attendance at USPC is showing the sport’s becoming more mainstream and less of a fringe sport (at least here in Colorado).


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