Big-budget teams snapping up the best riders is a turn off for most fans of road cycling, according to the results of a consultation published by the UCI.
World cycling’s governing body launched the online consultation earlier this month as it opened a process aimed ultimately at enhancing the appeal of the support, including interviewing stakeholders and hosting a working group in which teams, riders, race organisers and the media were represented.
More than 22,300 fans from 134 countries completed an online questionnaire that sought to canvas their views on issues including how they follow the sport and what could be done to improve their enjoyment of it.
Unsurprisingly, most respondents were themselves active cyclists, with 62 per cent riding for recreation, 27 per cent racing and 21 per cent using a bike to commute.
But while 84 per cent described road races as “exciting to follow,” 50 per cent said they felt that the result of races was “predictable.”
That is reflected to an extent in their views regarding teams and budgets – 71 per cent insist that top talent being spread around a handful of teams makes following races less enjoyable, and 76 per cent say that disparity in team budgets can make races less interesting.
Meanwhile, 48 per cent believe use of ear pieces by riders makes watching a race less enjoyable, while 40 per cent hold a similar view about power meters.
Participants, and particularly those outside Europe, highlighted that media coverage of races can be difficult to access. TV remains the preferred way of following races, at 68 per cent, although social media, at 65 per cent, is catching up (and of course many will be second-screening – that is, using a smartphone or other device to access social media coverage while watching on TV). Only one in five watch on a PC and only a handful on a mobile phone or tablet.
Generally, people watching races on TV are satisfied with coverage, with 77 per cent and 75 per cent agreeing that the quality of commentary and broadcasts is good.
Where there would seem to be room for opportunity to enhance coverage of races is in the information provided, with 75 per cent saying that they would enjoy watching races more if data on issues such as riders’ energy output, speed and the road gradient were provided.
Two thirds of viewers, meanwhile, want more information on riders and 63 per cent would like to see more sequences shot in team cars and 60 per cent are interested in details of pre-race preparation being incorporated into coverage.
Responding to the results of the survey, UCI President David Lappartient said: “The consultation shows us that road cycling enjoys a positive image with the fans, regardless of which continent they are from, and that, generally speaking, they are satisfied with the sport and the coverage on offer.
“They also told us, however, that there is room for improvement, such as making more information and data available during broadcasts and that serious thought should be given to aspects seen as potentially damaging to the appeal of road cycling (domination by a small number of teams or the use of radio communications for instance).
“We are continuing with our consultation work and process of reflection with a view to making road cycling even more attractive: the working group looking into this has already met once, and its members will meet again in the near future; in parallel, interviews with different stakeholders continue.
“A series of proposals will be drawn up on this basis and put before the Professional Cycling Council and the UCI Management Committee for their approval in 2020,” he added.
You can find the full results here.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.