December is the time of year when the crew at Cycling Central takes its leave.
It’s usually a time to reflect on the past 12 months and a time to recalibrate the conversation towards everything that is good about cycling.
As I sip on a cold beverage watching the summer sunset from a beach-side haven on the New South Wales far south coast, I’m left with gutted and mixed feelings when looking back on 2012.
It certainly has been a year of disillusionment, but rather than dwell on the negatives that have affected cycling, it’s probably better to get excited about the positives that may lie ahead.
Although the sport is currently in disarray, I’m confident it will wade through these difficult times sooner rather than later.
That’s not to say that SBS is hiding from the issues that have plagued the sport. Far from it.
What world cycling needs now, more than anything, is stability, vision, and trust from administrators who are not running the sport purely to massage their own egos and interests.
Elaborating on this controversial and complex topic can wait for another day (if necessary). Anecdotally cycling’s issues at the elite sporting level haven’t affected or filtered through to those who regularly hit the roads on two wheels.
I’m told the industry is still “doing relatively well”, bike sales are solid and it seems those who may have been turned off from watching live broadcasts of races as a result of the drug‐tainted past are still actively involved by riding and racing at social and recreational levels. But is it possible to win them back to the romance the sport offers?
I guess the TV ratings at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships and the Santos Tour Down Under in January, followed by the Tour de France in July will give us a clearer view.
However homegrown champions from the past two Tours de France, like BMC’s Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky, are key and prove that interest is high when fans feel like they have a real stake in the outcome of an event.
For example, the below graphs show fan interest based on the Tour de France Google search term in the UK and Australia.
Bradley Wiggins, UK
Cadel Evans, Australia
Unsurprisingly Wiggins and Evans did best at home but maybe what the sport also needs is a truly global champion, like, dare I say it, Lance Armstrong? The search data from 2004 to 2012 suggests that may be so.
Lance Armstrong, Worldwide
Here at SBS we’re forging ahead with our investment in cycling. Plans are already locked down to broadcast more from the UCI WorldTour. Milan-San Remo in March, Amstel Gold in April, the Tour of Britain in September and the Giro di Lombardia next October have been added to an already packed live schedule on SBS.
We’re pretty excited about that. What better way to rid the demons of the past than to look ahead to the 100th edition of the Tour de France and a new beginning.
Cycling owes it to itself to be honest and clean. Let’s continue the fight, clear the slate from January 1st and herald a new era with confidence and open arms.