The 2014 Giro d’Italia has arrived and for the first time SBS management has boldly decided to screen every stage of this year's race live. It’s another breakthrough in the network’s history, growth and support for world cycling, writes Mike Tomalaris.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

The push for more live cycling on our TV screens has primarily come about from the continuing interest and demand for this country's greatest cyclist – Cadel Evans.

Although Cadel is now in the twilight of his distinguished career, there's no doubt Aussie sports fans cannot get enough of cycling's "little battler".

His season this year revolves around success on Italian roads, and given his sensational form in the lead-up races (Tirenno-Adriatico and Giro del Trentino), he's rightly been listed as a pre-Giro favourite.

There's no doubt the affection, affinity and love the general public has formed for Cadel stems from the historic Tour de France victory in 2011, and the fighting qualities he showed in the final four days that year before standing tall on the winner's podium in Paris with the yellow jersey on his shoulders.

That result, that moment, was more than a celebration of sporting success – it's been described by critics, who don't generally have a view for cycling either way, as an important landmark in Australia's history as a nation.

It also catapulted Cadel's profile into another stratosphere.

Like other national heroes before him such as Donald Bradman, Hubert Opperman Jack Brabham, Rod Laver, Dawn Fraser, and Cathy Freeman, Cadel will forever be etched into history as an Australian legend.

So while he can still push pedals over huge mountains, the interest levels are sure to remain high when he takes on the Giro d'Italia.

That was blatantly obvious in January this year when numbers swelled for the Road National Championships in Ballarat followed by the Tour Down Under in South Australia.

Despite finishing runner-up to Simon Gerrans on Mount Buninyong, the roar of the crowd when he rolled back to the podium after crossing the finish line will be remembered for quite a while.

And what about the day he flew over the top of Corkscrew Road to win the Down Under stage into Campbelltown?

Unforgettable!

Unlike any other Australian rider, Cadel has created an ability to reach out to the masses - without even trying. To the mainstream media, neither Gerrans nor Richie Porte – arguably the two best profile Aussie cyclists currently going around – are able to generate the same amount of publicity as Cadel.

Fans adore him, so do advertising executives and (thankfully) the big-wigs at SBS.

To underline the significance of the Giro telecast, I can tell you that SBS is one of only three foreign television networks to screen all Giro stages live outside of Italy (national TV in Belgium and Switzerland are the other two).

This truly is an historic event for the network.

Although the likes of Froome, Wiggins and Nibali have opted to bypass the three week endurance test, competition for Cadel will be challenging with Quintana, Rodriguez, Martin and Pozzovivo (to name a few) also taking to the start line in Belfast.

Over the last few years, the Giro has become a staple part of the network's cycling diet. The education process in the early days included asking colleagues and presenters to refrain from calling Italy's biggest cycle tour, the Gyro.

Some simply had no clue.

Like the Tour's conception to a curious Australian television audience in the early 1990s, new viewers to the Giro started taking notice when Aussies dominated stages and even challenged for overall honours.

Robbie McEwen, Bradley McGee, Simon Gerrans and even Cadel are among those who have enjoyed time on the podium and in doing so exposed the Giro's value as a huge world sporting event.

The Giro has been described as "the world's second biggest race".

That may be the case in terms of attracting a global audience and luring a corporate dollar, but the riders who tackle the Dolomites and Italian Alps every year will tell you it's the toughest race of them all.

And after years of pushing, to persuade management to screen every stage is most satisfying and proves the decision-makers at the top are finally speaking our language. They believe in cycling as much as you do.

If Cadel can jag a top-three finish at in Trieste on 1 June, it would be a fitting way to say farewell to what will most likely be his last Grand Tour appearance. It will also go a long way to securing the Giro's future for live broadcasts on free-to-air TV in Australia. I hope you enjoy the next three weeks as much as I know I will be.



SBS will broadcast every stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia LIVE! The Giro d'Italia is live weeknights and weekends from 9 May to 1 June on SBS ONE and online here at Cycling Central.