Cycling robots are unsaleable

Tir 14 Quintana, Wiggins pelotonIn mid-April, cycling cannot complain about a lack of attention or exposure. The historical classics still attract a large audience and the classics on medieval roads give our sport a romantic touch.

Yet cycling has a big problem. Cycling audience is indeed ageing rapidly. If we consider the age groups that still watch the live broadcasts, we can see that most of the spectators are older than fifty years. And if we analyse the viewing rates we see that most of the people are interested only in the final kilometres.

In an interview with De Telegraaf at the end of last year, former champion Bernard Hinault explained what he considered the reason of such a problem. Riders are unrecognisable. For safety reasons they started using helmets and in recent years, everybody hides behind enormous sunglasses. “I feel really angry when riders present themselves on the podium wearing sunglasses or one of those big baseball caps,” said Hinault.

Every colour is in fashion but none really helps recognise the riders. For some big riders and teams that means extra money, even if the amounts are still rather low.

It appears nobody is aware of the fact TV spectators are getting the feeling that they are watching bike robots. Most of the cycling stakeholders pay no attention to that problem while it is really damaging our sport. The fact only a few multinationals keep on investing money in cycling is generally attributed to the doping problems and the economic crisis.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has been working behind the scenes to reform cycling and to give the WorldTour a new start in 2017. For the umpteenth time, we know that it will be very difficult for those reforms to be workable in practice. When the UCI will tell big organizers, like the ASO, that they must shorten some of their races? It seems that one more time, all the good initiatives are destined for the dustbin.

It is now important to concentrate our efforts so that people are able to identify the riders when they see them from TV or in person. A first step could be to give WorldTour riders the same identification back number for the whole year, the same way they do it in the NBA.

It is also a fact that in the last decade almost no improvement was noted in television coverage. How is it possible that at Milan-Sanremo, after the Poggio, the viewers received no information about the composition of the leading group? Nowadays even touring cyclists can be followed all over the world thanks to a small chip. Why not use this to know the order in which the riders topped a climb. The technicians tell us this is very easy to achieve. During the road World Championships, the riders’ names appear on the screen each time they pass through the line. Why don’t they do that also at the top of the Poggio, the Paterberg, the Wallers cobblestones sector and the Keutenberg for example?

These investments must be made now because cycling robots will be unsaleable in the future.

Raymond Kerckhoffs, president AIJC


The AIJC in 2014

TdF 13 Froome geel Sky treinThe AIJC hopes to keep improving working conditions for journalists in WorldTour races in 2014. Last year, one delegate represented our organization in each WorldTour race. The conclusion of the past season is that willingness and working conditions were rather good across all races.

However, many things didn’t go so well during the World Championships in Florence. Once again, the working journalists had the feeling that organizers lacked required knowledge and experience. The UCI would be well advised in the future to use the knowledge of the AIJC in order to improve the working conditions of the media. We shall soon submit a proposal to the UCI to that effect. In any case, we were pleased to be informed that the organisation of Ponferrada 2014 will consider the problems we have encountered in Florence, and that former MARCA journalist Josu Garai will coordinate the event.

Also throughout 2013, we had several meetings with various team press officers, and several good ideas came out of that interaction. Quick Step’s Alessandro Tegner’s motivation was remarkable in his desire to move forward. In 2014, a working group consisting of delegates from the AIJC and from the teams press officers will be organized.

But that does not detract the fact that it is still difficult to work with a small number of WorldTour teams. Too many team-imposed limitations deprive interviews from any spontaneity. The fact that some press officers are sitting at their riders’ side with a stopwatch while they are interviewed during minor stage races where very few journalists are present is something ridiculous.

The three major grand tours responded positively to the collaboration between the press officers and the AIJC. They are also studying the possibility to implement a working group involving the AIJC and the teams.

Moving into 2014, the AIJC will be even more careful with the professionalism of the journalists. Because of the proliferation of websites and blogs, more and more hobbyists are wandering in the pressrooms. For them, cycling races are synonymous with a dream vacation. The AIJC proposed the UCI to exercise more control over the accreditation lists on the occasion of the World Championships. Consultations are regularly held with all the other major organisers. We will, of course, do the same within the AIJC and give a member card to professional journalists only. We must set a good example.

Raymond Kerckhoffs (President)