The professional cycling racing season is just around the corner. Not all of us have the luxury of live TV coverage of our favourite races from all corners of the world, but there are a number of options available for either moving pictures or live race reports on the go. We look at some of the better options for race addicts in the Low Countries.
Thanks to the wonders of mobile data, those of us who are willing to pay a small monthly subscription can watch most major bike races on our mobile phones and tablets. Eurosport is clearly putting a lot of energy into its cycling coverage. This is great news. Some say Eurosport is the ‘home of cycling’ and they do seem to be covering more races all the time. They even hired an agency, DixonBaxi, to give the Home of Cycling graphics a fan-friendly image. Subscribers to the app can choose multiple camera positions on the go. Also, obviously, you can watch archived races and action highlights which you may have missed. Bonus: you get access to all the other sports coverage offered by Eurosport. Also, you can switch languages from Dutch to English if you prefer to hear former racing hero Sean Kelly and his team commentating.
A subscription to the Eurosport Player costs around €4 a month, if you sign up for the whole year. If you only want to sign up during the racing season, it will cost you €7 a month. There are sometimes special limited availability offers: in early 2019 you could get a year’s subscription for €30 (that’s €2,50 a month) so keep an eye out if you are a bargain-hunter!
One of the most popular cable TV providers in the Netherlands, Ziggo, also has a mobile app available for all subscribers, at no extra cost. This is really handy for cycling fans who are subscribers. You get access to all the TV channels which Ziggo provides. Obviously, you’ll have to have enough mobile data if you are going off grid, and be warned – the app uses quite a bit.
This writer found himself watching the finale of the 2018 Ronde van Vlaanderen on Ziggo Go during a family walk in the woods in deepest France. His family wasn’t super-happy about this. However, watching Niki Terpstra win, live on a smart phone via Belgian TV channel Sporza, was really rather special.
Everyone who knows cycling in the Low Countries, knows the Belgian TV channel Sporza. The passion the Belgians have for cycle racing and the knowledge and experience of the commentators is unsurpassed. You do have to be able to understand Flemish, which isn’t for everyone. But those who can follow this poetic form of Dutch get access to perhaps the best cycling (road racing and cyclocross) coverage and analysis in the world. Sporza is Belgian broadcaster VRT’s sports channel. Sporza hosts the renowned sports journalists Michel Wuyts and Renaat Schotte: Schotte has commentated on the Tour de France 20 times and the Giro d’Italia 18 times.
How do you get to watch Sporza? Well, their video streams are geo-restricted to Belgium. But for the dedicated (and adventurous) cycling fans among us, there are a number of services offering a Belgian Virtual Private Network (VPN). Sporza also always has a move-by-move live report on its website: but they’re just typed words, no pictures.
Twitter is also a great source of race info. But you have to follow the sources who will give you good and fast updates. The great thing these days is that most of the World Tour teams regularly send tweets live during races. If you have enough of them in your timeline, it’s possible to follow whole stages of races. Again, this is without moving images, obviously.
The Dutch national TV broadcaster NOS offers a good live-streaming source in the Netherlands. With former professional racer Maarten Ducrot in the commentary box and live coverage of all the major races, this is the go-to stream for Dutchies.
The NOS also has a blow-by-blow live stream in written text. If you keep two browser tabs open – one with NOS and one with Sporza – you will receive excellent comprehensive textual coverage of the races, in Dutch.
Both Belgian and Dutch national broadcasters have a channel called Radio 1. And they both give very regular updates on the major races. This can be great if you are in a car and still want to keep up with the racing. It’s still a rather special way of experiencing bike racing. Even without being able to see any of the action, the radio commentators know exactly how to invoke the thrill of the race. These are fast becoming old school skills, enjoy them while you still can …
Other (dubious) sources
People who look carefully can find numerous illegal or semi-legal streams on the Internet. These are set up and get closed down on a regular basis. One which we regularly see talked about is Tiz-cycling. Those wishing to know more about the darker side of cycling media (and a whole bunch of other cycling-related stuff) can check out the subReddit r/peloton which has 42,000 regular visitors. Happy hunting!