Of course the other must see television event which concluded over the weekend was the Tour de France. No real surprises with the end result although Schleck losing the race by the same amount of time he lost to Contador in the "chaingate" incident has me wishing both riders finished the three week tour on the same time, it certainly would have caused a stir.
With the tour over many of us in non cycling crazy countries will be lamenting the absence of daily race coverage and articles in the mainstream print media, yes its back to the good old Internet for your secret fix (don't you feel dirty?) of the sport which to most people only exists in the month of July. All the bike shops are now busily taking down the signage advertising their Tour de France sales, as if they were Christmas decorations in February. At least my sleep patterns can return to normal again.
All this talk about reality TV and cycling has me thinking about the time I spent in countries where cycling is a major sport and not looked upon as some sort of novelty news item, with your average person on the street in those countries having a pretty good knowledge of who is who and which race they won. In fact the racers are so popular that they are household names and sometimes end up on TV programmes themselves. I would like to share with you some examples of the quality programing featuring cyclists which can be found on TV in Europe.
Lets start in Italy where you may have seen Claudio Chiappucci on a programme called "L'Isola dei Famosi", which is like an Italian crossover of "Survivor" and the enthralling "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here". Il Diabolo really nailed the physical challenges but sadly couldn't take out the competition of Italian C and D grade celebrities and finished a respectable 3rd.
Here he is drinking from a coconut .
Here he strains to hold up a what looks like a Gilligan's Island style barbell.
Most of you would probably know about Mario Cippolini's appearance on "Balando Con Le Stelle" or "Dancing With The Stars" a few years ago.
If you missed it go here to see a clip of Mario learning to dance. A dance aficionado and cycling friend of mine who saw the show told me that Mario didn't really display the same supplesse on the dance floor as he did on his bike.
As far as cycling mad countries go you really cant go past the Belgians for taking the interest they have in their riders that little bit too far. So far in fact that a few of them actually have their own television shows.
After his retirement from a long and illustrious career in cycling Eddy Planckaert couldn’t stay out of the public eye and allowed a TV crew to document the daily life of his large and somewhat eccentric family (he had fallen on lean times and needed the money). The show ran for an incredible 12 years and was only recently shelved.
If cyclocross is more your thing then you might like to watch another Belgian hit TV series "Wellens en Wee". The program is basically a documentary which revolves around cross star Bart Wellens, his family and team. Go along for the ride and see for yourself what happens during the cross season in Belgium. You can see some of the funnier moments, team roughhousing and practical jokes here, just follow the prompt to the VT4 website where you can watch full episodes (if your Flemish is up to it). The program is a pretty good insight as to how popular the sport of cyclocross really is in Belgium with plenty of drunken fans partying in the mud as they watch the racing and some occasional goofing around from Bart and his team mates to lighten the mood.
Ride sensibly everyone.