In this post-post-dot-com era where pundits throw around technology terms such as web 2.0, glocalization[sic], high order bit, and folksonomy, it is easy to wonder what this all means for my fellow cyclists and me.
Technology has been good to cycling, creating lighter, tighter, stiffer, more responsive machines made of the stuff previously only seen on ICBMs...as well as providing componentry and gadgets such as light-weight, inexpensive power meters and GPS-enabled heart-rate training/cycle computers enabling all of us to train smarter and, in the end, ride faster. There is no arguing the fact that technology is allowing us to push our performance to our personal limits more effectively than in the era of steel bike frames with downshifters and toe clips (although I'm sure there are some riders out there that could beat out all my technology with that old set-up!).
Over the past few seasons, we've also seen the a growing presence on the web, diminishing the traditional paper technologies...starting with USA Cycling bringing in cycling outsider CEO Gerard Bisceglia who automated operations to make obtaining a license as easy as ordering movie tickets. In our own district, more and more races offer online registration, while NCNCA finally discontinued the print newspaper in favor of the more economical online discussion forums. More and more teams are developing professional-quality websites with back-end features like real-time race results and race reports as well as product ordering and other administrative functions. The benefits of all these simple technology uses is to reduce the amount of time spent preparing to ride, and consequently, getting us all out on our bikes more frequently.
On everyone's mind, and in the press, people are asking about OLN in the post-Lance era. Now that the emblematic leader of our sport is hanging out at the pool with his children, will the Toms and Nancys who didn't really care about cycling but wanted to watch the phenomenon...will they turn the channel looking for the next incredible sports feat?
Well, technology has come through again and delivered us live cycling and archival events on demand with any PC and a high-speed internet connection. Yes, everyone stop whining and get over to Cycling.tv because it rocks hard! While it was raining outside this weekend I watched Matt Dubberly of the now defunct McGuire-Langdale Pro Cycling team take himself out (ouch!), and then take out the whole peloton, in the final laps of the 2005 Nature Valley GP, setting up Shawn Milne to threaten John Lieswyn's dominance in the race. I watched Magnus Backstedt attempt to break the one hour distance record on the velodrome while supporters looked on (his, not mine). I watched Robbie McEwen win the 2005 edition of Paris-Bruxelles. I saw tons of Euro races that I've only heard rumors about: Trois Jours de La Panne, the Zuri Metzgete (Championship of Zurich), and the E3 Prijs Vlandereen. It's awesome...I don't have to get up at some ungodly hour to watch...no more making excuses to my employer on why I was late into work again. This stuff is on demand, 24x7. And free!
As the season continues, they will be showing live action of many popular races like Amstel Gold, Ghent-Wevelgem, and others...but I think you have to sign up for their Premium channel to get the live stuff. Even if you're too cheap to fork out the measely 19.99 Pounds Sterling (about 36 US Dollars) for a year's worth of Premium channel access, it is still worth checking out the sign-up page. Cameo appearances by Roger Hammond, Ivan Basso, Dave Z, and Magnus Backstedt...all pretty funny...reading from prepared scripts to convince you to sign-up and watch them...it all makes for some good entertainment.
So, technology comes through again. Tom and Nancy can go look for the next incredible sports feat in petanque, we can forget about deciphering folksonomy, and the community of true cycling fans will tune into Cycling.tv.
(4/4/06) This just in: Cycling.tv just announced the addition of LIVE Paris-Roubaix to their Premium channel line-up. Saaawwweeeeeet!