You ever seen a happier face than @philipp_tcr‘s at CP4 upon the arrival of his food? Us neither. #TCRNo4 #Apidura pic.twitter.com/vgtXnQuwVC
— APIDURA (@apidura) August 8, 2016
Here’s the paradox. Professional road cycling offers easy access to a wealth of direct experience: you can touch the riders if you want on the climbs, and catch their empty bidons. If you have favourites they will hear your cheering; if you have despised riders they can feel your spit or worse (and vice-versa). Even when we cannot be there the forms of mediated experience offered to us via television, radio (and the new media offerings of Velon or Dimension Data) seek to minimise our distance from the travails of the riders.
Well done @emilychappell. First woman home in #TCRNo4 @transconrace. What a ride! Chapeau pic.twitter.com/h13RWXdJCd
— Adventure Syndicate (@adventuresynd) August 12, 2016
Looks like @PhillipsNeil is about to catch Carlos Mazon in the battle for 2nd… #TCRNo4 pic.twitter.com/6cKlXQfUGN
— Cyclisme Spandelles (@spandelles) August 7, 2016
There is another way of experiencing the racing, however. Many early followers of cycling could only learn the exploits of riders through newspapers, and until fairly recently (for me at least) photographs and reports in the glossy magazines. In some ways this distanced and reduced level of information impoverishes and narrows the experience. However, where information is scarce our imagination takes over, and we become creative in our piecing together of scraps of intelligence from any source we can get: social media has had a strangely distorting effect on how we experience racing: it is immediate yet often primarily text-based; it can link to other media; it can democratise the collection and dissemination of previously professionalised journalistic data. Our ability to not be there and yet capture details unavailable to the physical spectator increases the personal nature of the experience and decreases control by third parties. Anyone can set up a tumblr to focus on a corner of racing or livetweet/Storify what they see/others see. One of the first pieces of writing I finished for this blog reflected on the experience of following races via the tweets of those watching a pirate Internet stream, a curiously modern, yet atavistic way of seeing the familiar through others’ eyes. The fog of mediation creates a space for interpretation, as well as personal connections with sources that are people whose perspectives are as much a source of interest as the events that they report.
Last night’s bivvy, inside residential building courtesy local plod! #TCRNo4 Don’t regret carrying jacket now! pic.twitter.com/hfsY33xRZb
— hippy (@firsthippy) August 7, 2016
I have spent some considerable time following the third and fourth Transcontinental Races from Belgium to Turkey, via a combination of live GPS tracking, twitter and Facebook. I have seen pictures and videos, and interacted with riders and other followers. This year these have been supplemented by Lydia Walker’s excellent blogs, and Francis Cade’s beautiful videos. I’ve even talked with friends about it in real life! In some ways the lack of direct connection with the race is also supplemented by my experiences of riding long distances with little sleep and no company, despite the huge difference in scale between my riding and the finishers. Moreover, unlike a grand tour, I could enter next year…
Spotted a drone camera crew. Wonder what they’re filming? DOH! Not enough time to put it in the big ring #TCRNo4 pic.twitter.com/FZi0LflK8Y
— Darren Franks (@darrenfranks) August 10, 2016
I will leave you with the haunting singing of Alexandre Bourgeonnier, who was second in 2015 and scratched this year. It will stay in my memory for a long while…
Antonin is the Film Maker in the lead car, his latest video here: https://t.co/SM94qbO6a6 Quality is incredible! @transconrace #TCRNo4
— Francis Cade (@Francis_Cade) August 6, 2016