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How to watch a race?

figbatfigbat Posts: 680
edited June 2017 in Pro race
'lo.

I've never really followed racing - I've heard of the biggest names and have met Lizzie Armitstead (as she was then) once, followed the Olympic road races but that's about it. Last night though I watched the ITV coverage of the Critérium du Dauphiné and found myself being absorbed in it. It's surprising how such a long period of time can be so engaging on a moment-to-moment basis.

So, I found myself looking up the Tour of Britain course and find that one stage comes through the Cotswolds through places I am familiar with and relatively close to. I have only ever watched a live race once; this was over 30 years ago and I believe it was something called the "milk race" - I stood with my grandfather and watched them ride through the Shropshire town of Newport.

My question is, how does one go about watching a race? Just wander along to a place and stand/sit there? Is it worth it for a breakaway group followed by the peloton and a few stragglers then go home? Does one do it to see one's idols doing their thing, or to witness the racing, or some other criterion? Do you find a climb or a descent to watch? I assume such highlight points will be busiest.

Or is it better to stay at home and watch the whole thing on TV?
Cube Reaction GTC Pro 29 for the lumpy stuff
Cannondale Synapse alloy with 'guards for the winter roads
Fuji Altamira 2.7 for the summer roads
Trek 830 Mountain Track frame turned into a gravel bike - for anywhere & everywhere
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  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,219
    Climb are best as they will be moving more slowly. On a descent you will just get a multicoloured blur. On the flats they'll still be doing ~40km/h.

    Check what they are planning for the finish, last year at Tatton Park they had a big screen so you could watch the race and then see the finish. A good combo. Another good stage last year was the Bristol split stage where they did a TT in the morning then a circuit race on the same circuit, so you could see the riders multiple times.

    You won't be able to get much of an idea of the actual sporting elements unless you go somewhere with a screen (or you can stream Eurosport), it's more a chance to see the riders in their natural environment.
  • fat daddyfat daddy Posts: 2,605
    during the tour of Britain :-

    I walked to the end of my road about the time they were coming past .. stood around for about 15mins, then all hell broke loose with police bikes zooming down the road blocking side roads, 20 seconds later there was 20 seconds of push bikes flying past, I recognised no one at that speed .... and it all went quiet and I walked home again

    I wouldn't go out my way to watch another one, but if it goes passed the the road again I'll wander over
  • carbonclemcarbonclem Posts: 999
    I've been to a stage finishes in Caerphilly a couple of times, you can see them twice easily there and get to wander the team buses after which was pretty neat. The stage finish in Cheltenham this year would make a decent place to see it with lots of atmosphere Id imagine.
    The last couple of times its been cotswold-y, I went to the top of Birdlip hill to see them, and last year I went to the KOM at Selsey Common - both working on the principle of slower riding = seeing them better.
    I love it, as daft as watching a race 'live' is. Its only once in a while and worth the effort to see them, I think.

    Also, having them come though your roads is cool to then ride and compare on Strava etc.
    2020 Metric Century Challenge Winner
  • figbatfigbat Posts: 680
    Thanks. There is a KOM climb up Cleeve Hill and looking at the very low resolution map there looks like a few other small hills along the way (the roads around Charlbury are quite an entertaining roller-coaster). Good news is it's a Saturday, so no having time off work - also I am likely to be doing a sportive the day before myself, so can watch and empathise with their plight.

    Sadly in previous years I was not as bothered by it (only got a road bike last year); in 2014 the route came very close to my house - in fact my kids stood by the road to watch them past their school.

    Oh, and another thing - does one ride to watch these, or drive, or walk, or what? Is it like the old days of rallying, where you walk the route, find a nice spot then set up camp (something of a free-for-all, just try not to get run over)? Or is it all "stand here", "don't go there", "do as you're told"?
    Cube Reaction GTC Pro 29 for the lumpy stuff
    Cannondale Synapse alloy with 'guards for the winter roads
    Fuji Altamira 2.7 for the summer roads
    Trek 830 Mountain Track frame turned into a gravel bike - for anywhere & everywhere
  • davesnotheredavesnothere Posts: 620
    figbat wrote:
    Oh, and another thing - does one ride to watch these, or drive, or walk, or what? Is it like the old days of rallying, where you walk the route, find a nice spot then set up camp (something of a free-for-all, just try not to get run over)? Or is it all "stand here", "don't go there", "do as you're told"?

    Definitely ride, couple of beers and some pork pies in your rucksack. Happy days

    (oh don't forget some chalk so you can write on the road) :D
    GET WHEEZY - WALNUT LUNG RACING TEAM™
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,219
    For the ToB they have rolling road closures so you can ride to wherever you want on the course, pretty much. It's way too big an area to be policed.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,281 Lives Here
    Having watched a few in my time (though no mountain stages) my favourite thing to do is just to soak up the atmosphere and the party vibe so I tend to congregate around the party (waar is de feestje) and find a spot to either see them wizz by (bunch race) or watch the first hour or so until the novelty wears off (TT).

    By the party there will usually be a) a screen and b) drinks, so you're all set.

    You obviously have to see the riders, they're rightly the stars, but don't fret about the perfect vantage - it's all done fairly fast - so just enjoy the whole experience.

    Usually people are pretty excited it's going through their town/village.
  • r0bhr0bh Posts: 1,594
    If you can, go to the stage start and have a wander round the buses; much better than trying to do this at the end of the stage as the teams normally try to get away ASAP to transfer to their hotel for the night. After the start should be plenty of time to get to somewhere on the course to watch, preferably on a climb so you'll see more. ToB will publish the road book nearer the time which gives schedule of where the race will be at what time.
  • Mad_MalxMad_Malx Posts: 4,368
    I'd go for the top end of the longest/steepest hill in your area. My avatar (Cav & Hushovd) was on such a stage near Wells - You do get very close.

    Definately go by bike.

    Probably not going to work on your stage, but best ones are when there are loops that make it possible to see the race go past, then ride with a 1000 like minded people to pick up again.
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 25,479
    r0bh wrote:
    If you can, go to the stage start and have a wander round the buses; much better than trying to do this at the end of the stage as the teams normally try to get away ASAP to transfer to their hotel for the night. After the start should be plenty of time to get to somewhere on the course to watch, preferably on a climb so you'll see more. ToB will publish the road book nearer the time which gives schedule of where the race will be at what time.
    I would second this response.

    Buses are the best time to see the stars. I went to the end of last stage of the Giro a couple of years ago and saw just about everyone (bar Contador who was busy). Plus others such as Cadel Evans and Brailsford. And wasn't particularly busy, compared to the podium which was impossible. But only the nation's best city gets the final stage of the national stage race (no London, that's not you)
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • awaveyawavey Posts: 2,368
    its difficult to say because it depends on the stage profile, climbs are obviously going to be the best way to see the riders at more reasonable viewing speeds, as else they do roll through pretty quickly, you get 10mins of police bikes closing roads and then maybe 30seconds of the whole group if they havent split up much, which can be dispiriting if youve spent a fair bit of time getting to your perfect location.

    on the Womens tour, which are often more compact stages, Ive usually managed to get from Stage start, to a reasonable midpoint part, to a finish and keep ahead of them on the road, but had to drive consequently and work out places where I could park up and the shortcut routes.

    whilst on the ToB Ive generally only picked either stage starts or finishes, and Id agree starts are better for seeing/meeting riders, at finishes they all have a knack of vanishing completely, though you get a better idea of how the race is progressing, get the podium presentation, which out on the course unless you are glued to social media you wont know whats happening at all.
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 7,295
    Best way is go out on your bike and catch the race at a few spots along the course, ride some of the route ahead of the race, find a climb and spectators lining it (has to be a big race for this) will cheer you on, if there is an intermediate sprint then the same applies.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,281 Lives Here
    Best way is go out on your bike and catch the race at a few spots along the course, ride some of the route ahead of the race, find a climb and spectators lining it (has to be a big race for this) will cheer you on, if there is an intermediate sprint then the same applies.

    But no bars, no music, no screens?????

    All sounds too uncomfortable.
  • yourpaceormineyourpaceormine Posts: 1,245
    There are 4 ways of watching:
    The French way: find a spot, uphill or on the flat. Deckchairs, cheese, bread and wine. Make a day of it.
    The 'I ride a bike me' way: you ride up to the top of the steepest slope and cheer encouragement.
    The Dutch way: drink your bodyweight in beer, eat frites and mayo and sing loudly. Think football terraces but on a roadside and involving bikes kit footballers.
    The city centre way: usually at the finish, expect big screens for the action and overpriced beer and frites.

    Really do get the best view on the telly box. Races really are a blink and you've missed it. Crits and Grand Tours are the exception - crits will pass you several times, so lots of racing to see. Grand Tours have a publicity caravan (often many kilometres in length) which pass by about an hour ahead of the race - plus expect free sweets, vouchers for oven chips, hats, foam hands etc.

    Having said that the best view is on telly I have stood for many hours at the roadside waiting for races to pass.
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    THe best way to watch bike racing is on tv - that way you can actually see what's going on.

    If you want to watch in person - make it part of a decent bike ride as then even if the racing is dull - you've still done a nice bike ride. Don't forget to take extra kit to wear whilst you're hanging around. It's always cold in Lycra in this country if you're not exercising.

    Have fun.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,219
    Best way is go out on your bike and catch the race at a few spots along the course, ride some of the route ahead of the race, find a climb and spectators lining it (has to be a big race for this) will cheer you on, if there is an intermediate sprint then the same applies.
    Given the crowds the TdY and ToB have been attracting the last few years I'd suggest big crowds on the climbs are more or less guaranteed?
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 7,295
    Best way is go out on your bike and catch the race at a few spots along the course, ride some of the route ahead of the race, find a climb and spectators lining it (has to be a big race for this) will cheer you on, if there is an intermediate sprint then the same applies.

    But no bars, no music, no screens?????

    All sounds too uncomfortable.

    Yeah you can visit a few bars on your ride round.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • ProssPross Posts: 29,556
    On the Cheltenham stage Cleeve Hill will be the place to watch. It's near the finish and quite tough so will probably be where the decisive action takes place. It also means there'll be big crowds so a good atmosphere (it's a Saturday stage too), that also means you'll struggle to park nearby without getting there stupidly early. I'll be at the finish for that stage, I've just changed jobs and my office is right by the finish line so we're going to have a bit of a party.

    It used to be quite easy to see the start then a few climbs en route and the finish but now it has become so popular it gets very hard to park near any key points in time to get to the spot.
  • blazing_saddlesblazing_saddles Posts: 18,199
    Or you can wait for the Giro and Tour to come to you. :D

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/wales-i ... de-france/
    "Science is a tool for cheaters". An anonymous French PE teacher.
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 11,187
    This is how to watch a race:

    C8a_WRrXkAAb1G_.jpg
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 25,479
    Or you can wait for the Giro and Tour to come to you. :D

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/wales-i ... de-france/
    Now that would be good. I've long said that the Giro coming to South Wales would make sense due to the number of people with Italian heritage there.
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • tailwindhometailwindhome Posts: 16,666
    This is how to watch a race:

    C8a_WRrXkAAb1G_.jpg

    Just the one screen?
    Believe that a farther shore
    Is reachable from here.
    Believe in miracles
    And cures and healing wells
  • above_the_cowsabove_the_cows Posts: 11,318
    This is how to watch a race:

    C8a_WRrXkAAb1G_.jpg

    Is that halloumi next to the giant sausage? And I now really fancy some Ardennes pâté on toast.
    Correlation is not causation.
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 11,187
    This is how to watch a race:

    Is that halloumi next to the giant sausage? And I now really fancy some Ardennes pâté on toast.

    It was some form of Dutch cheese, which I sprinkled with smoked paprika. The giant sausage is, of course, the pâté.

    I felt like Betancur afterwards
    C8a_YG7XgAAuMaD.jpg
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • fat daddy wrote:
    during the tour of Britain :-

    I walked to the end of my road about the time they were coming past .. stood around for about 15mins, then all hell broke loose with police bikes zooming down the road blocking side roads, 20 seconds later there was 20 seconds of push bikes flying past, I recognised no one at that speed .... and it all went quiet and I walked home again

    I wouldn't go out my way to watch another one, but if it goes passed the the road again I'll wander over

    But it cost you nothing, and very few sports will offer you that.
  • Lanterne_RogueLanterne_Rogue Posts: 3,330
    This is how to watch a race:

    C8a_WRrXkAAb1G_.jpg

    You forgot the laptop for posting here at the same time. How else will you get the full effect of any fortuitous echelons?
  • This is how to watch a race:

    Is that halloumi next to the giant sausage? And I now really fancy some Ardennes pâté on toast.

    It was some form of Dutch cheese, which I sprinkled with smoked paprika. The giant sausage is, of course, the pâté.

    I felt like Betancur afterwards
    C8a_YG7XgAAuMaD.jpg


    Jaysus, man, hadn't you eaten enough?
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 7,295
    This is how to watch a race:

    C8a_WRrXkAAb1G_.jpg

    Nice but I'd need more than one bottle if Carlton Kirby is commentating.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • yorkshirerawyorkshireraw Posts: 1,560
    RichN95 wrote:
    Or you can wait for the Giro and Tour to come to you. :D

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/wales-i ... de-france/
    Now that would be good. I've long said that the Giro coming to South Wales would make sense due to the number of people with Italian heritage there.

    with a transition stage via Bedford then, on that basis. Nice.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/jan ... eatures113
  • yorkshirerawyorkshireraw Posts: 1,560
    Off to Madrid to watch final stage of Vuelta this September - assume it will be a lot more accessible / relaxed than the 2 visits to Paris TDF finale I've had. Really looking forward to this one.
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