Pictures or it didn’t happen: no excuses for lack of live coverage

The bar is now too high for organisers to shirk their live coverage responsibilities.

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Today’s stage of the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas should have been the most exciting viewing of the race so far. With the GC still to play for after Saturday’s stage, the parcours was designed for it all to come down to the 11km climb up to Lagunas de Neila on stage four. 

Unfortunately, viewers tuned in to find a stationary shot of the finish line with the race action nowhere to be seen. Even live updates from social media and the UCI’s live ticker were scarce.

The apparent issue? The transmitter plane could not fly.

Fair enough if the issue was down to such an unprecedented and rare occurrence. But even if it was the case in this particular instance, there is an undeniably higher prevalence of these ‘technical issues’ when it comes to women’s races.

Rarely do we see a men’s WorldTour race plagued by coverage issues to this extent. Of course it does happen, but it is usually down to extreme weather conditions making it impossible to fly – one memorable instance being at last year’s Giro d’Italia where the torrential rain meant that viewers saw nothing of Egan Bernal’s rampage over the Passo Giau. Since then, Giro organiser RCS promptly switched providers to ensure there would be no repeat of such a faux pas.

For the women, though, this was just the next in a long line of instances wherein much-feted mountain-top finishes (and whole races) are rendered unbroadcastable as a result of avoidable and predictable technical issues that organisers are either too financially stretched, or too indifferent to fix. 

An image we never got to see live of Giro d’Italia Donne stage 9 winner Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SD Worx) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) who finished 13th.

Last year’s Giro d’Italia Donne included a summit finish up to Monte Matajur on the penultimate stage that promised fireworks, but those eagerly tuning in to see the action were greeted by the old faithful: a finish line static shot.

Eventually, we saw a lone Ashleigh Moolman Pasio come into view, followed by none other than Demi Vollering, and right behind her: Anna van der Breggen. Unfortunately for those watching at home, we never got to see what went on below to set the SD Worx trio up for a podium sweep. 

Today, instead of seeing Mavi Garcia valiantly try and defend her GC lead, or Vollering, Labous, and Muzic’s teammates set up their leaders for the climb, we saw shots of a finish banner blowing in the wind, of people milling around on foot or on two wheels. If I wasn’t watching the race for work I would have turned it off, and who would blame me? 

Mavi Garcia went into stage 4 in the race leader’s, that couldn’t go much better with her UAE Team ADQ kit if it tried.

Perhaps the most galling aspect of this particular race’s inability to broadcast this stage is the fact that we saw them run into almost exactly the same problem last year. We saw next to nothing of this much-hyped final climb as Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen went head-to-head, and yet the organisers have not learned to address whatever issues they ran into on the mountain (upon which stages of the men’s Vuelta have been broadcast without a hitch, which begs the questions – is this really down to technical problems, or is it a case of apathy on behalf of organisations who are content to scrape by with the bare minimum?).

Perhaps it is unfair to single out this particular stage of a race that has at least met the (minimum) requirement for the rest of the race. However, in 2022 it feels particularly tiresome to be facing this type of problem. This year in particular, live coverage standards have been raised considerably and that has left women’s cycling fans hungry for more, and uncompromising when it comes to those WorldTour races which shirk their responsibilities.

The UCI minimum requirement of 45 minutes of live coverage for a Women’s WorldTour race now feels paltry compared to the hours of broadcast we became accustomed to throughout many of the Classics. For those races which cannot meet even that, however, and cite all manner of reasons from technical difficulties down to financial ones, the message is clear: simply don’t apply for WWT status.

The women’s peloton deserve more. Fans deserve more. It no longer flies to put on a race and expect those benefitting from it to shut up and be grateful for a morsel of information from a Twitter feed, or a cobbled-together broadcast that shows next-to-nothing. It is no secret that live coverage is the number-one factor to growing the women’s side of the sport.

Moments before Vollering’s winning move… We’re guessing.

If Demi Vollering attacks on a climb but nobody gets to see it, did it really happen? Visibility is key.

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