‘It’s weird to watch with a beer not a coffee’: How the world watched the Worlds

Exotic time difference gives cycling fans around the world a taste of what Australians usually have to put up with.

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For those of us who weren’t on the roadside in Wollongong as part of a kaleidoscope of inflatable T-Rex, it was once again a case of plonking yourself on the sofa and having the spectacle beamed into your living room, wherever you happened to be in the world.

There was one difference, however. The 2022 edition of the Road World Championships would be the furthest ever from cycling’s European heartland. Wollongong’s location is more easterly than Geelong’s, which hosted the first Australian visit of the Worlds back in 2010. Eight hours ahead of Central European Time, 10 hours behind America’s East Coast. CyclingTips’ VeloClub contains cycling fans from around the world with the experience to educate Europeans who’ve never known such an existence.

The tables had been turned. A quandary usually suffered by Australian and American cycling fans would now be experienced by the rest of the world.

“I’m in New Zealand and this is the first race where I’ve watched the start,” writes Kiwi Bert Prendergast.

“My normal winter routine is to get up before 6.00am and watch the last 30-90 minutes depending on the stage profile and my calendar. My sports group chat has an embargo on discussing race results until at least 8:30am. It’s very weird to watch a bike race with a beer instead of a coffee!”

Likewise, for American viewers, early morning wake-ups are switched out for late-night racing action. For Chris Heerschap, an IT guy and bike mechanic from Pennsylvania, he’s just glad the time zone is still off-kilter. “Few things confuse me more than US-based races when they’re on in the middle of the day.”

Riders tackle the Wollongong circuit

But for the early risers in Europe, this past week of Worlds racing provided a brief crash of entertainment at a usually quiet hour. For most of mainland Europe, the road races would be over before 9am, and an hour earlier than that for Brits. For those who aren’t morning people, this meant catching brief glimpses of the final few kilometres, often drifting in and out of sleep, woken as the races reached their crescendos, or finding out race results online without having been witness to a single pedal stroke.

A taste, then, of what life is like for those on the other sides of the world – big victories and major news stories breaking as you sleep. If you live in either territory, you normally have a few options. 1) Check the results and get on with your day, 2) Check the results and then watch the race on catch-up, already knowing what happens, or 3) Avoid any and all spoilers until you are able to watch the race as live on catch-up. For those who want the purity of option number three, embargoes on racing news in group chats are common.

“I live in the UK and the people I talk racing results with live in Canberra,” says Didi. “And sitting on results for 16 hours until they’ve had time to catch up is the absolute worst. For example, they were going to skip the Tour de France stage that Michael Matthews won (not knowing, of course, that he had won) so I had to work out how to suggest to them they watch the stage without giving away the ending.”

“Also,” Didi continues. “Among their friends in Canberra they have an agreement that no one discusses Grand Tour results for 24 hours so they have time to catch up with the previous day’s stage in the evening, then they meet for coffee to discuss it the next morning. So, they talk about stage 8 on the morning after stage 9 finished at 2.00am. Discussion about stage 9 then only happens the day after etc. They have a really strong pact about avoiding spoilers!”

A world completely alien to most cycling fans in European or European-adjacent time zones.

Unfortunately, for fans down under but not near enough to be in Wollongong itself, the proximity of the 2022 World Championships didn’t necessarily make viewing the action any easier.

“As an Australian, these is some of the hardest races to actually watch so far,” claims Daniel Frith. “To stream online we need to sign up for a subscription service and add a sports package add-on. They will only be putting the men’s and women’s elite road race on free-to-air and only the last two hours of each event.”

With the Worlds over, cycling, and more specifically the World Championships, will return to being mostly GMT-centric until at least 2027. Next up are Glasgow, Zürich, Kigali, Montreal, and Haute-Savoie. The Canadian edition in 2026, which will be six hours behind Europe, has more hours of time difference than the rest combined. For all who find themselves far west or east of Europe, the beer will once again make way for coffee.

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