How to (Legally) Watch Pro Cycling in 2019
Last year’s options to watch races like the spring classics and the Tour de France were good. This year’s are even better.
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Right about now, my friend Whit is probably skipping around his living room with a Belgian quadrupel, singing, “It’s the most…wonderful time…of the year!” It’s classics season, folks: Cobbles and crosswinds time, and some of the best race-watching in pro cycling.
Not quite a year ago, I wrote about how, after years of fits and starts, American fans of pro cycling finally had decent, legit options to watch the sport. The wrinkle was there wasn’t one option, there were three, and getting access to all the important races still required a bit of financial finesse and timing.
Now, just in time for the start of the pro road season*, I’m pleased to report that things have simplified significantly, and it’s now possible to get a full 12 months of live, legal coverage of essentially every major men’s (and some women’s) road, cyclocross, and track race for $200—or less than $17 a month.
Last year, the three main options were NBC Sports Gold, Fubo, and newcomer FloBikes. But you needed a weird combination of Fubo and Flo to cover it all, and that meant timing the start and cancellation of monthly subscriptions around certain important points on the race calendar and, ideally, finding someone to split your Fubo membership with.
That’s not an issue anymore.
Fubo’s still around, but FloBikes’ slate of races has expanded considerably and now essentially covers all of Fubo’s schedule. And because it’s so much cheaper—FloSports offers access to over 20 sports on a sport-by-sport basis rather than bundled like Fubo—that, unless you’re using Fubo as your primary OTT service for regular TV-watching, you won’t need it, nor will you need to time monthly subscription starts and stops. Instead, you’ll just need annual subscriptions to NBC Sports Gold ($50) and FloBikes ($150) to cover the full calendar.
Who Covers What
NBC Sports Gold’s calendar covers mostly ASO-promoted events: the three-week Tour de France and Vuelta Espana, plus other major ASO races, like Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and a few stage races like the Tour of California. You also get track and cyclocross World Cup coverage and the UCI World Championships. There’s some women’s coverage, like the la Course one-day event, and Fleche Wallonne.
FloBikes covers pretty much everything else: the three-week Giro d’Italia, the women’s Giro Rosa and Tour of Norway, and pretty much every major one-day or stage race on the WorldTour and European Continental calendars that’s not on Gold, plus the other major cyclocross series (Superprestige, DVV, Soudal, and Brico).
Women’s coverage still lags behind the men, unfortunately, but Flo in particular has made a point of trying to air both when broadcasts are available. The only thing not on either NBC or Flo’s slate? Pro mountain biking, which thankfully is taken care of with Red Bull TV’s free broadcasts of the men’s and women’s World Cup (both gravity and cross-country disciplines).
I’ve been using Flo since last June, and I have yet to find a race I really wanted to watch that wasn’t available there or on NBC Sports Gold. I’ve had a few isolated instances where coverage didn’t work properly (Gold had a major crash during Paris-Roubaix in 2017 that left subscribers in the dark), but both have largely been reliable, glitch-free services. Flo coverage is available online, via iOS app, and through dedicated apps for Roku and Apple TV devices, and offers live viewing and replays, if you happen to miss all or part of an event.
How Much They Cost
NBC Sports Gold is sold only as an annual subscription ($50), and runs from July 1 to June 30 of the following year. Right now, a subscription is $20, but bear in mind that runs only through June 30, when it will re-up at the full $50 annual rate, good through June 30 of 2020.
Flo is sold annually ($150) or monthly ($30), and renews monthly or yearly on the date you start. There’s no contract; you can cancel either at any time. If you want to try it out monthly to start, you can change to an annual plan by e-mailing customer support.
Getting on My Soapbox
If you like watching pro cycling, please pay for the coverage you watch, because finally we have legal options that don’t suck. If the commentary grates on you and you want to run audio from Sporza or RAI or Eurosport in the background, go for it.
But if people continue to use VPNs just to get around paying for coverage and Flo decides it’s not financially viable to continue the service, then it’s just going to force us all back to the dark ages. If you value this coverage enough to watch, then value it enough to pay for it.
*“Who’s this moron who says the pro road season is just starting?” you protest derisively. “The WorldTour started in January with the Tour Down Under and we’ve had a dozen other big races too!” Geddafugouttahere with your UAE Tour, people. Real road racing starts with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad; everything before that is pre-season. That’s my hill and I’m willing to die on it.