Before the Tour Down Under even began nearly every cyclist in Australia expressed their outrage towards Channel 9’s pending coverage of the TdU. Before jumping to any conclusions I requested an interview with Hitaf Rasheed, the General Manager of Events South Australia so that I could find out their side of the story. These things are often more complex than they appear on the surface. Channel 9 isn’t going to investigate this, SBS can’t run a story on it or it’ll look like sour grapes, and cyclingnews is flat out covering the TdU itself.

I’ve asked for an interview with Mrs Rasheed on six separate occasions this week with no avail. In order to gain a balanced perspective, here are the questions I wanted to ask.

Q. The 2012 broadcast rights for the Tour Down Under came up for renewal last year and Channel 9 was chosen. Can you please tell me the reasoning and basis behind that decision?

A.

Q. Did you approach Channel 9 or did the broadcast rights go up for tender?

A.

Q. Was there a deal already made with Channel 9 before other networks were considered?

A.

Q. Are you hoping to reach a broader audience by having Channel 9 cover your event?

A.

Q. What requirements and service level agreement were put in place with the chosen broadcaster?

A.

Q. What do you think of daily highlights after 11pm? Did you know that was going to happen?

A.

Q. If a die-hard fan like myself isn’t willing to stay up that late to watch the race highlights, how is any person new to the sport supposed to?

A.

Q. Yes, I am aware that the TdU Classic on Sunday night had ratings of 140k (98k metro + 42k regional) with Channel 9’s coverage (much greater than SBS’s coverage last year shown at prime time), but that’s not to say that SBS wouldn’t have enjoyed the increased popularity of cycling over the past year as well. If you are looking for broader coverage, don’t you think it could have done even better if it had been shown at a reasonable hour?

A.

Q. SBS supported cycling for many years before it became “popular” and are largely responsible for it’s enormous popularity. Do you see the the same commitment from Channel 9?

A.

Q. Do you see Channel 9’s desire to cover the TdU as a play in their build-up to their Olympic coverage?

A.

Q. What is the plan after Channel 9’s broadcast rights comes up for renewal (in three years I believe)?

A.

Thank you Events South Australia for a magnificent event, as always (and I mean that). I know you’re busy, but it would have been nice if you had taken ten minutes to answer the questions on everybody’s minds. The most loyal of cycling fans are appalled that we cannot enjoy TdU coverage at a reasonable time of day and it would have been good to understand your position and what the future holds. I don’t blame Channel 9. They’re just doing what they do.

Cycling is stronger than ever and is on the verge of something huge. Rupert Guinness said it best in his article on Monday:

That cycling still fails to secure live free-to-air broadcasting of every stage of its premier event, the Tour Down Under, from its new rights’ holders Channel Nine, is a reminder of how far it has to go to be rewarded with full colours as a major sport here.

Sure, Nine has programmed live coverage of Saturday’s penultimate and fifth stage to Old Willunga Hill, and the finale on Sunday in Adelaide. But to show a late-night highlights’ package at an hour when many followers will be asleep is to ignore the market that helped build the sport to where it is. The riders may win races to put Australia’s name on the cycling map, but without disciples who watch, buy and invest in cycling, the sport can flounder quickly. Fans deserve better for all the years they could only dream of the kind of success cycling has now in Australia.