Ask a road cycling fan if they have a significant pre-Olympics gripe, and it's unlikely they'll cite spiralling costs, a surface-to-air missile on the roof terrace or even Duran Duran. What's likely to get them hot under the collar is being asked to pay money to watch a sport that is, by tradition, free.Just like road cycling itself is free of tax, insurance, excise duty, licensing and, for some, any rules of the road…
… cycling fans always had the consolation of being able to watch the road race. After all, with the men's course totalling about 150 miles and not far short of 100 miles for the women, there would be space for everyone to watch Mark Cavendish, Lizzie Armistead et al whizz past.But I guess that’s changed?
… this week and for the first time, the Olympic organisers decided to charge spectators – adult tickets range from £10 to £15.Oh, noes! Disaster!
To many, this might seem perfectly fair.Indeed! And it’s not like there isn’t a precedent, even for cycle-aficionados…
After all, those attending mountain biking events had to pay out anything up to £45, while tickets at the BMX track went up to £125.But you thought that, as this took place on public roads, you’d be exempt. But you reckoned without the avarice of LOCOG, didn’t you?
Others were not so happy: in comparison, 12 million-plus spectators a year can bag any prime spot for free at the Tour de France (provided they get there ahead of time). The general assumption had been that, aside from in temporary grandstands at the finish in the Mall in central London, road cycling fans would be spared the lottery of tickets.You know what happens when you assume, I take it?
Personally, I'm disappointed…it would have been nice to emphasise that for all the occasional geek-ery about carbon fibre frames and aerodynamic wheels, cycling remains one of the more democratic of pursuits: all you need is any old bike, a stretch of road and knowing how far and hard you want to push yourself.Is it really a ‘democratic pursuit’ when you are using, for free, a resource paid for and maintained by the efforts of others?