Fall and winter weekends here in Colorado often start with a ritual of sorts: grind the beans, pour the water and, while the coffee brews, fire up GCN+ for some cyclocross over breakfast. But as I opened the laptop on Saturday, I felt something other than my usual eagerness for another weekend of start grids and pit stops: a sense I can only describe as anticipatory grief.
This last week was, of course, when the shocking news arrived that GCN+ will shut down soon – a month from today, in fact – taking with it the sport’s broadest and best, most-accessible, high-quality source of live streaming coverage. Along with the more-than-100 people who have reportedly lost their jobs, the demise of GCN+ will reverberate through many corners of the sport. World Cup mountain bike racing, long found for free on Red Bull TV, moved to GCN+ this year. The UCI Champions League track events are on GCN+, as are many smaller, more niche road races like Tro Bro Leon or Giro dell’Emilia that make up in quality and originality what they lack in exposure.
Perhaps no part of the sport will be more deeply affected than women’s road racing. GCN+ has, since its launch in 2020, broadcast more women’s racing than any other platform, and its “Upcoming Races” tab features women’s events at equal billing alongside men’s. Women’s WorldTour events are required to provide minimum broadcast coverage, and GCN+’s coming shutdown may make it harder for those races to satisfy that requirement, and for fans – especially outside Europe – to find coverage when it does exist.
But the blow will be felt first in cyclocross. GCN+ will go dark on Tuesday, December 19, right at the start of cyclocross’ beloved “Kerstperiode,” the packed slate of holiday racing from December 22-January 1: three World Cup rounds – Antwerp, Gavere, and Hulst; two of the best courses in the Superprestige series – Heusden-Zolder and the night ‘cross at Diegem with its massive crowds, klieg lights, and narrow, gritty course carved into the town center; the races at Mol and Loenhout; and the New Year’s Day celebration of the Grand Prix Sven Nys.
The Namur World Cup, December 17, is our goodbye party: it will be the last race shown live on GCN+. My race-watching ritual will continue after that, but amid the uncertainty of what will replace it outside of the Eurosport region, it will undoubtedly change, especially in the short term as we time-travel back to the bad old days of hunting for a stable feed.
In the meantime, these precious few weeks ahead offer some final chances to appreciate what GCN+ has brought us these last few years, and a small hope that perhaps something, whether from owner Warner Bros. Discovery or another party, will pick up the torch.
Racing this weekend was a tale of two tracks: mud in Merksplas at the Superprestige round and mostly hero dirt in Troyes for the French stop on the World Cup series. In the men’s race at Merksplas, Baloise-Trek Lions saw a win from its fourth different rider of the season already, while on the women’s side, for all the interest in the return of riders like Lucinda Brand and Puck Pieterse, it’s Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado who’s on a hot streak with four straight wins, including a weekend sweep.