Sleepless in July: the hidden blessing of cycling in AEST

Cycling in AEST: Giant bicycle on indoor trainer in front of Tour de France on television with fan

For most cycling fans, Australia’s timezone is less than ideal.

Almost every major televised bicycle race takes place in Europe, between sunrise and sunset. While that’s convenient for European audiences, it’s a bit more challenging for those of us on the other side of the globe. From our perspective, bike racing takes place in the middle of the night. Take tonight’s Tour de France Stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez, for example. It’s scheduled to finish at 5:55PM local time. That translates to 1:55AM AEST. At that hour, only the most dedicated of Aussie cycling fans will glue their eyes to a TV screen rather than shut them firmly in bed.

For any Australian who follows a major international sport, sleep deprivation comes with the territory. I’m still recovering from the FIFA World Cup Final, which aired between 1:00AM and 3:00AM last Monday morning – the same time that Djokovic defeated Anderson to win the Wimbledon Grand Final, one hour after the incredible Tour de France Stage 9 to Roubaix. Whether you follow Formula 1, international cricket, or the English Premier League, being an Australian fan of a Eurocentric sport is a test of stamina and will. (If you love sleep, I suggest you follow basketball instead: you can watch the NBA all day, so long as the boss isn’t looking).

But could our out-of-step timezone actually be a blessing in disguise?

It’s winter right now in Australia. The nights and mornings are cold, dark and frosty. Some of my braver clubmates rolled out to Berowra Waters last Sunday morning, where the Garmin registered negative 1.2 degrees Celsius. These are not conditions in which you want to be spending five hours on the road, churning out slow, steady base miles. These are conditions to be rugged up at home in front of the telly with a hot drink and a woollen blanket.

So, the fact that right now there’s over six hours of live cycling per night on free-to-air TV? That sounds good to me! At this time of year, there’s no place I’d rather be anyway than joining the #couchpeloton.

For those of us still trying to keep our fitness up, Tour season is the perfect time to break out the indoor trainer. There’s never a pleasant way to undertake high intensity indoor intervals, but doing it while watching the world’s biggest bike race does make it significantly more palatable. It certainly feels more beneficial than slogging out another endurance ride in subzero temperatures. If, like me, you’re a time-poor cyclist who frequently turns to the indoor trainer out of necessity, the night-long TdF broadcast is a godsend.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a TV that can record live broadcasts, even better! Get up a bit earlier than usual, stay off social media to avoid spoilers, put on the final 40 kilometres of last night’s stage, and smash out an hour of power on the turbo trainer. That way, you still get your full night of sleep.

If we must have winter nights, we might as well have them while the Tour is on. But if you’re still not convinced that the Aussie time zone is a blessing in disguise, at least there’s only six months until the Tour Down Under. Then those smug Euros will get a taste of their own medicine.

Workout suggestion: Descending Rest Intervals

Looking for a quick and dirty indoor workout to smash your legs in a short time? One of my favourites is Vegan Cyclist’s ‘Descending Rest Intervals’, which only takes about 40 minutes. I like to do this one on the rollers, just to hit the legs a few days before a race:

  • 5-10 minutes warm-up.
  • 30 seconds flat out, followed by 1 minute recovery. Repeat x5.
  • 5 minutes recovery.
  • 30 seconds flat out, followed by 30 seconds recovery. Repeat x5.
  • 5 minutes recovery.
  • 30 seconds flat out, followed by 15 seconds recovery. Repeat x5.
  • 5 minutes cool-down.

Click for an article on how to motivate yourself to ride when it’s still dark in the morning.

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