Hi 'cross fans!
Here it is mid-July, "cross is coming" season, and that means it's time to revisit our options for streaming cyclocross and other bicycle racing for the upcoming 2020/21 season.
Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has shuffled the professional and amateur racing calendars quite a bit, so this article reflects the state of things as they sit today. While races are being cancelled in the USA, they are moving forward with new dates in Europe, for the most part. I've updated last year's guide with pandemic-related changes, plus added information about a newly-released streaming option, GCN Race Pass too.
I hope this guide helps you tune in to some live races. Let's begin with a review of the paid options:
GCN, one of the most popular cycling media organizations has in the past delivered quite a bit of free race content, including professional cyclocross. They've done a great job bringing European cyclocross to the USA, primarily by streaming live on the Facebook and Youtube platforms, with commentary in English by retired pros like Jeremy Powers.
* a caveat - this is a worldwide service, but for the purposes of this article, I'm only considering the races that GCN Race Pass has the rights to stream in the USA.
They've recently launched a new paid product - Race Pass, on a subscription model. As of this writing, this is the list of races they'll be covering:
In addition to the live races, there is also a new weekly show, World of Cycling, reserved for Race Pass subscribers.
Other than the few 'cross races listed above, they don't have other cyclocross races on their calendar. It's not yet clear if this is because they don't have streaming rights to include in their paid coverage, or perhaps because they expect to continue streaming those, for free, on social media as they've done previously (fingers crossed!) So 'cross fans - let's hope that GCN will continue last year's free English-language cyclocross streams IN ADDITION to their new paid options above.
GCN Race Pass can be accessed on your web browser or via a mobile phone app, and costs $49.99 yearly (introductory offer of $39.99 available until August 12, 2020.
NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass is a streaming-only service. As of this writing, signup on their website appears to have been replaced by an interest list where you can enter your email address to be notified. It looks like they plan to resume their subscription-only streaming service in conjunction with the rescheduled start of the Tour de France - now August 29, 2020.
As in previous years, NBC Sports Gold cycling pass subscriptions don't run for 365 days - instead, they run through the start of the Tour de France next year. This means that NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass becomes a worse value as the year passes - the best time to subscribe is when the Tour de France starts, in order to get almost 365 days out of it.
Cycling Pass is only online and not on cable/satellite. In previous years it has cost $54.99 annually, but pricing and availability hasn't been announced yet for 2020/21. With this subscription you can watch on iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and more.
The cyclocross-specific bits: NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass has an exclusive on the UCI Cyclocross World Cup streams for the USA market, so it's the only above-board way to tune into those races. But those are the only 'cross races included, which makes Gold Cycling Pass a better value for those fans interested in MTB, road, and track cycling also.
Cycling Pass remains the primary paid coverage option for the three grand tours, plus some Spring classics, but has some new competition this year with the Race Pass from GCN now offering overlapping coverage of some events.
FloBikes is the most expensive of the streaming options for cycling fans at $12.50 a month or $150 yearly, but also offers a substantial streaming calendar.
Unlike NBC Sports Gold, FloBikes doesn't appear to be on hold, and they've updated their streaming calendar to reflect the many re-scheduled events. If you want to tune into elite level racing almost every day, FloBikes is your likely best choice.
Sadly, they only list a couple 'cross races in their current calendar. It's not yet clear if this reflects uncertain scheduling or a lack of streaming rights for those events.
In previous years, FloBikes has offered the DVV Trophy series - Trek sometimes provides that one free in the USA (see below), however, Trek's feed might not be in English, while FloBikes will have English language announcing, so that's where some of your $$$ goes.
As in previous years, in addition to cyclocross Flo has Strade Bianchi, the road monuments, track worlds, etc.
In previous years, Fubo.TV was more like a cable provider than a single channel. It was a bucket subscription, inside that bucket you could get multiple channels, including NBCSN, plus local sports networks if you follow baseball or hockey.
That's different now for 2002, you no longer need the base Fubo.TV option and can now independently subscribe to Cycling Pass. It costs $119.99, and ends on Dec 31, 2020 - which means the best time to sign up was earlier this year, and it becomes less of a value as time passes.
No cyclocross events currently appear on the Fubo Cycling Pass calendar :(
The main draws are the Giro d'Italia; the service also offers re-runs of historic races, a nice bonus.
With the addition of GCN Race Pass, that makes 4 paid options now available in the USA. Let's now review the free options:
Don't confuse GCN Racing with GCN Race Pass. Race Pass is a new (paid) subscription, while GCN Racing's social media streams have historically been free.
You can't beat free! GCN's pass broadcast team has included high-level expert broadcasters like multi-time national champion Jeremy Powers, and it's in English too. You can comment and interact with live chat, since these streams have been on Facebook and Youtube.
I've reached out to GCN to ask if they plan to continue their free cyclocross social media streams this year, or whether those will go away and be moved to the paid Race Pass subscription.
Occassionaly you'll find that GCN Racing only has broadcast rights in certain countries; if you find you're locked out with a "this stream is not available in your country", see the notes about using a VPN, below.
To get an alert each time they start a live stream, follow on Facebook.
Trek has been generously streaming the DVV Trophy series from their website for the past few years, for free. It's often not in English, or sometimes there is no commentary at all - but you can't beat free.
As of this writing, Trek has not yet updated their website with any information about 2020/21 cyclocross streams or a refreshed calendar based on UCI scheduling changes:
Last year, Red Bull beverages brought very high level production quality cyclocross streams to the USA, including the UCI Cyclocross World Cup events. Availability varies by country so check their list to see eligible countries and see the note about VPN below if you're "geo-blocked".
Sadly, nothing appears on the Red Bull site about 2020/21 cyclocross streams - hopefully it will be updated as the season gets closer?
In the past few years, USA Cycling has really splashed out for great audio/video coverage of the USA Elite Cyclocross National Championships. Always free, always in English, with great commentary from retired expert athletes like Meredith Miller, Tim Johnson, and so on.
The current state of the 2020 USA Cycling national championship is currently in flux. USA Cycling has indicated that they will provide a status update throughout the Summer, as of this writing, December 8-13 is still the date and not cancelled.
Each streaming provider only has broadcast rights in certain countries, so it's fairly common to run into the dreaded "this video is not available in your country" error message. It's not the fault of the streaming provider - they'd love to show it to you, but they have to make a best effort to honor their contracts, which means blocking some countries. Usually (but not always) if you are "geo-blocked" it means that some other provider is streaming the event.
A way to work around this is to hook your computer or device up with a VPN. A VPN is sort of a "fake-out" tool that tricks the streaming provider into thinking your location is in a different country. The best VPN I've found for streaming cyclocross is NordVPN, primarily because you can simply click in their app to choose a different country on the fly, until you find one that works for your stream.
Unfortunately, quality VPNs are not free, however, once you're a subscriber you can use them for all sort of non-sports streaming as well, like Netflix, so they're a handy tool.
Wondering why you don't see "second-tier" races on the streaming calendar? Setting up multiple cameras for live streaming, paying for internet connectivity, and so on is very expensive so usually only bigger races with a larger audience are streamed. The next best thing is some of the post-race wrap-up coverage from the community, including:
I hope this list helps you out, and if I missed anything, please let me know using @RideCX on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.