What to watch on the turbo trainer

If there was ever a time to get stuck into all the film and TV you’ve missed in recent years, it’s now. And the turbo is a good place to do it. There are only so many sessions you can complete before starting the next one becomes next to impossible – more mindless pedaling, the same numbers flashing up on screen, the same off-white wall behind it, the same hedgerow or fence outside the window. 

In this blog, we’ll go through the sports coverage, TV documentaries and movies that will help you through even the hardest and most tedious indoor training sessions.

To keep the cycling season alive, at least in make-believe, turn to Eurosport which is playing a whole series of events, including ‘Best of the Monuments’, highlights from what exists of the 2020 season and some of the best moments from last year’s Grand Tours. There’s also recorded coverage of women’s cycling, cyclocross and the 2012 Olympics to get your teeth into. There’s nothing like real sporting heroes to motivate your own sporting moments.

Pro cycling on demand
Netflix is the first port of call for most cyclists and cycling fans, just like the rest of the world… If you’re making use of a smart trainer, you’ll already have internet set up in your ‘pain cave’, so there’s nothing stopping you from adding Netflix to your team. 

One documentary series sweeping the cycling world at the moment is ‘The Least Expected Day: Inside the Movistar Team 2019’. While the title is not that catchy, the six-part Spanish language series has been praised for its honesty in what was not the smoothest season for the Grand Tour super team. The first episode opens with team manager Eusebio Unzué writing with a white marker on a glass board, Hollywood style, going through the team’s plans for 2019. Then Alejandro Valverde chips in with, “The same always happens. I’m the one who has to pick up the pieces.” He was not wrong… Each episode is around the 20-minute mark so it’s not going to kill loads of time, but at two hours in total, a good binge will cover a reasonable training session, with the added potential of improving your language skills in the process.

Another team that has made a habit of inviting the world behind the scenes is Australian outfit Mitchelton-Scott. Their video series, Backstage Pass, was a regular fixture, rarely missing a single important race day, whether it was a Monument or Grand Tour. Remember Mathew Hayman’s epic Paris-Roubaix victory in 2016? Just six weeks earlier he thought his spring campaign was over after breaking his elbow at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but an exceptional indoor training setup – which included Zwift and a stepladder… – got him back to race fitness just in time for his favorite classic. 

YouTube is also home to a number of other cycling teams and characters. Team Total Direct Energie produce the same style of video diaries as their Australian contemporaries, while the videos Education First upload appear to have a higher production value, they’re longer, more filmic and less frequent. Finally, there’s everyone’s favorite currently active, British pro cyclist, Alex Dowsett, who runs/hosts/stars in Thighs Club with his partner, Chanel. Pick your favorite, stick the ‘autoplay’ feature on and let the videos run.

If you’re also interested in food – who isn’t? – specifically in the context of cycling, then ‘Eat. Race. Win.’ is the show for you. Produced by Amazon, it’s another six-parter, this time centered around performance chef, Hannah Grant, and the race within the race of sourcing and cooking food for Orica-Scott (now Mitchelton-Scott) at the 2017 Tour de France. What better way to motivate your way through a training session than the combo of pro cycling and good food?

The best documentary films
One of the cycling world’s most beloved documentaries charts probably the cycling world’s most beloved race. Danish doc, ‘A Sunday in Hell’, is a chronology of the 1976 Paris-Roubaix, calling on cyclists, fans, organizers and even protestors for tales of the day. It has everything from charismatic characters and horrific crashes to a fairy tale ending. Watching ‘A Sunday in Hell’ should be on every cyclist’s bucket list, just as riding the Roubaix cobbles is.

Everyone’s favorite Australian cycling team features in this list once again, with the documentary feature film, ‘All For One’, available to watch on Vimeo or iTunes. Assembled from the hours and hours of footage hoarded over time while the Backstage Pass was being made, ‘All For One’ focuses on the inspirational stories of their star riders. Esteban Chaves, Mathew Hayman and Simon Gerrans feature heavily, and the whole film rings with the heart-warming stories of camaraderie and overcoming adversity that the team is famous for. 

Netflix is home to the 2017 Oscar-winning documentary film ‘Icarus’ in which American filmmaker and cyclist Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports. His at first (relatively) innocent curiosity found him tumbling into a rabbit hole after a chance encounter with Russian scientist, Grigory Rodchenkov. In just two hours, ‘Icarus’ goes from sports documentary to political thriller.

For more riders under pressure, ‘The Road Uphill’ is another truly inspirational story, this time looking behind the scenes of team Leopard Trek at the 2011 Tour de France, specifically the brothers Andy and Frank Schleck. Available to watch for free with a Prime Video subscription, it’s been described as an intimate and beautifully composed cinematic portrait of two brothers and a team in the spotlight.

How to occupy your mind when all else fails
Let’s face it, without the pleasure of real-life scenery and the wind in your helmet straps, pedaling for hours on end gets boring very quickly. We reckon 30 minutes is enough for anyone. So what do you do if you’ve run out of patience (and documentaries) but have a session to finish?

  • If you’re running low on motivation, there’s nothing better than structured, power-based training to really get you going – TrainerRoad is the go-to platform and we currently have a competition running on Instagram where one lucky cyclist will win a year’s subscription to the platform. 
  • Give an audiobook a go – there are a whole host of audiobooks to choose from on cycling and otherwise. Choose from autobiographies by Geraint Thomas, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Jens Voigt and Emily Chappell; tales of cycling history by the likes of Tom Isitt and William Fotheringham; or commentator Ned Boulting’s ‘On the Road Bike’, an account of Britain’s cycling obsession narrated by the man himself.
  • Start planning a big post-coronavirus adventure – where? Who with? How long? What equipment will you need?
  • Call a friend – with solitude and isolation a reality for many of us and mental health implicated, now’s a great time to check on your friends. Do of course let them know you’re on the turbo to explain the panting!
  • Test yourself on cycling trivia – recite lists out loud or in your head: the 19 UCI men’s WorldTeams; the riders on each team; the highest ranked riders of 2019, 2018, 2017, etc.; last season’s Monument winners… You get it. The list of lists is almost literally endless.
  • Practice telekinesis – you never know…

That should be enough to get you started. Good luck with the training and we look forward to seeing you out on the road soon.

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