There are plenty of ways to gain valuable insight and foresight when it comes to pro bike racing.
Whether it's pouring through pages and pages of online stats, re-watching the great races from history, or picking up some of the classics of cycling literature, we're all looking to get a headstart on the coming cycling season.
But for me, Pro Cycling Manager is the best look behind the curtain.
The PC game Pro Cycling Manager is part of the series of Tour de France official video games, similar to the Football Manager games many people will be familiar, focussing on the tactics and intricacies of running a cycling team.
For those not familiar with the game, there are multiple ways of playing the game. You can do the standard game of managing a team - either a current team in the WorldTour, ProTeam or Continental levels - or you can pick a team yourself with one of the many custom kits
You choose one pro rider, starting as a 19 year old heading into the pro peloton and you develop with a low level team before eventually making it to stardom.
This is an incredibly in-depth game and, for me, quite addictive. On the 2017 version of the game, I played a total of 2,272 hours... I've now cut that down to just 1,750 hours on the latest version.
There are a few things that really only PCM players can know. With almost every professional race under the sun on the game and nearly every pro rider and team, you basically have one of the most complete and up-to-date encyclopaedias for cycling.
PCM players know who is going to be the next big thing
For example, you could see that Pogačar would develop into someone special when at Ljubljana-Gusto, that was blatant which is two top-10s in the Tour of Slovenia while at the team, but on the game he became one of the best stage racers out there.
Almeida and other riders from team Hagens Berman Axeon usually end up being stars too, over the various additions of this game I've had, those riders always become world class.
So now they're becoming stars, more so than others, we can say we told you so. It's the little things.
Niche races aren't so niche anymore
You probably have never heard of races like the Oberösterreichrundfahrt - why would you have? It isn't televised and, unless you're really into niche races like this, you probably don't see anything of it on Twitter.
But if you're managing a team such as Team Sapura Cycling, you're probably trying to win stages with all rounder Serghei Țvetkov.
You can go from racing La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon to the Tour of Albania.
With hardly any races going ahead this year due to Coronavirus, this gives you a chance to race almost every race on the calendar.
One of my personal favourites is the U23 Giro d'Italia, yep there are U23 races on here too. The Tour de l'Avernir is on the game but I have never worked out how you actually race it yet.
Denmark's rise to being a cycling superpower isn't surprising
Danes have recently burst onto the scene of road and track cycling, but for a PCM player, it has been coming for some time.
Denmark has a superb continental set-up with teams like ColoQuick and Team Coop in that division and Riwal-Readynez Cycling Team and Uno-X Developement Team in the pro-continental division.
Over the years they've created some great riders and finally they have a track team which is smashing world records and world champions on the road in Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans).
Not to mention Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step), Søren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Michael Valgren (NTT Pro Cycling), Magnus Cort (Astana) and many more younger talent yet to break through.
Appreciation of how hard it is to keep a team going
It is no secret that keeping pro teams going is very tough on the piggy bank. This is really shown in the game. If you're making a custom team with the many custom kits available, such as the strange combos of Spotify - Quick-Step or Sprite-Fly Emirates p/b Red Bull, but you can not fill the team with stars, otherwise you will be in irretrievable debt very quickly.
Lots of smaller teams are having to make the hard decision to stop racing due to financial troubles, and bigger teams struggle to keep sponsorships.
This is all part of the game as well, a dial at the bottom of the screen shows how happy your sponsor is with how racing is going, if you fancied a change though, you can change and get a totally new kit for the next season.
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Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!
I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.
It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.
After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.
When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.
My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.
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