Sunday Shorts

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Tour Med finished on Mont Faron today with Jean-Christophe Péraud winning the stage and Stephen Cummings finishing close behind in fourth place to win the race overall. The podium photo shows riders each with a story to tell.

From left to right on the image there’s:

  • Eduardo Sepúlveda, second on Mont Faron and fourth overall. The Argentine was a member of the UCI’s World Cycling Centre and then a stagiaire for FDJ before turning pro with Bretagne-Séché. He’s now won the best young rider competition and remember the name
  • Next another South American with the unforgettable name of Jarlinson Pantano of Team Colombia who won the mountains jersey
  • Stage winner Jean-Christophe Péraud of Ag2r La Mondiale, back with a good news story after he broke his collarbone during the Tour de France last summer but rode on only to crash and land on the broken bone
  • BMC Racing’s Stephen Cummings is in yellow. Tipped for the win this week he confirmed this and adds to BMC’s solid start to the season
  • John Degenkolb wins the points jersey after winning three stages in a row. Clearly the fastest sprinter in the race it’s a credit to his Giant-Shimano team because they managed to set up the sprint wins by reeling in several breakaways

Summit fever: if the Tour Med’s Mont Faron isn’t enough, next week brings the Tour of Oman, the Volta ao Algarve and the Vuelta Andalucia. All three are stage races with something for the climbers and stage race specialists. Better still they are all on TV although Oman is not live. The Tour of Oman offers the best field with Chris Froome, Joaquim Rodriguez and Vincenzo Nibali just three names from a stellar field.

Pompeiana: From climbs to descents and Milan-Sanremo’s new addition of the Pompeiana climb could be subtracted with concerns over safety. There are two reasons, first the road is twisty and there are few barriers by the road and second, it’s been a wet winter and roads all along the coast have suffered. Some have been washed away but here the terraced soil has just been washed onto the road. The first concern isn’t new and presumably RCS did their assessment prior to adding it to the race. Safety is always important but the descent of the Cipressa is always a scare too with blind bends on steep sections and crashes happen almost every year. A lack of guard rails is a cited as a concern for Pompeiana but they just stop cars going over the edge, a cyclist can either slide under or slam into the metal, neither a safe option. The second concern is real but a scout of the climb and descent reveals nothing unusual or unrepairable. What if this is a publicity stunt to hype up the risky ride? Maybe but if we’re playing cynical speculation games, this could just be a convenient way to drop the climb that’s deterring a lot of riders from starting. It’s probably neither but it all looks stupid with weeks to go. Sprinters can’t just decide to show up for this race like some celebrity criterium, it’s the longest on the calendar and requires planning.

Pantani overdose: talking of infernal descents, the tenth anniversary of Pantani’s death was a highly choreographed moment for sections of the cycling media but a lot of the coverage seemed unsatisfactory, a collage of memories but with few conclusions. There’s no definitive lesson but if you still want something more to read, the Velonews interview with Matt Rendell is worth the time. Rendell’s biography of Pantani is an excellent work and if it’s not a feelgood tale, worth reading and available in print and as an e-book.

The Armstrong Lie film seems to attract universal reviews expressing disappointment and frustration. But later this year the much awaited Pantani documentary is coming out and here is the trailer, it certainly looks more promising:

Sochi ski cam: from cinema to TV. It’ll be the subject of a full post some other day but TV needs to innovate how it shows the racing, a lot of the coverage from motorbikes and helicopters has barely evolved from the late 1950s when the technology first appeared to allow the first helicopter shots. We’ve said goodbye to black and white images and got microwave transmission and now HD but the filmwork is remarkably similar. One reasonably cheap suggestion is from Russia. If you’ve been watching the Winter Olympics you might have noticed the way some of the outdoor events are filmed with a camera mounted on a cable. It’s fast enough to track the skiers at 100km/h and got me thinking this could be a great idea to import into the Tour de France. The footage on the Champs Elysée from a motorbike riding parallel to the sprint is excellent but all too rare. A cable-cam could be rigged above the final 500 metres with relative ease and provide unique footage. Assuming the Orica-Greenedge bus is kept out of the way.

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{ 25 comments }

simon February 16, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Nice orica quip. Dynamite

TheEcho February 17, 2014 at 8:23 am

stop encouraging him

Dave February 16, 2014 at 8:04 pm

It’s not a cable mounted camera, but a UAV – unmanned aerial vehicle. More details here
http://skyvantage.co.uk/drone-filming-sochi-2014-winter-olympics/
Now, this HAS got me thinking about the possibilities for spicing up the cycling coverage!

The Inner Ring February 16, 2014 at 8:22 pm

It’s both. There’s a cable and a drone too, see
http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2014/02/10/2819004/sochi-drone-shooting-olympic-tv.html

I thought the drone would be interesting but perhaps awkward with trees or just beyond the ultra conservative approach of France Télévisions… but a cable could be rigged everyday for the finish.

Dave February 16, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Ah ok, I’d not seen the cable one. They obviously do a better job of keeping it out of the reverse angle shot than the roving UAV.

Anonymous February 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

The St Kilda Crit used a drone this year and got some amazing shots but you would still need some helicopter footage I think. It’s probably on YouTube somewhere.

Geoff February 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm
Q February 17, 2014 at 12:46 am

I’ve thought about drones before for cycling coverage as well, so it was very encouraging to see them being used for the Olympics. It seems to me that they could get closer to the action, be deployed in larger numbers, and at lower cost, than the helicopters that are currently used to televise the top races. I’d like to think that the lower cost may eventually make it more practical to use them for covering smaller races that don’t currently get good TV coverage.

ZigaK February 17, 2014 at 10:34 am

My thoughts exactly. Furthermore, drones could be used for the uplink even in bad weather conditions.

STB February 16, 2014 at 8:10 pm

At Sochi they also used a drone-cam to film parts of the snow boarding. I expect this technology to develop and see it used more and more in coverage of bike races.

Also the winner of the womens snowboarding Boarder-cross race wore a helmet cam and some footage from this was shown on the TV coverage. I expect on-bike coverage to also develop over the next few years.

Also the races should make better use of tracking of individual riders via GPS devices so that accurate race info can be relayed to commentators. Quite often commentators mis-identify riders in the break, and where other key riders are in chase groups. This is because they rely on a sometimes dodgy TV feed to work out what is going on. Better use of GPS technology would improve the commentary and also allow better TV graphics to show what is happening.

The Inner Ring February 16, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Geo-location is supposed to be coming to bike racing. On-screen captions will be automatic with riders correctly ID’d, assuming they or their bike has the correct RFID or GPS technology on board.

Some on-bike cams have been tried but the footage is often lo-fi. I think it could be good for post-race analysis, eg to review a crash or an attack. But cycling rarely does analysis, the hours of live TV plus post-podium interviews seem to use up the quota of broadcast hours.

jack February 17, 2014 at 4:06 am

Good idea. It will become complicated as riders change bikes during a stage due to flats, mechanicals, etc.

LM February 17, 2014 at 5:05 am

I don’t know why this hasn’t happened yet.

The solution to the eventual neutral bike swap would be a standard receiver/transponder on all bikes and an RFID chip in the riders’ jerseys. Jens would still be undetectable.

nevman February 16, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Agree with the points re camera work at Sochi.Superb images from different angles are a wake up call.Most recent innovation in the pro peleton was Matt Rendell on the back of a moto-cam .

The Inner Ring February 17, 2014 at 5:58 pm

The audio from the moto isn’t new, it’s been used by French, Belgian and Italian TV for years when they cover their big races.

Chinny February 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm

And OGE used an unmanned aerial vehicle (a romote control toy helicopter of sorts) in one of their backstages passes at last years tour (after they got out from under the gantry).

Anonymous February 16, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Well done Steve Cummings, this could be a great season for the BMC riders.

Jeff Werner February 16, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Sometimes something as simple as finishing straight design can take advantage of the typical moto cam in much more involving ways. See Stage 5 of last year’s Qatar, where the moto gets to run alongside the sprinting peleton (in it’s own dedicated lane) capturing the speed and motion far better than the usual compressed zoom of the fixed finishing cam: http://youtu.be/PFoNzoFcdBE?t=6m

Martin Højgaard February 16, 2014 at 11:58 pm

The TdF had a cable driven cam a couple of years back on Champs Elyssees in 2009.
The Giro had cameras dug into the asphalt at the finish line some 6-7 years back but that never caught on.
I think the most radical addition to the TV-coverage the past 10 years has been the SRM-readings from various riders. Unfortunately, these readings are just a sideshow as the big contenders don’t share these data real time.

Martin Højgaard February 17, 2014 at 12:03 am

sorry – the 2009 Tdf Champs Elysees finish was not filmed by a cable driven camera but a moto with it’s own parallel lane http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCUD0CPKJSM

Mathew Mitchell February 17, 2014 at 11:08 am

Well done Steve Cummings! Good to see a relatively unheralded British rider get some wins, especially one who’s decided to make a break with Team Sky and go on his own.

GluteCramp February 17, 2014 at 11:22 am

Best innovation was the limited coverage of the inside of team cars during the classics a couple of years ago. Delayed snippets of radio broadcasts (a la F1) might be a more workable solution – less to monitor logistically than 20+ additional video feeds.
SRM data for all riders would be interesting but not sure what real value would be. Because everything is so relative in cycling and subjective to environment as well as the terrain, it’s really hard to lock down information that would be meaningful from event to event, or even stage to stage.

AJW February 18, 2014 at 1:26 am

They’ve also had some great footage in the alpine skiing where they’ve laid the runs of the top two skiers on top of each other so you can compare the times and the lines they’ve taken around gates etc to see where they’ve each gained/lost time. This kind of thing would be fantastic for short time trials (time differences might be a bit big on long ones).

Jeff Werner February 18, 2014 at 1:36 am

Or what I would consider the pinnacle (and most expensive) of sport broadcast production and progression, last year’s Americas Cup, with live GPS tracking, on-board crew mics, ocean and wind current overlays and various other logistics made tangible for both the laymen and expert viewer:
http://www.wired.com/playbook/2012/08/ff_americascup_ellison/all/

I think the hurdle to be jumped in covering road cycling with drones and other new tech is the distance and relatively uncontrolled environments of a road race, compared to the much more defined, managed and small area’s covered by say, a Formula One track, a ski run, or a cyclocross course. Just how much run-time, distance, and wind conditions can drones handle these days?

The Inner Ring February 18, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Some good onboard footage. FFWD to 3mins and watch the rider in yellow ride by on the inside at full speed.

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