Velon’s Corporate Update

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Launched with a bold “game changer” headline and a series of co-ordinated press releases, tweets and pre-arranged interviews Velon have announced something. Quite what this means for cycling fans isn’t clear despite the extensive coverage today.

Corporate Jargon Bingo
The news release is full of corporate jargon. For a group that wants to appeal to passionate sports fans the language reads like a faceless corporation’s annual report. They’re “embarking on a project to create the ideal platform” and we get hyperbole like “game-changing” and “revolutionary”. This website has enuogh typos to know that critiquing someone else’s writing is risky ground but the point is that for all the fanfare today there’s very little to go on.

If anything this corporate tone tells us what it is: the inking of an industry insider deal. For example, and let’s make one up, Singapore Airlines does a deal with IBM to manage their bookings systems: the news excites the two parties and some people who work in airlines and IT but for everyone else it’s just, well, people doing business. Velon said from the start it wanted to earn income by selling on-bike video and now they’ve signed a deal with a sports marketing agency who are going to help make this happen. It’d be more of a story if this wasn’t happening.

What’s next?
For all the hype and excitement by the teams there’s little for the fan to drool over. But there is plenty to explore. What we know for sure is that Velon and Infront have a “partnership” and it’s for 10 years but what this means is not clear. Will Velon pay Infront like they’re agents, for example getting a cut of any deals that Infront arranges and sells? Or is this partnership as in a joint venture, a pooling of risk and profits.

Watts App
There’s more to this than on-bike cameras. Infront will help Velon with the technology so that rider data, such as speed, power and heart rate can be beamed from a bike to you, probably via a TV production truck or maybe a smartphone app. It’s not just data telemetry there’s also the possibility of sound too so you can hear what’s in a bunch and all of this could be live as well (there could be geo-location too but with 11 teams in Velon it means half the bunch could be located and the other half is missing). If the technical issues can be resolved in time look out for a trial in the Tour de Suisse in June as the race is run by Infront-Ringier, a joint venture with Infront and Ringier, a Swiss media group.

Nice extra or game changer?
Bundle it together it makes for a package and Velon can approach race organisers and broadcasters and say “buy this from us to add to your coverage”. But for how much? More and more cyclists are using powermeters as technology and competition makes them cheaper but using it as a training tool is one thing, it’s another to watch data on TV. Spreadsheets can be useful but not many pay to see others using them. Indeed given many cyclists struggle to understand their own wattages and most don’t bother then the wider public watching is going to be confused so it’s likely this flow of data comes to your phone or tablet while you watch the race on TV.

If there was an app to see how many watts a rider was producing how much would you pay for it? It could be fun but when Tom Boonen storms up the Taaienberg I’m interested in knowing who is on his wheel and who is being dropped rather than the precise speed or power output. It’s a cute fact to know how many watts you’d need to match Tommeke but watching cycling on TV is all about the relative, not the absolute: it’s about the fight, not the speed. Velon could use the onboard cameras so we can see who is being dropped but at the moment the images are low-fi.

If it cost 10 Euros a year then the Velon teams would need to find a million paying fans to collect €1 million per team gross. Nice but not game changing for teams dependent on naming rights sponsorship. Maybe they don’t charge and just use it as a marketing tool for tech sponsors but that’s not a big ticket deal.

Infront will bring negotiating skills and marketing flair for other Velon initiatives such as supplying star riders to races who are willing to pay, for example the deal with RCS and the Abu Dhabi Tour. This brings us to the conflict between teams and riders and who owns the rights; something the “Velon addendum” seems to have tried to address.

Yes, but how many watts?

Infront?
Infront is a Swiss sports marketing agency. is run by Philippe Blatter, who is Sepp Blatter’s nephew and many seem delighted to point this out, as if there’s a “corruption gene”. Foruntately nobody’s discovered this and whether FIFA took steps to review the conflict of interest in awarding a TV rights contract to the Chairman’s nephew matters to football but there’s no chance of nepotism in today’s news. In the sports world Infront instead don’t have a reputation as crooks, they’re a strong sports marketing agency. Rather than trousering brown envelopes the fear is that they’ll sell to the highest bidder. In this sense it’s a bit like Manchester United cheering the sale of Premiership TV rights to Sky, a great deal for many but costly for viewers.

Bigger pictures
What if the real story was not one of low-fi on bike cameras but the ongoing battle for control in the sport? The UCI and ASO’s differences are unresolved, largely because ASO feels the UCI has been captured by Velon. Infront is due to be rebranded as Wanda Sports after it was acquired last November by Wanda, the Chinese real estate company owned by Wang Jianlin that’s now branching out into sports. As well as allying with growing sports agency, Velon is now linked to Wanda. This brings us to the wider point where the Velon teams haven’t just signed a deal with a marketing agency to help them develop and market telemetry, they’ve also got China’s wealthiest man onside. Infront’s Stephan Herth says “cycling is a key sport in Infront’s long-term strategy and also an important pillar of the wider Wanda Sports Holding business”. In the past the teams have been caught between the UCI and ASO but with the UCI looking weak Velon can move into the space, indeed part of ASO’s contention is that the UCI has been too pro-Velon already. But in an interview with cyclingnews.com Velon CEO says they’re still in talks with ASO.

Conclusion
We’re closer to having on-bike cameras, data and sound in more races. Velon has appointed Infront to help make it happen with a long 10 year partnership deal. But that’s it for now. After the carefully co-ordinated media release this is just news of a deal to start doing something together: a marriage rather than a birth. No deal with a race or broadcaster has been done yet, nobody’s opening a pipeline of cash to teams. We’d be dancing in the streets – and opening wallets – if they’d launched an app that livestreamed every race that mattered but Velon and Infront seem to be offering an additional service and not a replacement and besides it’s 11 teams, not all. Live data could be interesting, especially if it’s second screen but how much is it worth?

Very much like the creation of Velon itself this is a story worth watching as teams group together in order to lobby with a shared agenda and find new ways to earn income, all with a measure of political intrigue. So far it’s been a slow story with a small deals. They say it’s “game-changing” and maybe it is but we’ll have to wait and see what comes next for the proof.

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Andrew from New England February 23, 2016 at 11:15 pm

A lot of inside baseball here (to use a US phrase). But I suppose it is a good thing for the viewer to have “options.” I, for one, simply would at least like to be able to see the races as broadcast in Europe – if there are added gizmos and coverage “from inside and on the bikes in the race,” all for the good.

My next, and perhaps more relevant question is – will the riders get anything out of this? I hope so. And will this make cycling a more viable sport in the long run?

Larry T. February 24, 2016 at 8:27 am

Agreed. One would think simply getting their “product” (bike racing) on TV world-wide would be a better start. I wonder who actually owns the video, audio and other data collected during the TdF? I would think ASO could claim ownership and control the rights to this? So what would the Velons be selling..and to whom? The other question is the equipment/telemetry on the bicycles – if the industry succeeds in getting the minimum weight reduced or eliminated who is going to carry the extra weight of this equipment around? At present I’d guess the extra weight = the ballast added to get up to 6.8 kg? All this seems like a pipe dream to me, same as the wacky idea of taking over the Giro and putting it on in July so teams can boycott the big, bad ASO and their Grand Boucle. I’m not much of a fan of the marketing-mavens at RCS these days, but I hope like hell they’re smarter than to let their events be taken over by the likes of Velon!!

MultiplexRant February 23, 2016 at 11:23 pm

Nice typo meta-gag.

DMC February 23, 2016 at 11:36 pm

Sepp Blatter’s nephew still irks me about this deal. Many TV deals from FIFA have gone through Infront, and while there’s no evidence, rumours or anything regarding shady deals, I don’t trust the guy.

Agreed with Inrng, that this deal was a lot of publicity for not a whole lot of substance.

Also, does anyone really believe that the GC riders will give up their power numbers? I seriously doubt that.

BigSigh February 24, 2016 at 12:02 am

Inrng, your writing is superb – any typos are easily forgiven in exchange for the fantastic insight you bring to your readers. So please feel free to criticise bland corporate nonsense telling us little, I don’t think many here would take issue with you for it.

As far as I can tell, Velon seems to be all fur coat and no knickers.

Anonymous February 24, 2016 at 12:18 am

I would never give Velon willingly any money (I am sure in some way I probably am already doing it without knowing it). If they would own/sell the rights to races, I would stop watching. But I doubt they want to broadcast races, that is far too expensive and dangerous. Indeed I think they want cycling to be something like the entertainment program, like cheerleaders in the halftime break of a basketball game, something around which they can build and sell various services and packages to people with real money. The ordinary fan is not what they are after and what they care for, they already stated, that the “Fans” won’t have to pay for their services, but will get them for free (sure!). It is about businessdeals and about manouvering themselves in the position to be able to shape the rules in the coming years the way they want it. ASO is in their way, as would be the UCI in the future with a new, powerful president. So now they took more firepower on board. Surely no good news for people who care about cycling and for sure no good news for the majority of the riders.

Chris Campbell February 24, 2016 at 12:39 am

“I’m not a cycling fan, but if I could see a load of data I don’t really understand and close-ups of riders’ backsides during races I’d definitely tune in.” – no one ever.

Velon wants to attract new fans, but all it’s offering is the geeky nonsense that only appeals to a subsection of cycling’s current audience. Let’s call it what it is: deluded marketing twaddle, dreamt up by the terminally unimaginative.

Jason February 24, 2016 at 1:35 am

This comment is spot on. A casual observer isn’t going to become a cycling fan due to rider power data or heart rate figures displayed on-screen, there has to be something exciting to grab their long-term attention. Some of the on-bike footage is interesting, but narrow viewing angles and bouncing cameras get old quickly. My girlfriend, who politely feigns a passing interest in professional road racing, nearly got motion sickness from the few times on-bike footage has been available.

I look for ASO to create their own calendar.

Pete February 24, 2016 at 7:15 am

Chris is spot-on. Velon’s business model is empty “blue sky” with no proven (or sustainable) market base.
For me, UCI’s Cook is better than the old “crook”, but ASO “knows the show” better than anyone.

Gian February 24, 2016 at 4:12 pm

I completely agree with Chris as well. Sky rolled out multiple camera angles, player cams and I think live data for their Premier League coverage and of the many people I know who watch the coverage no one bothered with it and stuck with the standard option. If any of my non-cycling mates turned on some coverage with live data on the screen they’d make some joke about it being slow F1 ad turn it off.

DMC February 24, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Completely correct. No potential fans want to see watts/kg on the screen… and I can’t imagine the riders will really want to disclose that info either.

Ronin February 24, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Probably incorrect. Speed data will certainly interest causal fans. Heart rate could as well, if it’s done right. And, frankly, live, on board video should prove thrilling for anyone. We’re not talking about boring causal fans with an hour from a rider’s front camera while the peloton cruises along during a lazy TdF stage. Ultimately we’re talking about the ability to *switch* to onboard cameras during descents, from the break, when the peloton is lined out, when attacks go off, during sprints, etc., together with ambient sound capturing the yells, shouts, commands, swearing inside peloton, together with radio chatter from cars.

Why on earth you think this wouldn’t be more appealing to causal fans than motorcycle shots and the endless blather of commentators is baffling. “Deluded marketing twaddle”? What? We watch sports very, very differently, that’s for sure.

J Evans February 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Speed we often see already – especially as they can just film the motorbike’s speedo – and once you know what speeds they go at, I can’t see much interest; heart rate, watts and other such things are gimmicks that would prove uninteresting very quickly – that’s just going to be meaningless data clogging up a screen. How many times will you see what Sagan’s HR is before you’re no longer interested?
Onboard cameras, I’m partly with you on. But it would have to be only occasional, so you didn’t lose sight of the bigger picture of the race. Crucially, though, I wouldn’t trust a TV director to know when was a good time to go to an onboard shot (they miss enough action as it is).

CHRW February 25, 2016 at 9:12 am

JE – Some from your above, can we take that you don’t really think TV coverage needs improvement. Obliviously you aren’t keen on the options you’ve mentioned above, but are there any innovations in race broadcasting you would be interested in seeing?

As a new (ish) comer to pro-cycling, for me nothing says ‘amateur hour’ like shaky handicam shots of the speedo – especially in the rain where the cameraman/ driver frantically tries to wipe the screen / speedo clean whilst not crashing his half a ton piece of kit into a cyclist.

J Evans February 25, 2016 at 10:28 am

If they want to show speeds, that’s fine – it’s just where will it end: will we end up with a screen covered in a blitzkrieg of numbers? Also, all these stats very quickly become same-y.
I don’t think many innovations are necessary – why distract from the racing? The occasional on-bike footage would be alright, but it’s not that exciting – maybe a descent would be.
The main innovation I would like to see is a better way of knowing who the riders are in a break, distances between riders, etc. It’s not that common a problem, but sometimes riders go away and you/the commentators are struggling to see who they are.
This demand for innovation seems to be largely based on the idea that the sport will become much more popular – and people will make much more money – if only the poor casual fan wasn’t so bored and perplexed by bike racing. The casual fan isn’t perplexed – it isn’t that complicated – and technology won’t make it any less confusing. The casual fan might be bored – and will switch off. Again, a load of numbers isn’t going to change that.
Cycling just isn’t that popular: the money-grabbers need to accept that. It’s not a problem.

Larry T. February 25, 2016 at 10:24 am

I’m kind of with you on this one JE. Back when I paid attention to MOTOGP it drove me nuts when the producer (or whoever decides what video you’re going to see) would spend way-too-much time with on-board stuff. Meanwhile you can’t tell what’s going on in the rest of the race!! Same with F1. I don’t want or need to try to “see what it’s like” especially at the cost of seeing the race unfold. Used sparingly, on-board stuff is fine….too much and it becomes like a video game. Same with any telemetry from the rider – speed, HR, etc. Too often it’s (again) just because we can, we MUST when it comes to these technologies, as the expense of seeing the actual race action. Not enough folks watching on TV? First, why not make sure those who ARE interested can watch no matter where they are in the world. Next work to make them believe the guy atop the podium at the end got there honestly and they’re not going to read about him being caught cheating a year later, when they can’t even remember who the 2nd place guy was.

J Evans March 4, 2016 at 9:56 pm

As can be seen in tonight’s World Championship Track Points race, TV directors cannot be trusted with on-board cameras. So obsessed with their new gadget that they keep missing crucial parts of the race. Almost every time there are 3 or 4 laps to go until the sprint, we’re on-board, not seeing the build-up to how the sprint is forming. And that’s exactly the sort of thing that would happen in road races.

J Evans February 24, 2016 at 12:53 am

Evidently, the real story here is the Velon teams trying to take control of cycling.
The UCI in its desperation to fight against ASO has sided with Velon, a mistake that will result in the UCI becoming even more powerless – if it continues to exist (look what happened in other sports).
For now, nothing much is happening, but Velon has a long-term, very wealthy ally. It would be naive to believe that either of these parties’ interests stop at this: there is no way that this deal is about something as small potatoes as what has been mentioned here.
(As for this gimmickry, race organisers and broadcasters should say no: not a good idea to fund these groups, limited public interest and I’d have thought that the data belonged to the riders (or it should), who will no doubt be offered nothing.)
Rich businessmen cannot be trusted to run cycling and neither can the teams (see Katusha’s shock exit from MPCC). Neither have the sport’s best interest at heart.
Viewers will end up paying for this, both metaphorically (as traditional races lose out to races with poorer parcours, but more cash to pay) and literally (I for one wouldn’t be dancing in the streets at a livestream app – at the moment, cycling is affordable to watch).
Some will see this as doom-mongering, but what other motives does this incredibly rich man have? (People don’t become rich by not going after the money.) And what motives do the teams have?
ASO only have their own interests at heart, but that’s been true for the hundred years that they have protected the races – the most important thing.
The UCI is selling us down the river by allying themselves to groups whose only motive is money.

ave February 24, 2016 at 1:32 am

In the time of internet, there is no way that the most interesting footage will not leak to the free net.
And for the rest, on bike footage is pretty worthless.
And agree about that Boonen attack. While watching a classic live there is no way I’ll check a second screen for pointless data, when the action is on the big screen.
Strava is good enough for me to dwell on data after the races.

hoh February 24, 2016 at 2:20 am

Sure, Wang Jianlin’s purchase of Infront was part of the bidding war for original sport content in Chinese Media Market. Chinese online video platforms had bided exclusive board-casting rights of hot contents such as NBA and major European football leagues through the roof.

These companies are Chinese versions of Youtube. It is an oligopoly in the Chinese online Video market, with 5 or 6 major players. Quite different from the Monopoly of Youtube in the west. As a result, these websites need free exclusive contents to attract user visits. Wang Jianlin does not have an online video platform. Instead, he is trying to rip the benefit of this mutually destructive money burning exercise by going upstream and become a seller of original sport content.

Arguably, cycling is a side product of purchasing Infront, and Wanda was after Infront’s football assets. Despite from having the largest cycling population (more out of necessity) in the world, cycling is not a hot sport in China and it doesn’t attract nearly as much audience as football. However, there’s more to provide content to TV screen/computer screen in Chinese homes in Wanda’s Infront purchase. A lot of Wanda’s real estate assets are tourism related and they are moving into pure tourism as well. The purchase of sport media content by Wanda Sport is also very much about generating interests for their sport related tourism activities. Wanda Sport purchased TV rights as well as the rights to hold World Cups for a few winter sports (noticeably skiing). And the World Cups would be held in Wanda’s Ski resorts. Wang Jianlin admitted himself in an interview that he expected a sharp increase in visitor numbers of his ski resorts after holding World Cups there.

In the same interview, he also said that whenever he purchases rights to hold major professional sport events, he’d also try promoting mass start events of the sport in China. Of course, there are political concerns here. Chinese Government is shifting the emphasise of their sport policy from winning Olympic medals to promote mass participation and hence improving health standards. But it also makes business sense, as whatever business the Chinese government is pouring resources into, it would boom. Besides all that, Wang Jianlin considers the future of sports (and main revenue of sport) in mass participating rather than pro-events. He purchased the Iron man co-operation because Iron man is a middle class sport. He expect big take up of the sport by the ever more health conscious Chinese Middle class.

Now come back to cycling. Sure, cycling does not attract many TV audience (It is pretty much the same situation everywhere else except in France. But then ASO can’t charge for TV rights there). Cycling tourism however is booming (though mostly on Mountain Bikes rode on perfect tarmac). And Wanda’s motivation in partnership with Velon is very much about promoting cycle tourism in China.

Now how does that motivation compares to other rich people in cycling? Sure Wang jianlin did not do it because he loves the sport and I suppose that makes him less “innocent” in his dealing. On the other hand, Wang’s meddling with Velon would probably eventually introduce cycling as a sport to the bicycle Kingdom. The effect of that introduction is yet to see, but the Velon & Wanda Sport partnership would introduce the sport to a large and untapped audience (who mostly cycle out of necessity). It would also shift emphasise of Velon from Elite sport to mass participation, which can’t be a bad thing in itself.

Larry T. February 24, 2016 at 8:32 am

Great! Tell these folks CycleItalia’s for sale for say, a couple of $million 🙂

Thesteve4761 February 25, 2016 at 5:40 am

Better brush up on your Mandarin and Cantonese!

J Evans February 24, 2016 at 11:09 am

Excellent information about Wang, thanks.

I still have no trust in Velon: that’s just the teams trying to run things for their own aims (hence they want five year licences without relegation).

Alan T March 2, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Thank you hoh. This kind of info is the reason I still read the comments on this site 🙂

RooBay February 24, 2016 at 4:12 am

Why all of the Velon bashing? You don’t have to pay them anything if you don’t want to (notwithstanding the fact that you presently can’t). If broadcasters agree a side deal to incorporate their footage or data then so be it. Why all the dismissiveness?

People are losing sight of the fact that these are the first furtive steps of the teams coming together in a cohesive manner to start to build a business model from the ground-up so as to rebalance the revenue pie. Velon are not championing on-bike footage as the solution to everyone’s problems or as a river of revenue gold. It isn’t the final destination. There is a long game at play here in the teams finding a way through and around what is an omnipresent force (ASO). That pathway is not clear at the moment.

Would be good to hear some bright ideas from all of the Velon critics as to how to solve cycling’s revenue misalignment given the current headwinds.

Larry T. February 24, 2016 at 8:43 am

“Would be good to hear some bright ideas from all of the Velon critics as to how to solve cycling’s revenue misalignment given the current headwinds”. Hasn’t that pretty much ALWAYS been the case? First, I think you have to understand the big corporate involvement was mostly a result of the LeMond/BigTex effect and when that ended so did the big money. UCI’s globalization folly got going during that period when dreams of riches danced in Heinie’s head. His dream was the UCI becoming FIFA. The real result was increased costs for top-tier teams with marginal benefit. Next came the BigTex fall from grace and the rest of the doping scandals with the world-wide economic crisis making things worse for pro cycling. Which brings us up to the present – the sport coming back a bit in the eyes of the public, demonstrated by German TV’s renewed interest but still feeling the effects of the economic crisis. The sport can’t do much about that, but they can do a better job of managing the doping scandals (the murky dealings with Katusha this year and Astana last year) and work on making fielding a top-tier team cost less instead of more.
Fighting with ASO (not my favorite folks but seemingly the only adults in the room here) over control of the sport isn’t going to fix much. These greedy folks need to find some other sport to meddle in.

The Inner Ring February 24, 2016 at 9:19 am

I agree it’s worth watching but the danger is they’ve overselling something. Yesterday’s talk of “game changing” contains nothing for cycling fans to get excited about yet so people see the news releases and the riders being forced to tweet celebrations only there’s nothing to see, just two companies agreeing a partnership.

There needs to be more around this. Jonathan Vaughters has talked of a salary cap and tried to convince the UCI on this otherwise any new money into the teams just ends up as wage inflation. Think of it as a big jigsaw puzzle where a lot of pieces need to fit together.

Larry T. February 24, 2016 at 11:03 am

Game-changing? Like Wiggins claims about Pinarello’s bike with the elastomer rear end for Paris-Roubaix? All this marketing-maven blathering gives me a headache. I wish they’d find another sport to mess with and leave pro cycling alone.

J Evans February 24, 2016 at 11:24 am

The media are complicit – at least in the UK – with this kind of thing. Carlton Kirby went on and on about that thing like it was a revolution in cycling, rather than it being a slightly more absorbing surface for your arse to sit on.
Same happened with Wiggins’s elliptical chain rings and that TT bike that apparently had borderline magical powers (they were wittering on that it would make up to a 10% difference or some such).
If something was that good, everyone would use it.

noel February 24, 2016 at 11:53 am

Wiggins will chuckle about ‘Wiggins’ claims…’ as he was obviously being heavily sarcastic when he repeated that game changing line…

Larry T. February 24, 2016 at 1:11 pm

I missed the sarcasm part – is there a video where it’s obvious? I chalked it up to the usual sponsor hype – you know, the bit about how this year’s bike is the best thing ever, much better than the previous one – the same crap they say every season. Wiggo aboard a motorcycle would be a game-changer, otherwise it’s just another overpriced, over-hyped bicycle.

J Evans February 24, 2016 at 11:20 am

A salary cap is the best way to create stability and more equal teams. No idea of the legalities, but it would be a great idea.
Velon are looking to control cycling to create that stability for them – something along the lines of a franchise system where their existence is guaranteed.
Velon – and many others – are also convinced that there is big money to make from cycling, but the public interest just isn’t there. As Larry says above, aside from a brief US hype, it never has been.
What the UCI need to do is accept that it’s just not that popular a sport – which is fine; neither is squash – and work on making it the best sport it can be, whilst facilitating more stability for teams.
Stop chasing money. The UCI does not exist to make money.
Also, stop fighting with ASO. They have the biggest races, that gives them some power. It also gives them most of the money. Deal with it. They’ve put in decades of effort to get where they are, so fair enough.

Nick February 24, 2016 at 12:24 pm

A salary cap is the best way to transfer the product of labour from those doing the work to the team owners. Not a fan.

Not too bothered about this, though. If Velon can find a way of making more revenue from cycling (and Infront are fairly good at that sort of thing), without destroying the existing good things about it, then good luck to them. I’m not entirely convinced that this will be too beneficial during live footage – except perhaps to confirm the ID of those in breaks, or to indicate the speed which different groups are doing, so you can tell if a catch is likely. But it might be interesting in the highlights/analysis programme – “Aru/Nibali/Froome looked comfortable here, but his HR had just spiked so he was obviously struggling to keep up and that’s why Nibali/Froome/Aru dropped him”.

J Evans February 24, 2016 at 1:17 pm

But if teams are not allowed to make a profit – as Woodrow says below (I’ve no idea) – then a salary cap should mean more equality as teams’ spending on wages is limited. (It would have to be an overall budget limit – not individual salaries.) And it would be more stable.

DMC February 24, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Agreed – this is just part of a big attempt to reallign revenue sharing from the current scenario. But, it’ll take a larger catalyst to make a significant change.

This is going to be a chess match, and Velon/Infront have many potential moves left before they have something to shout about. Should’ve saved the fanfare and champagne!!

Eskerrik Asko February 24, 2016 at 7:07 am

Since more than ten years “partnerships” between Polar and the sport’s governing bodes (FIS, IBU) has given fans of crosscountry skiing and biathlon an ability to view (as part of the television broadcast) the heart rate figures of selected athletes during the race. At first it was an interesting novelty, but quite soon it becane apparent that the number very rarely told the viewer anything that couldn’t be easily observed without it or that a commentator wouldn’t have to interpret for the less experienced viewers (who could not be expected to be familiar with the various athletes different HR zones). The Polar Telemetry System is still there to give the information, commentators sometimes refer to it, but it is rarely displayed on the screen, there simply doesn’t seem to be much interest.

My point is that I don’t think wattage or even W/kg fiugres would be any different. Besides, there are far more important things to use the existing technology for – as long as the television coverage habitually leaves the viewers in the dark of which riders are in a break or in various groups when the peloton is split or of the time gaps between race favorites or GC contenders!

Eskerrik Asko February 24, 2016 at 7:22 am

Spellchecker: Tommeke, not Tomekke. (Although I wonder whether there would be any difference in a Dutchman’s pronounciation.)

Tovarishch February 24, 2016 at 8:50 am

This looks a lot like a Bernie Ecclestone model to me. The plan would be to buy the TV rights from the race organisers (or do it themselves) overlay the real-time data and sell the combined package onto the broadcasters. The result will be lots of meaningless graphics, time spent dwelling on the riders fighting for 20th place (who ride fro a Velon member) and completely missing all the exciting action. It has done wonders for Bernie’s pocket but nothing for F1 or the spectators.

(I wonder if there will be a move to make the motors louder ;-))

DJW February 24, 2016 at 9:01 am

I was waiting for your intelligent analysis of this story. Now I have it though the project still seems thin. Maybe Velon just felt the need to announce progress whether real or not.

Velon is criticised but a way to more stable funding is required. To take one decent team (Greenedge): it seems a second sponsor can’t be found while ORICA, who had good years from the Australian mining boom, will have a lot less free cash for sponsorship now. Do we want to depend on rich fans and state lotteries?

BenW February 24, 2016 at 11:36 am

“Maybe Velon just felt the need to announce progress whether real or not.”

Indeed. A mate of mine calls this “visible progress” – a big job finished is more impressive to a boss than loads of little ones as it makes you look busier, even if you’re actually not. Velon seemingly haven’t done much recently, so they make a big song and dance about something to make it look like they’re going somewhere.

MattF February 24, 2016 at 9:02 am

Thanks for wading through the meaningless corporate jargon inrng. Not surprisingly it reveals little of substance. Similarly, OGE’s announcement that they will withdraw from the MPCC reveals little else other than cynicism and a healthy dose of vacuous management speak.

DJW February 24, 2016 at 9:22 am

Two withdrawals from MPCC on the same day. For Katusha we know why, for OGE I hope there is no sequel which will explain. Another subject for inrng?

The Inner Ring February 24, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Yes, will cover it this lunchtime.

Megi February 24, 2016 at 9:09 am

Sometimes figures can tell the viewer more than the commentator. Take for instance in the recent Ruta del Sol, when the peloton was chasing on a split TV screen and Carlton Kirby was confidently predicting the breakaway would stay away. They hadn’t a hope if you noticed the helpful kph figures below each half-screen showing the peloton was doing a good 4kph more than the breakaway, and did indeed catch them well before the finish.

Graham February 24, 2016 at 9:12 am

“enuogh typos”

Subtle, like it

EwenM February 24, 2016 at 9:18 am

For me the biggest improvement needed in coverage is easy identification of riders. Maybe Velon could offer an augmented reality view with riders tagged by their names displayed over the live action. Of course, it needs to be for the whole peloton, not just a subset of the teams.

HR data might be interesting on a big alpine climb. Who’s working really hard, who’s staying comfortable, but I doubt the riders or teams want that available live to their competitors.

Other than that, I’m not sure of the value of live stats or on-bike footage. That stuff is more useful and interesting in a post-race highlights and analysis package. Maybe there’s an opportunity there for Velon to sell a pre-packaged 30-60min highlights show featuring the usual view plus on-bike footage and data analysis from key moments. They’d need to be quick off the mark in production as it would have to be available the same day as the race. Maybe someone like ITV would buy in the extra stats to allow their analysts to add extra interest to the daily highlights package rather than Velon doing the whole show.

The Inner Ring February 24, 2016 at 12:28 pm

As said above we need geo-location to help know where the riders are but Velon can only play a part in this given half the peloton doesn’t belong to the group.

Tintinbike February 24, 2016 at 9:11 pm

Agree, I work in mapping and data. It’s not technically that hard to geo-locate things and relate them along a fixed route. I assume at the moment they rely on verbal reports and telemetry from camera bikes to provide the gaps.
With some decent 3-d data and telemetry on each bike you could have better info and graphics. Zoom in show how far up the climb different riders are, speeds etc.

That said, combibed with radios it might turn into ‘Pro-cycling Manager’…

To be honest apart from livening up TTs I quite like the slightly ‘foggy’ view we get at the moment.

DMC February 24, 2016 at 9:59 pm

Agreed – I’d much rather watch the bike racing with the scenery of the course than have the screen jumbled with graphics, or having screen shots with “Pro-cycling manager”-like views. Races with the forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, etc. provides the visual backdrop that fans want to see.

What do non-cycling fans say is the problem with the current cycling viewer experience?

Tintinbike February 24, 2016 at 10:41 pm

My wife and kids will wear a 30 minutes highlights show with good scenery and some anecdotes but the hour long highlights we now luckily get in UK are really only suitable for fans.

Straw poll amongst colleagues who are not ‘fans’ they actually watch less now we have a whole hour of highlights.

Not a problem just anecdotal evidence.

Personally I would like easier to access to coverage of more races and given the time constraints I have, then highlights would be great – but making highlights costs more money.

J Evans February 24, 2016 at 11:12 pm

Eurosport online has most big races for £5 a month – and they usually have highlights (often just the last hour of the race rather than an actual highlights package). Don’t know what the prices are in other countiries.

Sam February 24, 2016 at 9:57 am

Quite happy to see how this pans out

If ANYTHING can be done to make teams finances more stable, and/or improve the race viewing experience (which has hardly moved on in years), I’ll be content enough

Woodrow February 24, 2016 at 10:12 am

Why do team finances seem unstable at present? There are many professional teams at all tiers and the top riders make millions. The current UCI rules mean teams can’t make a profit so all money goes on wages, staff, equipment, etc. I’m not sure how more money will lead to anything other than wage inflation.

Velon are not needed but uci should increase minimum wages for riders and extend license periods for WT other than that,what needs to change?

Larry T. February 24, 2016 at 11:14 am

Good points! To me the problem seems to be the idea that team ownership should be a money-making opportunity. Guys like Vaughters see the fat-cats owning NFL teams and wonder why that model can’t be replicated with pro cycling. As you point out, the UCI rules prohibit the making of a profit so the Velons have to destroy the UCI to reach their goal. ASO meanwhile are the only adults in the room it seems, though RCS could go either way? If all these people could quit dreaming of riches and fighting over control, they might get serious about cleaning up the sport so sponsors would happily come back. The current post BigTex situation (+ world economic crisis) might be as temporary as the big-money LeMond/BigTex era was if they’d handle the cheats in a more timely and consistent manner. Then all the folks who look to pro cycling simply as a money-making enterprise can find something else to do.

Sam February 24, 2016 at 12:15 pm

As I say, happy to see what does result from this, including anything that means that teams are at the mercy of short term sponsorism. See Bernadeau’s regular frenzy to pull a cat out of the bag and keep the team going. See Belkin picking up ex-Rabobank cheap for not even 18 months worth of exposure but during which Rabobank were still contracted to meet the costs., and then ditching the team as soon as the Rabo commitment was at an end. Plenty of examples. And there will continue to be.

The Inner Ring February 24, 2016 at 12:23 pm

The big brake all this is doping, it’s a big deterrent to sponsors and the sport needs years to prove it’s a “safe” investment for corporate sponsorship.

I understand Belkin left because they soon realised the sport reaches a few parts of Europe and not much more
http://inrng.com/2014/06/pro-cycling-sponsorship/

J Evans February 24, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Some stability would be advantageous, but this idea of instability has largely been propagated by Velon in order to justify their aims.
Euskaltel-Euskadi went to the wall (but wasn’t that – as with Colombia – because of governmental sponsorship being pulled?), but other WT teams have continually found new sponsors.
Velon’s ideas would not produce more stability: more money coming in would only be spent on wages, due to increased competition. They would also prevent new teams from becoming WT teams – as IAM and Dimension Data have done recently.
Overall, there are not more teams going bust than there are new teams coming in: it might not be as stable as the teams would like, but cycling is not greatly suffering. Having the teams running cycling will only benefit those particular teams.
The Velon teams are motivated by their own self-interest – obviously – but some seem to have fallen for their schtick that they are fighting the good fight against the evil ASO.
As Inner Ring says, the doping stigma is what deters sponsors (if you had a company would you sponsor a cycling team?) – that’s what the UCI needs to focus on, not siding with absolutely anyone in a pointless struggle against ASO.

Anonymous February 24, 2016 at 10:04 am

I hope there will be an option NOT to have all this crap while watching a race. No VELON you won’t make a dime from me!

Woodrow February 24, 2016 at 10:07 am

Worth noting that the press release makes it clear that individual rider data will not be available, so you won’t be able to see Tom boonen’s watts. Presume this comes from the Team Sky school of thought that armchair analysts will (possibly correctly) be alarmed by some of the numbers. Quote follows:

“This data will be aggregated, interpreted and made available to race organisers for their broadcasters for use in the race coverage. Data will be handled sensitively so as to respect rider privacy rights and will use filters to ensure that live usage does not deliver a competitive advantage or disadvantage during a race.his data will be aggregated, interpreted and made available to race organisers for their broadcasters for use in the race coverage. Data will be handled sensitively so as to respect rider privacy rights and will use filters to ensure that live usage does not deliver a competitive advantage or disadvantage during a race.”

Nick February 24, 2016 at 12:28 pm

I suspect Sky (and others) are more concerned about the driving seat analysts, who would love to know how close each of their rivals are to their breaking point at any given time.

Woodrow February 24, 2016 at 7:06 pm

I’m not sure really how you go about using live watt or hr data for advantage within a race.

A – using a single number is simplistic as it will vary from day to day based on fatigue, the parcours, race conditions (breakaways, impact of team mates, weather, etc.

B – if I’m wrong on the above, the teams have their own SRMs from which they can infer the above information for riders who aren’t theirs. They can already estimate the watt/kg at which Nibali may crack after y km at x% gradient.

Christopher N February 24, 2016 at 4:21 pm

This is what really struck me yesterday. If all this nonsense needs to be “aggregated” and “interpreted” with proper sensitivity to rider privacy rights, how on earth will it be processed to be broadcast at any point during the race? Personally, I hope never. I couldn’t care less for this data overload. I need to know better who is where, how far we have to go and what the time gaps are. That’s it.

Bill Hostile February 24, 2016 at 11:26 am

I’m awaiting a press release from Velon, Infront or AN Other stating they’re funding Cosmo Catalano’s How The Race Was Won, which will be made available a day or two after every major one day and week long stage race, and a 20 minute weekly round-up during the GTs. A proper and readily available broadcast of Tro Bro Leon would also be included in that package. I would sign up to this.

noel February 24, 2016 at 12:02 pm

+1
A properly funded HTRWW released in good time after a race would be worth so much more to so many people than knowing how many w/kg the 25th bloke in the peleton was pumping out at a given moment. Combined with a bit of on-bike footage from the middle of the pack, Cosmo could really dig out the interesting tactical stuff. I would love a 30 minute highlight show post race.

RooBay February 25, 2016 at 1:11 am

An available broadcast of TRO BRO LEON. Now your talking!!!!!! That race needs some attention. I’d much rather be watching that than Amstel. All of the Flanders/Roubaix riders should be encouraged to carry on and ride it to make it something.

Elliot February 25, 2016 at 2:02 pm

+2 on HTRWW (or something similar). And following from what Tintinbike said above, a lot of people (bike fans or not) don’t have all day to watch bike racing (pesky mortgages to pay etc), so a compact but insightful analysis of the race would be amazing. Also, I’m a keen but still casual pro-cycling fan, and even if I could watch the whole of a race would probably still miss interesting tactical points, so would appreciate someone more knowledgable pointing them out to me, which rarely happens in cycling coverage (Boulting and Millar on ITV are probably the only exception I can personally think of).

If a broadcaster offered regular 30-60min programmes of highlights and proper (HTRWW quality, if not style) analysis for major races, I would definitely be willing to give them some of my money. And I’m pretty sure I could watch that sort of programme with wife and friends who weren’t that bothered about cycling, but would still be seeing the sponsors names on the jerseys, and just might get hooked.

Tintinbike February 26, 2016 at 8:23 am

+1

Papparazziful February 24, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for wading through the corporate jargon inrng. Some interesting comments above too.
Who knows how this will pan-out? But the name Blatter rings alarm bells for me.
Existing TV coverage still leaves a lot to be desired for the armchair fan before we talk about on-screen data. The lack of accurate time gaps and names in breakaways in most races is lamentable.

The Inner Ring February 24, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Do you have an aunt or uncle? It’s possible you don’t copy their career path. Anyone worried about Blatter should be worried about Infront selling exclusive TV deals, for example they sell the UCI’s rights to the World Championships to several obscure channels who may pay a lot, which is good for the UCI, but means many cannot watch with ease. Obviously pro teams need big and wide access for their sponsors so this should be different here… hopefully.

Papparazziful February 24, 2016 at 6:14 pm

My uncle invited me to follow his career path, but I declined his offer ….. In hindsight, I should have taken it – (Cycle and sports shop).

Henrique February 24, 2016 at 2:55 pm

“This website has enuogh typos” Was that on purpose? 😉

GeorgeY February 25, 2016 at 10:25 am

Watts app ! Priceless once again Mr Ring.

DMC February 25, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Inrng – interesting tweet about Wanda being interested in ASO. Are there any actual talks, or is it Wanda approaching an uninterested Amaury family?

J Evans February 25, 2016 at 9:18 pm

I notice Inner Ring’s tweet: “Wanda, owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, also interested in potentially buying Amaury Sport Organisation”.
How hugely unpredictable. And there was me thinking that the billionaire was only interested in comparatively valueless bike data and on-bike coverage.
Hopefully, the French won’t allow it – government or otherwise – but everything has its price.
A takeover of RCS seems more likely.
Nothing’s happening yet, but open your eyes – why have Velon signed a 10 year deal with this group? And why has Wang allied with them? Both groups want power.
And why is the UCI siding with Velon? Because it’s desperate to get its maw into the trough of money it thinks is there and will take any side against ASO.
Once these people have sold cycling away, we won’t get it back.

Sam February 26, 2016 at 9:32 am

Lol

Watching with interest. Just as I posted a couple of days ago. Watching with interest.

Derrick Lewis February 29, 2016 at 11:52 am

Live wattage is fun, but doesn’t translate. Unless you know the riders weight, it’s not useful.

We need WIND data.

Years ago, there was a cheap alternative to a regular power meter that guessed how much power you were creating based on a small wind sensor up front.

Use that to tell me who in this break of four that I’m seeing has done the most work. Or, back in the peloton, which team has done the most chasing.

Wind data (or work) is something that would be great for the novice and the expert.

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