Tour of the Alps Website

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Tour of the Alps started today, a tune-up race ahead of the Giro d’Italia and a start list to match. It’s worth it alone for the stunning scenery but has something that many other races do not: a good website. It’s actually remarkable enough to dwell on for a moment.

tourofthealps.eu

What makes the website so good? It’s got almost everything you need. For starters each stage is clearly set out with large profiles, maps and timetables all easy to view and you can click to download them too. Route info about a race to hand, so what you may ask? What makes this remarkable is that so many other race websites are awkward experiences. The Tour de France never publishes route maps until mid-May meaning that a proportion of the estimated 12 million roadside fans are left sleuthing where the race will actually go. Most don’t care or need to know but plenty – going by my inbox alone – want to book accommodation, book restaurants or go for a ride on the route but can’t because they don’t yet know where the race will be.

Take Stage 7 from Fougères to Chartres, at 231km the longest of the race and as the screengrab above shows online there’s just a picture of a cathedral and a castle for now a letour.fr. There’s no profile or map (and if you’re being picky the images ought to be swapped so that the fort in Fougères appears first with Chartres’ cathedral second). The route of the mountain stages can be worked out from the profiles given there’s usually only one way over a mountain but it’s a bit like inviting people to a wedding and assuming they know the venue.

It’s not just the Tour de France. Try finding a profile of last weekend’s Amstel Gold Race from the race website. Or go to the Giro’s site and – unless readers can find otherwise – the website crops a lot of the technical information such as the map and timetables, they’re only available if you start right-clicking and opening the raw image file. Now a click or two isn’t hardship but websites shouldn’t work like this, imagine going to a consumer website and opening JPG files in new browser tabs just to get basic product info. By contrast you can go to the Tour of the Alps website and download the routes to open on your GPS bike computer or to oogle on Google Earth.

Another thing is the rules are clear to download on the Tour of the Alps website. Some of this can be dry but it tells you which stages where the 3km rule applies, that time bonuses are awarded and the various scales for the points and mountains classifications: this is essential to the race but often very difficult to find for other events. You might remember a year ago when this blog was the first to reveal the Giro was going to have a “best descender prize”, something discovered simply by reading the Giro rulebook but the PDF document with the rules wasn’t publicly available and so next to nobody could read it.

With this in mind here’s a shopping list of essentials for a race website:

  • the provisional startlist with reserves lets people know long in advance who is coming
  • interactive maps that let users zoom in to know exactly where the race is going, not just through a town but the precise route, right to to the exact junctions
  • make downloadable route files available so cyclists can visit and ride with ease
  • even better why not highlight some important parts of the course via Strava?
  • credible route profiles, no “y-axis doping”
  • published rules, ideally a summary for the public, eg time bonuses, the points classifications but also the PDF with every applicable rule
  • the roadbook to download, useful so you can carry the PDF around for easy reference
  • details of TV coverage
  • if it’s on TV and if they have giant screen TVs then info on where at the finish or on the course they will be
  • make the commissaires bulletin public so people know who was fined, who visited the race doctor for crash injuries and so on
  • the results. Having praised the Tour of the Alps website they have news and photos from the opening stage… but don’t actually have today’s results online at pixel time. The Tour and Giro score high for this with all the classifications online quickly
  • multi-language so that fans from around the world can enjoy the race better
  • a mobile/smartphone version of the website given an estimated 50% of web browsing is done on a smartphone these days
  • via PNW Tom: suggested viewing points to see the stage
  • via PNW Tom: details of road closures, eg what time will the route be closed off

Conclusion
Being concious that a blog talking about a website is navel-gazing, especially given this blog has had the same format for years now… but all the same it’s worth pointing out a useful race website even if it’s still missing the actual race results. Perhaps it’s because the Tour of the Alps is heavily backed by local tourism that they have to have clear maps and routes? Many other races have archaic or awkward websites, even the Giro and Tour, so that a good one is worth praising and using as an example of what works.

Any more suggestions for what makes a good website? Leave them in the comments below and the best will be copied (with credit) into the bullet points above

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Amir April 16, 2018 at 7:50 pm

Thoughts on the Tour De Yorkshire website? You get a lot of info on there and the organisers make a conscious effort to get the fans on board.

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The Inner Ring April 16, 2018 at 9:48 pm

I’ll take a look, I suspect like many we visit the sites around the time of the event.

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Flavio April 16, 2018 at 8:13 pm

While the website is pretty good (way better than all the others), it’s missing a key thing, the results of each stage and classifications, seems a shocking miss.

If they are there they are pretty hard to find

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The Inner Ring April 16, 2018 at 9:49 pm

Yes, have mentioned that in the piece above. It’s odd as you could imagine they designed a lot in advance but maybe are less reactive on the day itself but they have photos and news from today, just not the actual results as a list.

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gabriele April 16, 2018 at 10:12 pm

Yes, they’are up there… you just need to find’em (which isn’t good news for the webmaster). See below.

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UHJ April 17, 2018 at 9:48 am

Results… and the communiques, please.
It might be nerdy, but it often sheds more light on decisions taken during and perhaps after the race when the applicated article is available.

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gabriele April 17, 2018 at 10:26 am

On the TOTA website, they’re on the same page (Media > Race documents)… which is strange as the only available location to find out what the *results* were, but I’d dare to say that, OTOH, it’s adequate enough for something as “nerdy” as the communiques.

By the way, what did the Bora guy do with their race numbers?! ^__^

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Nick April 17, 2018 at 12:14 pm

The Giro has been good at publishing the communiques with the detailed results recently. However, I only found them by going via steephill
tv, though that might have been my problem.

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Hammarling April 16, 2018 at 8:43 pm

It’s not just race websites that need upgrading, too many Team websites are poor and let’s not get started on cyclings overall use of social media…
The races, riders and teams i follow most closely and support are those who have good websites (Tour of Britain, Womens Tour and Tour Series are all brilliant examples of websites), and use social media effectively (the Womens Tour twitter feed is a constant stream of comment and competitions and images).
A lot of the older school, traditional, races are being left behind in these areas. And then they complain no-one watches them or cares about them. Yet when it comes to it they arn’t reaching out to fans or promoting themselves. Complain about some of the new “money” races, but they do get themselves marketed and interacting with fans.

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PaulG April 16, 2018 at 9:14 pm

“….given this blog has had the same format for years now…”

Don’t change it…..It doesn’t date and does everything we need……and more.

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Larry G April 17, 2018 at 8:31 am

+1. it’s a fantastic blog.

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John Cowley April 17, 2018 at 12:28 pm

Yup, works for me!

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PNW Tom April 16, 2018 at 9:41 pm

perhaps not a ‘core’ element of a good race website, but how about up-to-date guidance for non-local spectators, e.g. positive tips like recommended spots to watch or good parking options, as well as warnings like road closures or traditionally clogged areas or areas that are particularly hard to access.

this is inspired by my current efforts to figure out if/how I can travel to Italy in May and be able to watch some parts of the Giro stages 19 or 20!

also big thumbs-up for all the current bullet points in Inrng’s list, especially the interactive maps, credible route profiles, and making the roadbook available.

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The Inner Ring April 16, 2018 at 9:47 pm

Good point on the road closures, a FAQ during the Giro and Tour is readers asking what time the road will be closed (answer: it varies, some mountain passes can be closed at dawn, other roads maybe closed at midday or after).

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gabriele April 16, 2018 at 10:11 pm

Not exactly what you look for, but some of it can be found on the Garibaldi or roadbook of the races. Info re: interesting spots along the course, detailed planimetry of both the arrive *and* the starting village, where the team buses can be found and so on.

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Larry T April 17, 2018 at 9:19 am

You could do it the old-fashioned way, though it means you’ll interact with a person rather than a website. I’d be happy to give you some advice based on more than 30 years of “race-chasing” though we don’t do it so much anymore – for 2018 we’ll take some clients to see the Cervinia stage on May 26 while seeing the Etna stage just for ourselves. I’m off to see L-B-L this weekend for myself with the help of our friends at VeloClassicTours.

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Gian April 18, 2018 at 7:37 am

As Gabriele says the Garibaldi is really useful but it’s often released after you need to make travel plans. Just beware of Italian road closures as they suddenly seem to open them when everyone is descending!

One tip but probably not possible for everyone, travel in an estate car with bikes on the roof and the police seem to wave you through quite easily.

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gabriele April 19, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Indeed. Yet, here it is:
http://static2.giroditalia.it/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Garibaldi-20181.pdf
It’s sure a bit late, but if you don’t need to book a flight, I think that there’s still time to plan a trip in the second half of the race.

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gabriele April 16, 2018 at 9:45 pm

The Giro website (which I don’t especially like as a platform, whereas the sheer quality of the contents tends to be excellent) doesn’t work as you say, at least on my browser.
If I simply *left* clik, or tap with my finger on a mobile device, on the preview of the map or of the timetable which appears when you select the corresponding upper tab, the expected image immediately goes full screen and high-definition. Depending on your screen’s dimension, you might need to move around, which is the usual click and drag (I’d dare to say that it’s been thought to go multidevice).
You need to right-click only if you want to download the contents, which is something not necessarily appreciated by the websites (less clicks, and nowadays you shouldn’t need that, just visit again the page from your smarphone with data coverage everywhere). I’m surprised they even alloy you to download things, but better not to say this too loud.
However, I think that going mobile the website became slower and more complicated than it was some years ago.

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gabriele April 16, 2018 at 10:03 pm

The TOTA website looks great, but it isn’t exactly user-friendly when two key-aspects are concerned.

1) The profile of the climbs, which is important for you as a spectator if you want to better understand what’s going on or what might go on. Maybe I’m being clumsy, but the only way I found to have a look at each climb’s profile was to flip through the roadbook, or the Garibaldi if you prefer, which is easily available in the “Race” section. The roadbook is easy to find, sure, but then, given it’s a virtual copy of the paper one, you’ve got to turn page by page in order to find the altimetries. By the way, they’re good looking at first sight, but at the end of the day they’re just a GPS-generated km-by-km profile, little better than the awful mess which the Tour de France became infamous for.

2) The results. @Flavio, they’re online (although they aren’t ready to be uploaded very soon, but I think that a small organiser can be forgiven for that, unlike, say, the RCS guys). Yet, what you need to do in order to find them is going to the “Media” section – not precisely intuitive if you don’t consider yourself as such – then click “Race documents” (quite vague, isn’t it?), and you’ll finally find them. As the wording suggests, they’re race document, indeed: the official papers of the race uploaded to its dropbox. So, no way to look at them all (stage, GC, different classifications) in a single screen or with clickable tabs as usual. What’s even worse, is that the format they chose isn’t searchable. Imagine that you wnat to know how Cunego did fare today – just scroll and try to find his surname. Or what about checking how the various Sky gregari eventually placed? No search in this page for “Sky”.
Anyway, these are details. The worst part is how counter-intuitive it is to find them.

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Ablindeye April 16, 2018 at 10:35 pm

I’d be happy to just get an intuitive desktop version of most race websites but, as well as all the good points you mention above about this site, it works smoothly on my (Android) phone. The only other cycling site I can think of off the top of my head that does this is Veloviewer, a totally different beast and okay it was designed with a Windows phone in mind from the outset but still…

Random example, tried to access the Amstel site the other day on the phone and hit a brick wall at the “18 and over to access this site” select a date – the only way to enter a date was to manually scroll back through the calendar from today’s date…month…by…painful…month. Got back 5 of the minimum 18 years before my thumb started to cramp, several minutes later. If I was planning on entering my age honestly it probably would’ve taken longer than the winning race time…

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Ablindeye April 16, 2018 at 10:41 pm

p.s. I did eventually figure out a way to select the year but it wasn’t obvious…for someone my age, plus it didn’t go back to BC anyway.

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bobmcstuff April 16, 2018 at 11:36 pm

“no y-axis doping” – what’s an acceptable scale then? You can’t have 1:1 (1km horizontal = 1km vertical) because all routes will look completely flat.

I get the annoyance with organisers making mountains out of molehills, but it seems rather subjective and impossible to police! UCI race profile rules anyone??

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Rick E April 16, 2018 at 11:38 pm

On a different note but similar topic, I find it quite surprising that the UCI does not maintain and promote a results database. It’s fallen two the two man show at pro cycling stats to do this job. No other sporting organisation does such a poor job of collecting and displaying data. This info is critical for media and fans alike. Stats pay dividends when it comes to interest, they uncover trends, add to stories and enable things like fantasy sport. INRNG’s work with the yearly win plots is a great example, if the UCI made that info available that plot would take seconds. Data availability could enable a whole new type of cycle coverage based around those numbers and their analysis. This type of writing is hugely popular among large pro sports leagues like football (both kinds), baseball, cricket, basketball and ice hockey. Of course, these sports all have larger fanbases that can consume more niche components of their sports. But with cycling, we hardly even have the chance to know.

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Vitus April 17, 2018 at 2:54 am

UCI better take care of the sport itself and not the needs of a handful statistic nerds. my2¢
Nothing ruined football coverage over the last few years more than this needles stuff. Commentators who know nothing about sports and tactics, but can tell from their computer how many minutes Schalke didn’t score a goal after a corner from the left on the eastside of Hamburg’s stadium.

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Rick E April 17, 2018 at 9:54 am

That’s a good example of bad broadcasting rather than stats ruining commentating. Data can facilitate learning and development about the sport and tactics. It’s completely changed the way baseball is played and the way teams are run. It’s already gone that way in cycling to some degree with riders eyes glued to their power meters instead of their competitors on big climbs. That’s of course a bit unfortunate, but simple things unrelated to power could be very compelling. For example, how often breakaways win. How often a particular rider is in a break. Distance from finish of the final winning move. We all know Tim Wellens likes to try a long one, but how often is it successful and is his win rate improving through the years with this style of attack? This would be fascinating information that would help to colour broadcasts and articles alike.

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Vitus April 20, 2018 at 1:53 am

To be clear, I’m not against statistics at all. They are interesting and can be useful. But not the way some commentators handle it.
And for stats to be useful, they need some constant. But they’re hard to find in cycling.
Let’s say we have a Col de Random, climbed 20 times in 35 years. There are few constants, like riders on a bike. The bikes changed a lot since 35y ago, then we have different weather conditions every time, is the climb in the first part of a race, or in last part, how are the stages before, easy transition or 2 hard mountain stages. High times of juiced riders or not.
So IMHO it’s hard to compare the times on that Col from 1972 to 1986 to 2011 and 2017. All you have are numbers between 20 and 30km/h, which could change within a month, depending whether you had 15° and heavy rain or 30° in sun.

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UHJ April 17, 2018 at 9:46 am

Yeah, this is really strange. I believe the cyclingstats-guys tap into the UCI DataRide system – they most likely have requested and been given a log-in.
With the UCI DataRide application, the UCI really have all results etc. available in-house so presenting it to a wider audience ought to be easy-piecy.
The application has some future options not yet implimented, perhaps this is one of them.

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Vitus April 20, 2018 at 1:38 am

Guess you’re right.
PCS have detailed results of most races available faster than any other website and race websites itself. There must be some automatic access to relevant places. No way they have humans who fill in all results into their database in realtime.

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SuperDom April 17, 2018 at 2:31 am

Lots of visual appeal with the large photos and the map, profile and GPS downloads are a great idea (and no Y-axis doping, ha)! When you select a team, you see their finishing places for each stage – nice work.

As a graphic designer I was really impressed with the brand identity (logo and other bits and pieces) created for Paris Roubaix. The TV graphics in particular were extraordinary (I watched initially on Facebook live, with a French TV stream). Cycling races can have some pretty cheesy graphics, but the design work was top-notch, right down to the ‘French-industrial’ typeface (font) that was designed for the event. Brilliant.

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chris April 17, 2018 at 7:59 am

@TOTA. Good site and deserves mentioning for sure. In particular the direct accessibility of video footage is a must these days. Yet I don’t know about the credibility of the content in total. E.g. for Sky, the team listing is surely a bit awkward with Landa leading the pack…

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DaveS April 17, 2018 at 8:21 am

Ha ha, I loved that the picture at the top of the page was not a link to the TdA web site as might be expected 😊

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DJW April 17, 2018 at 9:07 am

IR is correct. An easy to use site with good route and profile information. Surprised and interested to see team’s hotels listed, and could this create problems for teams with unwanted attention?
Nothing perfect however with site having Landa on Sky’s team roster and no presence for Froome! (seems from the essential procyclingstats site that team listing is not updated from 2017)

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magicreme April 17, 2018 at 10:01 am

Yes the teams need work and not only sky but also NL Jumbo, UAE and maybe others.
As Mr INRG said they must have prepared it well in advance and lack a bit of reaction.
Regarding the hotels it’s common practice as you have it as well in the Tour de France roadbook, which is shared via pdf and easy to find (not on the tdf website tough).

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DJW April 17, 2018 at 10:52 am

magicrème: just the reference made me smile, and the perfect cycling jersey too! A film to make the most glum smile.

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Moist von Lipwig April 17, 2018 at 9:44 am

From memory, The Tour of California website is another good one. I recall being impressed with the live tracking a few years back. Just had a look at it now and the stage plan/profile info is good, downloadable and if you click on a marked point (KoM) etc it opens up in google maps with the KoM as the destination so you can plan a route to it.

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RH April 17, 2018 at 11:21 am

Mmmmm
It might look good, but Landa is riding for Sky so is Kennaugh.
UAE team has 7 BMC riders…

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IanPa April 17, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Maybe Velon should be doing more on this, after all they say they work closely with Race Organisers.

As I see it, they offer the data, they offer the insights, they produce videos, stats etc. They even have previews of races. It wouldn’t be a great step for them to do the full package of routes/ timings etc.

One of the items they could offer is a presentation layer for the races for those organisers that want it.

We shouldn’t forget that even in our instant age, websites, twitter feeds, facebook updates etc, require staff, time and money to own and upkeep. If you’re a cash strapped organiser (like most seem to be) then you have to give them a little leeway if the website is not up to 100% for you.

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frood April 17, 2018 at 4:31 pm

I find it really annoying when websites open a PDF instead of a normal web page – typically in a format that would work perfectly well as a page and doesn’t require a PDF at all. i seem to the remember the Tour of Britain page doing this – they had a PDF for the route, a different PDF for the profile and then a different PDF again for some other info. it was awful UX.

I like sites that give you that extra bit of info, even if it is just things like past results. It gives a bit of context to the present race and is a useful library if you need to look something up. and ultimately it’s the quality and timeliness of the information that is key. accessibility is a huge part of what makes a website enjoyable/usable but if the content isn’t there (or isn’t there when it should be) then you might as well not bother.

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Paolo April 17, 2018 at 9:17 pm

Two things: live footage, or if not possible: the last hour of the race with a video on the site. I found that extremely fan-friendly on the tour-de-suisse website.
Another thing are big photos from the race. Now I go to YouTube and steephill for video and photos, respectively, but I feel the website of thr race should have that.

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Owen April 17, 2018 at 10:15 pm

A useful thing for roadside spectators is a timetable showing expected arrival times for the race. Apologies if suggested and I just missed.

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Paul April 18, 2018 at 1:52 am

LOL… “Y-axis doping”… classic!
I always thought the tourdownunder website was pretty good for maps and profiles (it maybe lacking on some of the other technical suggestions you made). Like the tour of the alps the race was established for tourism so regional maps are important for them to promote.

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Ecky Thump April 18, 2018 at 8:03 am

As some have noted above, Steephill TV is often my source of race information but the Tour of the Alps website is one of the better race websites I’ve seen.
My wish, however, is that races make widely available as posters / prints some of their web promotional material – I’m thinking of race posters like Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (the hammer-wielding demon emerging from the cobbles was great).
Charge €50 or something if necessary but I feel sure that they’d sell like hot cakes.

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davidk April 19, 2018 at 11:06 am

ASO and L-B-L 2018 website – the route on the Downloaded map (pdf) (https://www.liege-bastogne-liege.be/en/overall-route) does not agree with the ‘Route’ or ‘Sport Side’ maps (check around Bastogne). Why no gpx file?

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