Watts Going On

One side-story to the Tour de Suisse was the deal with Velon and the Infront marketing agency to bring live speed, power, heart rate and cadence data from the race to television viewers, as well as added on-bike camera footage. It’s been done before but now feels like the start of something that’s here to stay but if this is going to happen it requires context, explanation and a little less hype.

On bike cams
We got on-bike camera footage and additional content filmed in and around the th Tour de Suisse, browse it all on Velon’s youtube channel. One novelty was splicing the onbike video with television footage to give context, a shot from the helicopter or motorbike helped established a breakaway had formed and we then got images from this group, a direct benefit of the race and teams having a deal because the race owns the TV rights and can supply these. They supplied 26 videos with, at pixel time, an average of 4,300 views per video (a 27th video’s just gone up this morning it’d be wrong to include it) which won’t be too much of a revenue stream yet.

As well as on the bike footage there were the “behind the scenes” packages. Tiesj Benoot filmed himself eating yoghurt in a hotel room while Tom Skuijns showed us his drying shoes, a step up from watching paint dry. Benoot and Skuijns are interesting riders with stories to tell but these didn’t come out. The videos conveyed the boredom and fatigue of a stage race which is all true but it doesn’t make for great content and I couldn’t be bothered to watch many more, hoping instead that if something funny or insightful came up then someone else would spot it and share it.

On the subject of these videos one nagging concern is the conflict of interest. We watch TV with certain assumptions, there’s a journalistic duty to report events as they happen. By contrast Velon’s videos are corporate content, videos supplied to entertain but fundamentally to promote. If the forks of a team-issue bike snap during a race would this be shown in a clip? If two Velon riders start fighting would the footage appear in a highlights video? It’s worth remembering the distinction between manufactured content and television.

Live watts and HR

Now onto the live data which involved a box mounted under the saddle – pictured – to collect the ANT+ data signals and beam them on. There’s an iOS app for Apple devices, an Android version is promised but Android users need not feel left out as it was all available to browse on the Velon website. It didn’t do much for me, the novelty was fun but without knowing a rider’s max heart rate, let alone factors like how much this drifts down from rider to rider during the course of a stage race as fatigue sets in meant seeing the exact number wasn’t very informative. Ditto for the watts, it was hard to read the number and doesn’t have much context without weight. If you missed it here’s a screengrab:

As you can see it’s a nice website with a clean layout. We get speed in the first column, the watts, heart rate, cadence and a measure of acceleration. Using the example above we know exactly how fast the riders are going while Barguil’s heart rate fills the heart-shaped bar to indicate he’s well above the 160bpm on the y-axis while van Garderen’s watts, represented by the lightning bar, are between 300W and 500W, it’s illustrative rather than exact. Presumably no team wants to give up the exact number to their rivals.

What does it tell us? I’m not sure. There could be two divergent uses:

  • the ordinary member of the public sees a pro cyclist riding up a mountain pass in the same way we see a duck gliding across a pond: it appears effortless. Just as the palmiped’s feet are working furiously below the water, a pro cyclist on a 10% slope can look graceful as they spin a low gear while their upper body remains motionless. So a triple digit heart rate signals effort to most viewers and whether it’s 150, 160 or 190BPM people can see there’s some work going
  • among ardent cycling fans are those with power meters who can compare their efforts to that of the pros and use the app for a second screen experience. But the bar chart makes it hard to read the number, presumably teams don’t want to give up the precise data so hardcore wattage geeks are still going to be using stopwatches and calculating W/kg rather than using this data as it’s generally not the momentary wattage that interests but over a duration, whether in a sprint or on a mountain pass

In all cases it’s a matter of context. For a big classics rider 325W is tempo, for a small climber it’s threshold. Let’s take an example from the Davos TT stage:

Was a cropped screengrab of an Excel spreadsheet “the story of his day in numbers”? I’m not so sure, especially as no context was given. Did Ion Izagirre really average just 340W to win? Probably but this doesn’t tell us much given it must be the mean wattage from the duration of his ride so it includes freewheeling down the descents and through corners, ie sustained periods at 0W. It’s why anyone using power tends to look at Normalized Power for the duration. It would be more interesting to know if Izagirre won the stage by smashing it up the climbs or being the most aero, or even daredevil, on the descents. There’s a story to be told here but it’s not in an Excel screengrab.

PR and presentation
The telemetry was heralded as a first and a press release said “history was made” only here’s an article by DC Rainmaker about live data telemetry from the 2010 Tour de France which explains the tech much better than Velon’s own video titled “How Velon’s capturing the data” which shows someone holding a box in front of a bike on a workstand and a mechanic bolting it to the bike and leaves the rest to your imagination.

The pledge in a past press release to “multiply the impact of Social Media through joint communications by the 11 WorldTour teams” meant messages being repeated 11 times each on social media channel. If you follow one or two teams on social media it’s fine but follow all the teams and it feels like a filibuster.

There was also hype and clickbait, for example a tweet promised “jaw-dropping stats” and linked to an article saying “maximum descent speeds of the 11 tracked riders made for incredible reading” and reported top speeds between 75-84km/h which sounds ordinary for a ride in the Alps rather than “incredible” or “jaw-dropping”.

Wish list
Having reviewed the video and data content it feels a mean to criticise what’s obviously a start rather than a finished product, with Velon CEO Graham Bartlett is quoted as saying “We know we have lots more to do for you and we’re working hard on it already” so here’s a constructive wishlist:

  • More context for watts. This bar chart doesn’t tell us much and there’s lots to experiment with here, a trade off between informing the fans and informing rival team cars. For example could the Watts be expressed as W/kg to enable comparisons? Maybe a second reading for the last minute or five minutes too or just some more smoothing across a few seconds? Why not dump all the data and let the crowd find something interesting?
  • Geo-location of individual riders can’t come soon enough. When Andrew Talansky was dropped on the last stage we didn’t know where he was or the time gap between him and Warren Barguil with the podium place at stake. If the app allowed you to select two riders and get an instant time gap between them this could fill in the crucial info the TV broadcast can’t supply
  • A caption for the on-bike video to say from whose bike the images are coming from
  • Why not stream radio-course live from the chief commissaires’s car?
  • Can team race radio be made open?

It’s been done before. Now it feels like data telemetry is here to stay. This is only the start and what form it takes remains to be seen, seeing watts in a bar chart was nice but lacks context. “Jaw-dropping” claims of speed turn out to be perfectly ordinary and the danger is a promising idea is being oversold: if the technology is ready, the teams’ ability to package and explain it is lagging which is frustrating because if anyone should know what the watts mean it’s surely the teams.

Our world is increasingly filled data flows, the successful part is sort the signal from the noise, to find the patterns among the crackle. Here it means finding new ways to tell the story of the race and we’re not there yet.

76 thoughts on “Watts Going On”

  1. What I always enjoy from INRNG blogs is the constructive angle and approach, not cutting and pasting press releases (hello CN et al), nor throwing peanuts from the gallery (hello Twitter), but opinion and analysis, with constructive suggestions on how to improve.


  2. Well done, thanks for highlighting and hopefully pushing improvement. I found the data so useless I deleted the app from my phone.

      • It’s free, you can find it in Apple’s app store.

        Velon want to make money but it’s by creating content rather than charging for it, ie to show case their sponsors and power meters to as many people as possible.

  3. Agree with all your points. I’m willing to give Velon a go and I would always welcome more information from a race.
    I’m not sure how they will ever make decent money out of it but I suppose it’s a starting point.
    There was an interesting article on the BBC about wimbledon and how they are using data
    It covers lots of things including how they are tracking social media to allow cross promotion – maybe if Movistar are in a break an advert for Canyon bikes appear in your twitter feed?
    The simplest thing though and relevant to velons latest is that they have an app where ‘you personalise the app and receive every piece of relevant content on your favourite players, using data going back eight years’. It would take time to build up but say you could compare Froome from 2013 to his current performance.

  4. I’m not convinced yet to get the app, but I’m broadly in support of what Velon wants to achieve. The wishlist here gets it about right.

    It’s easy to mock a lot of the marketingspeak and extravagant exaggerations, and especially easy for grumpy old men like me. But cycling is a sport in self-inflicted decline and it needs to start kicking itself in the arse rather than shooting itself in the foot, and this is a step in the right direction.

    That said, even as a fairly hardcore fan of cycling (I’m here, aren’t I!?) I find wattage chat the most boring thing in the whole wide world and it makes me hate the sport and hate myself for watching it.

    Maybe put wattage in context, e.g. Ion Izagirre’s effort would have powered the UCI’s document shredders in Aigle for over 36 hours?

    • You broadly speak for me MR also.
      I would add that I’m a bit of a reluctant techno-user too and I suspect winning over fans / viewers like me will be half of Velon’s battle.
      But I’m going to give it a go.

      I was just looking at Velon’s videos, and there’s some interesting little snap shots in there.
      You get a sense of the speed the guys travel at, the bad weather, racing lines etc.
      It can be easy to be cynical about it all but can you imagine, for instance, if there was on-bike footage of Peter Sagan’s descent of the Col de Mense? Wow, we’d all be instant converts, I’m sure.

      Inner Ring has got it dead right, we need to see the *best* bits, warts and all if that’s the case.
      If it’s done that way, I think the viewing experience can be massively enhanced.
      It’ll be interesting to come back to this subject in 5 years time and see where we are then.

      • One of the things Bartlett said on that Cycling Podcast interview that I think is crucial is this idea of getting across how extraordinary what it is pro cyclists do, and how tricky that is compared to other sports where the viewing audience have more of a frame of reference from their own experience.

        Demonic descending is actually a great start here, because it’s spectacular, very fast and there’s a palpable sense of risk – the riders skill and bravery (more dramatic attributes than aerobic capacity or haematocrit, BTW) are clear to see, especially from an on-bike camera.

        That leads me on to why info on watts/power is a dead-end – it’s obscure and ultimately makes the race all about a rider’s genetically/environmentally/chemically derived respiratory efficiency, and not about skill and cleverness, which are more dramatic attributes – unless of course you’re in the business of selling power meters.

        • Good points.
          What perhaps Velon should look, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, is to tie in with existing television production expertise. I know that they’ve done with the deal with French tv (I think) but providers like Sporza and RCS could be brought on board too in the future, you could rely on them to give us fantastic context and a story.

          It’s one thing providing a 3 minute audio-less video on their website, but imagine fitting that into a Paris-Roubaix race, with expert commentary on top? The dust, crashes, cross winds, juddering over cobbles…honestly, we should all be excited how so much better and fuller the viewing could get.

  5. “Can team race radio be made open?”
    Happened once in a race I was commissairing: DS went on full radio (shouldn’t be possible but it happened, nevertheless) and shouted “When we turn left into the wind, front and full gas all of you!”
    Needless to say the team never made it to the front before the left turn and the DS had to pay the team a round that evening 😉

    • Ha, there would have to be some code between riders or even a bleep for tactical commands. Ultimately hearing “remember to eat and drink guys” ten times a day might not be great radio but it’s a stream of content to explore.

      • F1 is quite good with radio: you get occasional snippets after a little delay, so they can filter out the less interesting ones and opposing teams don’t learn much from listening in.

  6. I’d love geo location of riders, so we’re not stuck with getting the time gaps which are really from one motorbike to another.

    Including team radio is a good idea, even if only for the evening/online highlights package, as shown by OGE backstage videos.

    W/kg data – could we finally determine exactly how much of a drafting benefit having the TV motos hovering around the leader on a 6% climb provides? I suspect they are reticent to let the crowd plug through the data, as too many in the crowd are the twitter peanut gallery who just want to cherry pick to “prove” something. I’d expect lots of “look, watts shoot up and heart rate doesn’t = motor!” claims, which anyone who uses a heart rate monitor would know has been cropped to stop before the heart rate increases.

    • I was wondering about the watts and the “peanut gallery” aspect but think if the teams control the data and message they can at least shape the story rather than leaving it to others, it would mean Team Sky are not dragged into selective data releases in rest day press conferences because the data were out there all along.

  7. Early days… W/kg + W would be nice and production needs to learn how to use, switch between and present the data in useful way… early days…

  8. Currently the issue is that there isnt enough data to analyse and create a “story”. I think that after a couple of seasons when we can start to see trends emerge and compare riders values to historical records then the value to the consumer will be realised.

  9. The on-screen mid-stage data was often meaningless as you didn’t know where the respective riders were relative to each other. As you say INRNG we seem to be missing the most basic but useful info which is the tracking data to identify riders and gaps.

    And if you want to see how spectacular viewing can be spoiled by over reliance on on-screen data check out Moto GP. I don’t need a cheesy graphic box (complete with sound effect) as big as the rider telling me he’s drifting the rear wheel whilst doing 100mph around a corner at 40 degrees lean angle – I could have seen all that for myself if you hadn’t distracted me, polluted the image and turned it into a PlayStation screenshot. Sometimes less is more.

    • +1 I think comparisons with F1 and MOTOGP are worthwhile. Both of those sports suffer from spiraling costs to compete and dwindling interest despite having all the TV technology bells-and-whistles one can imagine. It all seems like bandages plastered over a patient with INTERNAL bleeding (though of course the plutocrats who run F1 and MOTOGP are getting filthy rich – which may explain the Velon interest?) while pro cycling seems hell-bent on following them down this dead-end road.

      • Really interesting point you brought up. And, I’m inclined to agree. I’m not sure exactly why F1 has lost viewership. I do know however that I used to watch every race growing up (in the 90’s), and it feels to me that the sport has gone so far into the technology, boring courses and weird noises that it turns off the average fan. The technology used to be important, but more important was insane overtaking, and great courses (eg. I loved watching Hockenheim with the 4 straightaways in the forests – way better than 4 sand dune courses to watch) which is what got me into it. I think some of this stuff has approved, but the point is, I stopped watching before, and now I’m reluctant to go back to it.

        The Velon project was designed to give teams a larger cut of the revenue pie, but does all this data really bring in fans (because fans are very particular about what they like)? That’s the question we need to ask. Cycling on TV is all about the majestic views and watching epic battles (ascents, descents, sprints, etc.). If the screen is covered in wattage meters, it’ll look ridiculous and nobody wants to see that. Plus, I’ve read many people saying the onboard cameras make them nauseas. It’s small things like this that turn away fans, viewership, and therefore revenue. ASO has to get it together and work with Velon to come up with an integrated approach.

        • Given that the pictures of the race, and presumably information about it, belong to the race organisers, perhaps this data is all that the teams have to sell? And this could be one of the issues about including location – is it data about the race, or about the riders? Anyway, early days, and it would be good to see the teams and races working together on this.

        • “ASO has to get it together and work with Velon to come up with an integrated approach.”
          Or perhaps keep resisting Velon’s advances until they simply fade away? I’ve said many times I’m no big fan of the French but ASO seems to me to be the only adults in the room here. Velon brings very little to this party, but seems to want a lot in exchange – as in piles of money from ASO’s accounts. I don’t know J. Vaughters personally but once he completed his MBA he seems way more interested in business/financial issues than sporting ones.

          • Again, I do tend to agree – my comment urging ASO and Velon to work together was based on the assumption that Velon will be viable moving forward.

            However, it definitely feels like there are way too many cooks right now – ASO, UCI, Velon, the teams, riders, media, Inrng and us… Like other sports models, I really think the one group (ASO) should have a lot more control here. The UCI and Velon need to realise they need the ASO much more than the ASO needs them. Remember how ridiculous it sounded when the UCI announced the reforms and said ASO didn’t speak up with any complaints/changes/etc., and then ASO said it was pulling the TdF from the the World Tour… Cookson missed the boat on this, ASO doesn’t need the UCI. They can pull the TdF from the UCI completely, hire a handful of lawyers to draft up it’s own set of racing rules, ask the French anti-doping group to do testing on all racers (France’s anti-doping is arguably more successful than most other nations), etc. etc.

          • The UCI are going to announce their plans right at the point at which the entire cycling world is concentrating on the Tour, the point at which ASO’s dominance of pro cycling is most obvious and seems most natural? I hope for their sakes they’ve reached an accommodation with ASO.

  10. “It’s worth remembering the distinction between manufactured content and television.”

    It’s worth pointing out that you’re suggesting there’s a distinction…

      • This is not true. I guess I need to remind you of every time announcers had a gap to fill and stumbled on Armstrong’s drama during his time in the peloton, the defense was always swift.

        My favorite was once upon a time Chris Horner’s “special sauce” was working in some edition of the Tour de France and Phil Ligget mentions how Chris stopped eating junk food…. That was nearly the time I stopped paying for coverage.

        If you want an actual equipment sample, how about the infamous Wiggins electronic shifter failing. http://inrng.com/2013/04/thursday-shorts-5/
        No one dare speak a word about Shimano.

        • +1 At the same time I doubt the general public cares about equipment failure unless it’s very dramatic so the real journalists kind of get a pass while the “enthusiast press” are loathe to draw the ire of any potential advertiser. We’ll always get the ads “Racer X wins LeTour on Groundpounder 8!” but never hear anything if/when his Groundpounder 8 breaks in two, costing him a top placing. Same as it ever was.

  11. Fascinating reading as always.

    I personally find an in-depth post-race analysis of more benefit compared to what can often be pretty random numbers appearing on the screen. One riders MAX HR/Peak Power is very different from anothers…

    The recent women’s tour in Britain followed a single rider on her journey with an in-depth look into what it takes to compete:

    Stage 1: http://thewomenstour.co.uk/news/14694.php
    Stage 2: http://thewomenstour.co.uk/news/14701.php
    Stage 3: http://thewomenstour.co.uk/news/14708.php
    Stage 4: http://thewomenstour.co.uk/news/14713.php
    Stage 5: http://thewomenstour.co.uk/news/14715.php

    Worth a read if you like that sort of thing!


    • Let me say thank you for this … did not realise this existed…very good read; and agreed,post analysis is better, but generally speaking it still is better as a pre-requisite to be a power meter user in order to make sense of the data

  12. Completely agree. Now, I wish Velon had revenue streams so they could pay Inrng consulting fees to improve the system. Better yet, ASO and Velon should pay Inrng to improve the overall usefulness of this.

  13. There have been a couple instances (in the Tour de Suisse? I thought I saw some earlier in the season though…) where they spliced in live on bike footage with the moto and heli footage which I thought was quite effective. It allowed for footage of a break to be shown when it was not possible / safe for a moto to be there. In order for this to work on a regular basis you need to have cameras on more bikes, and not just domestics, but also the top riders who are going to be forcing selections at the point ends of races.

    As with any new tech is can be overdone, North American soccer for example has only just discovered the ‘SkyCam’ and they love trying to get their money’s worth by using that camera for large sections of nausea inducing live footage. European football knows that it can provide valuable additional angles for replays, but that it is not effective live. Hopefully we will learn quickly.

    Agree with the wish list – especially the geo-location. I am sure broadcasters would love to pay for that ability – or offer their subscribers the ability to like you said pick specific riders and get custom time gaps. For example I think Eurosport would be interested in being able to pick specific riders they wanted to check time gaps on rather than just whoever the host broadcaster shows. The demand for this is soo great it seems, I can’t really understand why it hasn’t happened yet.

  14. This is one of those excellent postings that is worth more for the explanations of what is going on than for the conversations, at least to me. The whole Velon thing (like many aspects of modern cycling publicity) is nearly impenetrable hype. Thank you for taking it to an understandable level.

    Eventually this will become useful stuff, I am just happy to understand it today. Thank you.

  15. It was interesting that after all the hype about Infront and data gathering the most basic information (time gaps) that is available on most events was missing on the Tour de Suisse. No time gaps at all were shown after Lopez accelerated away at the end of the last stage and we got no indication of how much Talansky was losing.

    The Velon screen graphics did show digital data rather than analogue so it was available for people who wanted the detail. I assume Velon members have access to all the data.

  16. I don’t see what cyclocomputers add to a race. I don’t want that data available even to riders. So trying to make a show out of it seems a step in the wrong direction.

      • The Rubicon logic does not amount to a reason. If it is forced upon people, with no real open debate, the result is a sense of bitter melancholy. All options should remain open and innovation/technification shouldn’t be an imperative. The same goes for many questions of our epoch.
        I still believe that the first big pro race that sets retro equipment standards will be very successful, and riders themselves will be the first to enjoy it.

  17. I find it interesting that Velon are UK-base, given cycling’s relatively limited profile here. I realise that means there’s more of an untapped market, but it is a small one in global terms and much as I love the sport I’m not convinced it’s ever going to be totally mainstream (for many reasons). Would they have more chance of persuading teams to do counterintuitive things (eg releasing all rider power data) if they were based in continental Europe? Good luck to them anyway, things like accurate GPS positioning of individual riders or opening up race radio to all viewers would be a big improvement, I agree.

        • Britain’s referendum on staying in the EU, or not. If they leave the Euro Zone, then it’ll definitely affect Velon (positively or negatively is anyone’s guess!) and other cycling organisations.

          • To clarify, Britain isn’t in the Euro Zone. That’s the single currency area, which we aren’t part of. Thursday is about if we leave the European Union.

          • Right… you know what I mean, sorry. I’m a Canadian and mixed up the terms.

            Either way, if they leave the EU, it’ll DEFINITELY impact Velon’s ability to work with teams. For example, it’ll likely void the contract it has with EU based teams because they won’t be in the same economic and legal entity so EU laws won’t govern the agreement.

    • Velon (or ‘Melon’ as the auto-correct wanted to suggest) might simply be UK-based because of the relative ease of setting up a company in the UK that is a joint venture of various international based organisations. However, that might also change after Thursday’s vote.

    • I think Velon is based in the UK for practical reasons etc, but also because Team Sky and Sky was a driving force behind its creation. It’s owned equally by the 11 member teams be they American, Italian, Dutch, Belgian or British.

      • Yeah, I heard their guy on the Cycling Podcast, so understood the practical reasons. It wasn’t meant as a slight against them, just an observation that in a world dominated by continental European teams, a UK-based org might struggle to win hearts and minds. Good luck to them though, I’ve nothing against what they’re trying to achieve.

  18. I know the article is focusing on the app, but if you saw the TV live feed on Eurosport you saw they were showing the watts in big bold easy to read numbers. I know it still lacks context in the sense of not knowing a rider’s FTP. But when Peter Sagan jumped from the group on the last climb of stage 3 to join the break, it did provided extra context for me, as I was no longer just seeing Sagan gritting his teeth, but also seeing that he was pumping out 550 watts right before he jumped, meaning he probably went upwards of 1,000W when he slip away (this I had to guess because they stopped showing his numbers). Anyhow, it’s a good start and of course there’s so much more that can be done; I would love to hear the riders inside the peloton, like they do with those directional mics in American Football, that would be cool but probably not for the younger audience.

    • I don’t see what on bike footage adds either, apart from a crowded view of a load of legs? I can honestly say it has never been more of an annoying blip that I want to go away so I can get a proper view again, like when Eurosport cut away to an interview pre-race with a rider or DS telling us absolutely nothing. All through my childhood and up until about 3 years ago I watch F1 religiously, I even got up at 3am to watch races in Australia etc. The on screen graphics showing speed, g-forces, which pedal they were pressing etc never added a single thing, and the pit to car radio did nothing but open my eyes to just how dull it was and that the drivers were basically told what to do and when. Too much info can sometimes underline the wrong things.

  19. I realize the cat’s out of the bag on this deal but I’m in the less is more camp. All of this sparse and relatively meaningless data to . . what? There is this idea that cyclists and cycling needs to be impressed upon viewers. That they are so amazing and if only you less enlightened viewers or potential fans could get it, you would see how right all of us die-hard viewers are and the sport would be number one in the world ($$$). And you would stop yelling at us from your cars as you try to knock us off “your” road. It’s pure vanity and affectation. Stop overselling it. I don’t need it to be number one in the world. I want you to “get it” if you have the patience to sit down and absorb it long enough to “get it”. And appreciate the history, culture, dynamics and niche sport that it is. My 11 year old son gets it and tells me he loves it (or at least just watches with me) without knowledge of any power data or heart rates. We definitely would like to better know where riders are at times.

  20. I couldn’t care less about watts and stuff. Like I never get the obsession of some cycling fans with watts at all.
    I can watch races without such gimmicks, didn’t need them all the decades.
    But what I need and want are time gaps. On screen. They add something useful, especially in bad weather or on mountains.

  21. Well Vaughters is heavily involved with Velon and has hyped his way to great personal gain in his build to the World Tour. He looks extremely well fed and dapper these days, a likeness to Sir Elton John. Thus the Velon style over substance seems logical.

  22. Great article, Inrng,
    and a very interesting discussion. There was a time that I craved for numbers, whether they were my own, or from some hero I admired; the more, the better. I still have a slight obsession for my own numbers, but reading through comments I indeed worry about the F1-isation of cycling. On first glance, having numbers on screen add to the viewing experience, and I believed that too. But if they are not scientifically meaningful, viewers will see through that very quickly. I think it would be great if you could see that someone is actually sitting above his or her threshold for 10 minutes already – you can feel the pain, the muscle burn, can he or she survive? But that data would never be released for those purposes, unless some random uncertainty would be introduced to hide the confidential information.
    If I think of the viewing that has resonated with me, that added value to watching cycling, it is the background footage such as the OGE backstage passes using the new technologies showing real emotion, the in-depth analysis of someone’s performance with or without numbers, Cosmo Catalano’s creations, or the cycling coverage on Sporza indulging you in an infinite pool of cycling vocabulary. The reason being, I believe, is that it requires creativity to make, it requires the ability to translate the story on the bike to the screen, or to the viewer. In contrast to putting some numbers on the screen.
    So I hope people involved have a few well thought-through creativity workshops before they introduce something ‘value-adding’, which on first glance look like a great idea. I believe there are ways to really deepen the viewing experience with on-screen data, but it requires some though rather than just technological advancement.

  23. Like the title–reminds me of the song!

    With all the hi-tech analytics data up on the screen maybe watching cycle racing will be like watching Bloomberg TV, … it’ll make you nauseous from too much information input all at once.

  24. At the risk of sounding like an out of touch old fuddy duddy (I’m not, I’m 31) I’m just going to say it. I find the vast majority of all this totally pointless. Live gaps between riders so you know how much time somebody is losing would be good, but lets face it you don’t have to wait long for a stage to finish to find out how much somebody has lost on the final climb. Wattage – why do we need to know? What speed they are doing is the important bit. Power monitoring is important in training to help you improve, not much more. Cadence is almost totally useless as you can see that with your eyes and is irrelavant without knowing what gear they are in. And heart rate varies s much from person to person that doesn’t tell us much either. Just watch the race and see who wins. If they want to tell us something interesting what they do/eat in the morning, what is flowing through their blood and what the hell is in the bottles they are handed in the last hour would be much more useful!

    • +1,000 – couldn’t agree more. I want to see the scenery and the riders when I watch on TV. I’m a fan and I couldn’t care about this. Any potential fans will care even less… and might be really turned off by a whole bunch of dials on the side of the TV screen. My wife’s eyes glaze over if I mention watts, and if Paul and Phil are forced to analyse power output, it’ll be brutal listening.

      Stats are important, but only for those in the background of a sport – team managers, trainers, etc. I want to hear stories and watch a great bike race.

    • Relax Richard S, you’ll just be called an “out of touch YOUNG fuddy duddy” but thanks for pointing out that you don’t have to be an old-fart like yours truly to wonder why all this techno crap has to be added to TV broadcasts. People pedaling bicycles around is about as low-tech as you can get…people who want all this “inevitable improvement” that must not be stopped should worry about fully-faired recumbents or the final evolution of the two-wheeler….the motorcycle taking over their sport.

  25. I enjoy real-time race telemetry across the board. I am a person who, after a stage, goes to Strava to look and see what the pro-cyclists I follow (Laurens Ten Dam, Andre Greipel for example) logged, and see in numbers and graphs how incredible the effort was for them (climbing gain, speed, heart rate). Getting that info in real time, and being able to compare it across competitors (eventually) is an exciting proposition for me. As long as it’s the ‘right’ data points, and it does not get in the way of the race itself.

  26. Following on from some of Dimitri’s points – if having a marketable TV product is the main objective I think Velon would be better served employing Dan Jones and Cosmo Catalano to put together 30-60 minute background/highlights/analysis packages. That would be proper good telly that people would watch, cycling fan or not.

  27. I couldn’t give a monkeys what watts rider A is putting out up against rider B frankly. Just give me the option to have the CHOICE of turning this “noise” on or preferably OFF.

  28. I’ve always had a very passive interest in pro cycling mainly due to the Tour de France but never followed it very closely. However after getting back into road cycling as a recreational activity about 5 years it has become one of my favourite sports to watch and I think it is because I have a better understanding of intricacies and multiple layers to races. I am still learning and gleaning knowledge mainly from this great blog.

    I think is mainly because I could relate to what a tough sport it is after experiencing slogging up tough climbs and completing long rides of over 100 miles.
    It is clear Bartlett knows cycling as a recreational activity is growing and more people are riding their bikes. He wants to tap into those people to get them watching but pro cycling in its current presentation does not make it clear what is happening say if the viewer has just stumbled across the coverage.

    I agree with a lot of comments above, data is useful if used in the right context for example power data, it would help if people could be given for example an idea how much effort it takes to bridge a gap to a breakaway, but simply saying he has just pushed X amount of watts for X minutes to the layman it means nothing but if that could be used like stats are used in other sports during coverage it could certainly add to the coverage for newbies to the sport and to veterans alike.

    My wife has little to no interest in cycling but accepts it as it is something I like to do and watch. She often watches some of the coverage mainly because I’ve got the remote haha! She’s commented that it looks like nothing is happening but when I point out they are smashing along at 30mph plus she can understand the effort that takes, she also can’t understand breakaways and why they fail. Data could be used to convey exactly the amount of effort those in the breakaway have used and why those chasing are fresher.

    Regarding descents it is easy for anyone to understand the implications if you crash a bike at 60 mph. We get this information sometimes but to have that information live for the rider on our screen as we follow them down the descent watching it from multiple angles, helicopter, moto and on bike you get a real feel for it.

    The GPS location of riders to both identify exactly who is who and live time gaps would be biggest thing rather than listening to commentators guessing at key points in races. Audio from the peloton would be interesting as I often wonder what they’re talking about but I think that would be more for end of the day highlights package as I am sure it is not all race related!

  29. with all this data I still hope they do the ‘camera on the moto speedo shot’ – dunno why but I just find it quite charming (I know some think it’s amateur hour…)

  30. Disclaimer: In my past life, I have tracked my rides, HR, blood-lactate, etc., etc., so I’m by no means a data-scofflaw, but:

    If the point of having all this data accessible is to increase the number of eyeballs watching bike racing and grow the sport, “They” have brought a knife to a gunfight, and “They” are aiming at the wrong target.

    All this data is great for the racer/viewer who actually tracks his and others stats. However, this is a select group of cyclists, a niche within a niche, the hardcore within the hardcore. They are already accounted in the Neilsen/media measures. If the sport is to grow financially it needs a broad-appeal platform that will expand the eyeball factor by a minimum of multiple tens of thousands and ideally hundreds of thousands of eyeballs. Not micro-focused detail. I’m not saying micro-data should go, I’m saying it’s not the magic bullet many seem to think it is. The same for on-board cameras. Again, a micro-detail. On-board cameras are great, but they are what is known as “insert shots”, i.e.: fine details placed to draw attention to a single facet. They agument the big picture but on their own are useless. More importantly and to the point, they are only truly meaningful to cyclists who have raced in pelotons. Again, a niche within a niche.

    While detailed data technology may be great for the manufactures and retailers of “X” technology, it won’t make a dent in the financial health of the pro bike racing. It’s preaching to the choir. If they want to grow the sport commercially they will need to develop, promote, and market the “Humanity” of the sport. The details of pro bike racing are beyond the reach and interest of a general audience, but the story of an underdog fighting for his only chance in the spotlight, a single chance that could change his life forever.. well, that’s a story EVERYONE can understand.

Comments are closed.