The introduction of on-board cameras has been touted as a game-changing development for television coverage of professional cycling since images were beamed from the machines of John Degenkolb and his Giant-Shimano team-mates at the Tour of California in May.
Last week’s announcement from the newly-formed Velon group, essentially a trade body of 11 WorldTour teams, formed to deliver more stable and sustainable revenue streams and reduce dependence on sponsorship, focused on little else.
Face Partnership, promoters of the televised Revolution Series of track events, held at velodromes across the United Kingdom, has released footage from the machine of Team Sky’s Luke Rowe, filmed in Manchester as the Welshman competed in the scratch race at the second round of this year’s Series. Significantly, Rowe also wore a microphone, and his calls, variously to his competitors, team-mate Peter Kennaugh and even to the crowd, add a further dimension.
Saturday’s round of the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup at Milton Keynes was memorable for many reasons but especially, in the context of this article, for the use of on-board cameras for the first time in an event of this stature. Belgian champion Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) and reigning women’s World Cup holder Katie Compton (Trek Factory Racing) both raced with Shimano cameras mounted on their bikes.
Compton’s husband Mark Legg told Rouleur that the Shimano camera was easy to use and would add to the thrill of televised cyclo-cross. “One was on the handlebar, the other was on the back of the saddle. It added a little bit of weight, but once the race got going, I don’t think she even really noticed.
“I don’t think people understand what it’s like, diving down some of the stuff, or the chaos at the start. That’s what’s going to be revealed: how crazy it is. The hard thing is that the bikes and the cameras get covered with mud, so you’re going to lose the line of view; it’s not always going to be clear.”
A similar impression might be gained from footage of Rowe’s bike. The closing minutes, as he joins up with lapped team-mate Kennaugh, and the instructions exchanged as the pair attempt a lead-out, are illuminating.
While on-board footage feels long overdue, there is also a sense that it is just the beginning. Formula One, the sport perhaps most closely associated with this style of coverage, also broadcasts performance data from the cars. Could we witness a rider ‘telemetry’ in which graphics detail speed, heart rate, and even power outputs? Legg thinks not.
“You’re not going to see Chris Froome’s power on TV. And I don’t think you should. A guy’s gotta keep something. I think speed and climbing speed, metres per second, or kilojoules - that’d be interesting to see.”
Revolution has already been televised, as the footage in this article shoes. Can a wider revolution, perhaps driven by the commercial ambitions of Velon group members, and by the remit of the UCI to promote the sport, be far behind?