Cycling: Velon, which was founded at the end of 2014, and comprises 11 of the 18 WorldTour teams, has just announced a ten-year partnership with the sports marketing form Infront Sports & Media. The collaboration has the potential to change how cycling is covered in real time, but only if all parties are able to work together to pull this off.
The partnership between Velon and the Swiss marketing firm is structured into several phases. The first step involves Velon having access to Infront’s technical expertise, which essentially means that power and race data can now be transmitted directly from the riders’ bikes to the broadcaster and then to television screens at home. It’s an exciting prospect that in the near future we might be able to see all manner of data on our television screens, including speed, cadence, power and pulse. The sophisticated technology is already in use in other areas such as motorsports, where viewers can see statistics such as engine output and other data during the race.
Graham Bartlett, CEO of Velon, has stated about the recent announcement: “Our partnership enables us to make a major step forward to enable data to be shared with fans and it is going to be fantastic. Just imagine how great it will be for fans to see the performance of the riders as they follow races on their screens or see them at the race. This is something that has been available in other sports and now we’re bringing it to cycling so fans can better engage with the riders and get a much better experience.”
Until we get to that stage, however, all parties to the agreement, including riders, teams, race organisers, broadcasters and also the UCI, will have to sit down together and negotiate the details. While they will no doubt be looking to maintain their own interests, it is crucial that these parties can cooperate and are prepared to make any necessary compromises. However, given the continuing tension between the ASO and the UCI, and the large number of parties involved in the agreement, this process could prove to be a lengthy and arduous one.
Although it’s unknown how this partnership will progress beyond this, it has the potential to be of significant financial benefit to teams. Television broadcasters would no doubt be interested in acquiring the real-time data, and would presumably be willing to pay a great deal extra for this. This might provide another source of revenue for participating Velon teams which is independent of their sponsorship arrangements, and thereby provide for the often-elusive ideal of financial stability in the sport.
Understandably, teams and their riders have welcomed this recent development. Patrick Lefevere, CEO of Etixx – Quick-Step has called it a “milestone in the world of cycling.” Not just management, but also riders have had positive things to say about the agreement. For Marcel Kittel (Etixx – Quick-Step), it’s important that “with this new digital platform, fans can really take a peak inside the heart of the peloton and follow the race like never before.” André Greipel echoed these sentiments, saying that “as a rider I can only welcome the fact that this is a step forward and the possibilities […] are significant.” But the Lotto-Soudal rider is also aware of the need for constructive collaboration: “if all stakeholders in cycling focus on the general interest of the sport, the possibilities for all involved are very big.”
For the agreement to achieve its aims, it is ultimately vital that all participants put their own interests aside and work collaboratively to find a solution from which the sport of cycling can benefit as a whole.