Successful world premiere of the first digital Pro-Cycling race series
The ongoing situation related to the corona virus pandemic called for a new approach to cycle racing, for professional teams and the many fans around the world. A platform was required to deliver a professional sporting event, while at the same time complying with the epidemic regulations of all countries. Based on a close and intensive collaboration, the Tour de Suisse, ROUVY, Velon and Swiss Television were able to implement the racing series "The Digital Swiss 5" within a few weeks.
Only due to great support from the Tour de Suisse sponsors and various media partners domestically and internationally, "The Swiss Digital 5" was made possible. As a result, this premiere event benefitted from wide media coverage and thus attracted considerable public interest. This interest was also enhanced by a new and extensive TV production by SRF sport. During each race a cyclist was featured in the TV studio, 16 webcams collected live footage of cyclists competing all over the world and the Rouvy platform delivered various performance information which had to be continuously coordinated and arranged into an exciting production.
During the five digital races, the cycling pros were connected through their racing bikes by smart roller trainers directly to the ROUVY app. Each cyclist could see his position in the race and himself as a 3D avatar image. At the same time, the smart roller trainer applied the respective resistance to the pedals - depending on the topography of the track.
The new format "The Digital Swiss 5" read like a who's who of the international cycling elite. This was also a sign of the great interest shown by professional cyclists:
Current world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet (Team CCC), last season's high-flyer Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep), Belgian rising star Remco Evenpoel (Deceuninck-Quickstep), winner of Paris-Nice 2020 Max Schachmann (Bora Hansgrohe), UCI Hour record holder Victor Campanaerts (NTT Pro Cycling), GC riders Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and the winner of all three Grand Tours Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) - they were all there.
And Switzerland was also at the start with all the big names:
Swiss champion Sébastian Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), TdS stage winner 2018 Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Switzerland's most successful active athlete Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott) as well as Silvan Dillier and Mathias Frank (both AG2R La Mondiale). The record mountain bike world champion Nino Schurter was also a special guest representing the Swiss national team.
The five races from April 22 - 26 demanded everything from the pros of the 16 WorldTour and 3 wildcard teams including the Swiss national team. The climbs to Leukerbad, the Nufenen Pass and over the Lukmanier Pass are certainly not a walk in the park in reality or virtually. There was struggle and suffering - just as in any other professional race. Thanks to webcams in the cyclists' homes, it was possible to follow the suffering firsthand and even compare the riders with one another. It became apparent that primarily the riders who could constantly push high wattages were able to take advantage. Highlights included the victory of Stefan Küng in his home race around Frauenfeld as well as an exciting chase to take victory over Michael Matthews in the fourth race. Besides Küng, Rohan Dennis were also able to win two races. Nicolas Roche completes the illustrious winners' list.
This is what the pros say about "The Digital Swiss 5":
Stefan Küng (Groupama - FDJ) describes the races as very hard and with real racing feeling. All the athletes were very ambitious and accordingly they all gave their best performances. What is also fascinating about this format is that despite the large distances between the riders, they can all compete against each other.
Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale) welcomes the fact that in the ROUVY system one is not in a completely artificial landscape, which he at least tried to enjoy during the very tough races.
Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb) was thrilled about "The Digital Swiss 5" line-up by his team and is happy about his race win after a total of five weeks of preparation.
Rohan Dennis (Team Ineos) underlines the effectiveness of role training and digital racing for his ambitions in future time trials.
"The Digital Swiss 5 was a venture with many uncertainties for everyone. It was only through the tireless efforts of all parties involved, that we could achieve a successful realisation in the end. Exciting races, top winners, satisfied sponsors and enthusiastic fans who were able to follow their pros live - the premiere can go down as a success," says Joko Vogel, Co-CEO Cycling Unlimited AG.
The Tour de Suisse organisation is proud of the successful launch of the first digital racing series. Possible future projects will be further developed and enhanced according to the experience gained. The TdS will thus continue to distinguish itself as an innovative and exceptional organisation.
With "The Digital Swiss 5" another wish of the Tour de Suisse organisation could be fulfilled: To bring the fan racers and amateur athletes closer to the professionals in terms of racing. The fan race, held daily after the professional race on the same route, proved to be very popular and gave the participants the opportunity to directly compare their own performance with that of the professionals. These races, with a total of almost 2,000 participants, were also enthusiastically fought for.
The organisers are making the next steps dependent on the final results of "The Digital Swiss 5". These results are based on viewer and reader numbers, media analyses, technical solutions, feedback from athletes and partners as well as from cycling fans. If all goes well, a decision will be made on the staging of further national and international events.
Joko Vogel concludes: "Under the motto 'special circumstances require special measures', we have seized the opportunity to launch a new, innovative form of cycle racing and are proud of what we have achieved. If we want to develop this type of race, there are still a number of challenges waiting for us, but we are happy to tackle them.
About Cycling Unlimited:
Combining forces in Swiss cycling. Infront Sports & Media AG, Swiss Cycling, TORTOUR GmbH and ProTouchGlobal GmbH own Cycling Unlimited AG - a comprehensive platform for cycling enthusiasts. Based on the extensive expertise of the partners, cycling will be further developed at all levels. Cycling Unlimited AG is responsible for the implementation of well-known, national professional and amateur cycling events from 2020. These include the Tour de Suisse, the Tour de Suisse Challenge, TORTOUR Ultracycling and TORTOUR Gravel as well as the Swiss Cycling Alpenbrevet. The main focus of Cycling Unlimited AG is to build a far-reaching community and communication platform for all those who associate with cycling.
The Czech company ROUVY is one of the most popular providers of indoor training software solutions in the cycling community. ROUVY distinguishes itself from other providers thanks to realistic presentations of the track simulations. These are based on real video recordings of the routes. Besides a variety of existing routes like the Furka Pass, the Stelvio or other cycling classics, ROUVY also offers a wide range of virtual events for the benefit of its user community.
Velon offers unrivalled access to the best professional cycling teams in the world. Velon is owned by the following 11 WorldTour teams: BORA-hansgrohe; CCC Team; Deceuninck - Quick-Step Team; EF Pro Cycling; Lotto Soudal; Mitchelton-SCOTT; Team INEOS; Team Jumbo-Visma; Team Sunweb; Trek-Segafredo; UAE Team Emirates. Velon - from the teams to the fans.