SMT, VERSUS Partner To Track Cyclists in the Tour de France
As the peloton of the 98th Tour de France cycles across the French countryside, climbs to the summit of le Galibier, and passes through les Champs Élysées, SportsMedia Technology (SMT) is providing VERSUS with its signature race technology at every stage. SMT, a provider of data-integration, graphics-presentation, and video-enhancement solutions for the sports and entertainment industries, is partnering with VERSUS for the fifth consecutive year to cover the 21-stage, 2,200-mile competition.
Television coverage of the Tour de France has evolved significantly in the past five years, from simple telestration to last year’s implementation of ISO Track. ISO Track allows broadcasters to identify and track riders with an on-screen pointer feature that enables viewers to easily follow their favorite cyclist in the tightly packed peloton.
This year, SMT has added a data layer to ISO Track, which logs the cyclists’ biometrics data and turns them into graphics: speed, cadence, power generated, and, if the cyclist is wearing a chest strap, heart rate.
“VERSUS has access to biometric data and telemetry data from several different teams, and we access those feeds and turn them into graphics,” says Don Tupper, VP of business development for SMT. “For example, one of the teams provides a data feed that includes the speed of the rider, heart rate, and oxygen levels. We’ve integrated those live and married those to our graphic presentation on-air. If you’re watching the race and comparing it to last year, the tracking is the same, the pointers are the same, but now you just have more information available to you.”
SMT’s DMX Switchboard has been custom-engineered for the Tour. The central hub of SMT’s overall technical solution, absorbs, collates, and synchronizes multiple on-site live data feeds into a proprietary SMT database, supplying a multiplatform, all-encompassing viewing experience.
“Our ISO Track and DMX Switchboard can be used in a variety of events ranging from car racing to horseracing to cycling,” says Tupper. “The technology is flexible and can be customized with great potential to significantly enhance the on-air presentations.”
Because of the unique challenges posed by cycling, that flexibility has been key to the Tour coverage. Unlike auto and horse racing, which are geographically bound within a specific space, the Tour de France is raced throughout the country and therefore cannot rely on fixed cameras. Instead, video is fed from multiple helicopters following the cyclists, which requires a system that can accommodate different feeds.
“They’re not running laps,” says Tupper. “They’re not circling around a track. They’re racing on roads from point A to point B that’s 112 miles away, so the actual venue is constantly changing.”
SMT’s partnership with VERSUS continues to evolve. The network’s expanding cycling franchise now includes the Amgen Tour of California , held May 15-22, and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, to be held Aug. 22-28.
Using ISO Track and DMX Switchboard, SMT aims to provide of cycling fans with on-screen graphical information on par with more-traditional televised sports. “With this technology,” says Tupper, “we’re raising the level of the cycling broadcast to what fans have come to expect.”
VERSUS, the exclusive TV home of the Tour de France in the U.S., will air an average of 14 hours of race action per day in full HD through July 24, with live coverage beginning daily at 8 a.m. ET. The enhanced primetime show each night at 8-11 p.m. will feature a combination of race coverage and cycling highlights as well as insights into some of the compelling stories throughout the Tour.