Velon and the sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media have announced the signing of a ten-year partnership regarding rider data capture and distribution from within races.
Velon – the business venture that includes 11 of the 18 current WorldTour teams, made the announcement on Tuesday. It hopes Infront will help to distribute the data to race organisers in a bid to transform the digital format of race coverage.
Under the deal with Infront, the data capture includes a number of areas: position, altitude, speed, acceleration, heart rate, power and cadence. The data will be aggregated and interpreted before being made available to the media. The deal provides Velon with the technology and media production on hand from Infront.
It is part of Velon's continued aim to "build a long term and sustainable economic model for the sport, its teams and riders." In 2014 and 2015, Velon helped produce and transmit on-board video footage from several major races. It also partnered with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to create a revenue sharing model between the Abu Dhabi Tour and the 11 Velon teams.
"We are delighted to be partnered with Infront Sports & Media. 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," said Graham Bartlett, CEO of Velon.
"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."
"This is an incredibly exciting announcement. We have spent over a year investigating potential partners that understood our goals and could assist us in achieving them. Infront have a vast amount of experience in this area and will be pivotal in developing a sustainable and long term future for pro-cycling."
Possible debut at the Tour de Suisse
Velon have confirmed that data will be handled in a sensitive manner in a move to respect data privacy laws, with filters and the amalgamation of the data key to how it is presented in front of viewers. Such a move would ensure that, for example a rider's complete power to weight profile would not be shared publicly throughout a race.
"We're announcing a major new partnership for Velon. It's a ten-year deal and what it does is make Velon and Infront partners in a number of different initiatives. It also brings investment and a number of expertise from their side to the projects we've always wanted to develop and the initial one will be around technology," Bartlett told Cyclingnews in a separate interview.
Velon are hopeful that the data will be ready and live for use in May of this year, opening up a potential partnerships with the worlds biggest races, including ASO's Tour de France, RCS Sport's end of season races and potentially the UCI's Road World Championships in Qatar. Infront already manages the television rights of the UCI's World Championships.
"Data will be handled sensitively so as to respect rider privacy rights and will use filters to ensure that live usage does not deliver a competitive advantage or disadvantage during a race," Velon added in their press release.
Froome backs the partnership
Two-time Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, added his backing to the new partnership between Velon and Infront.
"Velon are committed to bringing the fans the best possible race experience and the success of introducing the on-bike cameras has been great to see. This new partnership will enable the Velon teams to look at other exciting and innovative ways to open up cycling to new audiences."
Infront is a global sports marketing and television rights company and works across a number of other international sports, including football and basketball. They are led by President and CEO Philippe Blatter. In November 2015, Infront was integrated into Wanda Sports Holding, part of the Chinese conglomerate the Dalian Wanda Group. Dalian Wanda Group is owned by China's richest man Wang Jianlin.
Last summer Dalian Wanda also bought the Ironman triathlon brand for a reported 900 million US dollars. In January Ironman bought the endurance-sports division of Paris-based Lagardère Sports – which own the Hamburg Cyclassics race and a series of sportive events.
"Cycling is a key sport in Infront's long-term strategy and also an important pillar of the wider Wanda Sports Holding business," said Infront's Executive director, Stephan Herth.
"We are therefore proud to partner with Velon in revolutionizing the cycling experience of the fans, as well as the way that the sport is positioned and marketed in the digital sphere. Involving also our subsidiaries HBS and Omnigon, we will provide an extensive array of in-house marketing, production and digital experience to Velon, as we fully share the teams' vision: to engage and grow the global cycling community, enhance the perception of the sport, and ensure long-term economic stability."