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Success of Digital Swiss 5 points way toward cycling’s hybrid future

Digital cycling series saw top teams compete through virtual Swiss countryside Five nightly races allowed organisers of Tour de Suisse to recoup some broadcast and sponsorship revenues Virtual reality here to stay beyond end of lockdown to broaden cycling’s year-round offering A few months into the Covid-19 pandemic and sport is getting used to fast turnarounds, after the live events landscape was eviscerated by lockdowns and rights-holders scrambled to put together virtual replacements as they look to offer value to sponsors, fill broadcasting schedules, and continue to engage fanbases.   Cycling is no exception and in April, the Digital Swiss 5 was shown by major broadcasters around the world just weeks after it was conceived, the result of a three-way collaboration between the team-owned media, marketing and technology company Velon, Tour de Suisse organiser Cycling Unlimited, and virtual cycling platform Rouvy. What perhaps helped the Digital Swiss 5 to greater success than most is that cycling has long been investigating virtual and augmented reality experiences as a way to make iconic routes accessible to cyclists wherever they happen to be in the world. Rouvy’s technology employs a smart roller device on the back of a stationary bike, which adjusts the pedal resistance based on the topography of the race in question, with the road rendered in detailed virtual reality on a screen in front of the rider. Last year, the company partnered with Cycling Unlimited with the intention of allowing amateurs to test themselves against professionals on the course of this year’s Tour de Suisse, which Rouvy had recreated in painstaking detail inside its app.   (Photo by Sam Buchli/Cycling Unimited)When it became clear that the Tour de Suisse was unlikely to go ahead this year, Cycling Unlimited approached Velon, the media, marketing and technology company, about using the technology to put on professional races.

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