I am sat in a race convoy vehicle on Stage 1 of the first ever Women’s Tour of Scotland, when I hear over race radio that the stage has been cancelled. Moments later as we drive onwards on the race route we realise why.. as the water rises up above the top of the car tyres as we drive through nearly 100m of flood water.
Bike races of this scale are a logistical nightmare at the best of times – outside the bubble of the riders, hundreds of personnel from the teams, the race organisers, the police, local councils and the broadcasters all have to pull in the same direction to make the race happen. As we rolled into a now sunny Dunfermline where the race was due to finish, hundreds if not thousands of spectators still await expectantly for something to see. Could the race recover from this?
Thankfully 2 days later I am stood in Holyrood park, Edinburgh witnessing the leading riders of the Womens tour of Scotland speed past me on the start of their first lap of the iconic Arthurs Seat. Lead by Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig one of the best riders in the womens peloton. World class bike racing has landed in Scotland.
I have talked before about why we decided to back this particular race, but our involvement goes a bit deeper than just sponsorship. As the leader of our Digital Sports Practice I am always looking for ways to demonstrate our capabilities. In a sport where sponsors are critical to teams, riders and race owners, it’s vital we begin to explore how technology can help tell the story of the local impact of a race to validate the value of their spend. How many people really watched? What matters to those who have braved the weather? Do they care how fast or how much power they are using to push the pedals, or do they just want to know when the race will pass them and where “their” rider is on the course.
We explored all of this and more during the 3 days of the race, engaging with the crowd, bringing 360° cameras into the peloton and mounting live positional trackers on the bikes. Ultimately we don’t want to create a lot of data points that only the cycling aficionados can understand but to be able to tell stories about this race that showcases how extraordinary these athletes are male or female. For example on Stage 2, Drops Cycling rider Jossy Lowdon was fastest up the biggest climb of the day, not only becoming the fastest women ever up there, but the 8th fastest rider of all time, which is incredible.
Cycling is already renowned for how “accessible” it is, fans of the sport gather expectantly around the team buses at the start and finish of stages to meet their heroes. Getting closer to the superstars than in almost any other major sport and we believe the ability to not only create and capture data, but use it wisely in an engaging way, making it relatable is one of the keys to connecting the sport of cycling with more fans. Hopefully creating more value for the sponsors and race organisers alike.
For our part we were delighted to play our part in delivering the first ever Women’s Tour of Scotland, an event that has set its stall out to make a positive impact on both the environment and obviously women’s sport. Through its legacy programme,its focus on fan engagement and through digital we should see this race grow in both scale and importance. Personally I can’t wait to see it succeed.