Today Velon and a company called Infront breathlessly announced a partnership to revolutionize the cycling fan experience, with data.
OK, here's the good news: Infront and Velon are getting together to capture images and data from riders, using on-bike cameras and the type of data the average Fred has been getting off his Garmin for a decade or so, like power, cadence, altitude, etc. And that data will often show up right on your TV screen, or if you're following online it sounds like it'll be available as a race simulation display, like we get with the TourTracker at the American stage races (or what's left of them). If you like that stuff, it's a good day for you.
More positive spin, from me: Velon are committed to unifying cycling teams so they can benefit from things the sport does as a whole. As far as I can tell, this includes acting as a voice for the teams in lobbying for various conditions with races, and pursuing business ventures (like this data stuff or whatever you can do with it) that a team could not realistically pursue on its own.
As to the video images, which Velon is turning to Infront for assistance with, there are some intriguing possibilities there, but what exactly remains to be seen. Do a swarm of rider videos eventually take the place of the broadcast images and become the way we watch cycling? Initial reaction: god help us. But maybe they become a part of it, and the teams end up wit a piece of the pie. That sounds more realistic than using GoPro cameras, creating an uploading system for the live data streams from those cameras, and a worldwide distribution network that makes money. But this isn't my area of expertise.
But on to the negatives, which boil down to this: wave after wave of PR voices and cycling folks (some like Vaughters happily cheering on and others, like multiple riders, who sound like one of the PR people is holding a gun to his head) are telling me this is a "game changer." Here's a summary of Twitter right now:
PR person/cycling insider: This partnership is a game changer!
Fan: How so?
PR/Insider: Because it changes the game!
Fan: How so?
PR/Insider: With game changey-ness!
Fan: Please stop
PR/Insider: Game changer!
And so on. There is next to no explanation as to how this "changes the game," so people like me are left to fill in the blanks. My sense is that they've massively oversold what is a helpful but incremental point of progress in the sport. It would be easy to dismiss, except for the suggestion that we should all be so excited about rider data and GoPro camera streams. That's the part where it sounds like the people involved grossly misunderstand the fan experience. I don't particularly want data, though it's amusing at times. I definitely don't want on-bike videos except after the race, and I most certainly don't want them in place of helicopter and moto feeds operated by professional cameramen with the utmost technology involved in producing a clear, comprehensive stream that tells me what's going on in the race. Nor do I want to forget the role of the commentator, who at their best add tons of information and properly identify riders as the deal goes down.
Rider videos ad data can supplement that, maybe even take the place of some elements (e.g. rider ID), but take its place? Hogwash. [Also, riders already seem to be balking at the idea that they've sold their images to this partnership. So hold the phones.]
Still, if the blanks are to be filled in, maybe it'll be with information that does truly represent a changing of the game. Maybe it won't be like the last few rounds of game-changing alliances that most definitely did not change the game. Maybe the revolution is coming, and it won't be a dull repetition of what we've seen before.