4 min read
Riding shotgun on the Women’s Tour of Scotland
- The first Women’s Tour of Scotland event saw 16 elite teams take on a three-day rain-soaked route from Dundee to Edinburgh.
- Using cutting-edge technology, we took fans for a spin that took in the course and crowd, with a front-seat view that made them feel part of the action throughout the ride and in the final sprint for the winner’s jersey.
In August 2019, 16 teams were ready to do battle across the three-day, three-stage event, racing from Dundee’s iconic waterfront area across 350km, through five cities and scores of towns and villages, to Holyrood Park in Edinburgh.
With a strong legacy in bringing large-scale sporting events to a global audience, the Tour supported Scotland’s drive to become one of Europe’s top cycling nations. A successful Tour would grow popularity for cycling in Scotland and the number of people choosing to hop on their bike as a leisure activity and for their daily commute.
Working together with the event organisers, we were asked to support the Tour’s long-term vision of becoming the most digitally connected cycling event in the world, reaching a new audience of fans, enthusiasts and cycling beginners.
This girl can
The 2019 race marked the first time a women’s Tour has been brought before a men’s. Another first was a prize fund equivalent to the men’s race from day one.
“Many cyclists are household names, but only a few female cyclists have this level of recognition,” said Gareth Edwards, principal at Deloitte Digital Scotland.
“We felt strongly that creating a more digitally-connected Tour would give spectators a better understanding of the strength of the female athletes by showing the speeds they were hitting and how much power riders were using to push the pedals while navigating Scotland’s highest roads.”
“This race was a tremendous opportunity to test new ideas and technologies,” Gareth continues, “as a live ‘laboratory’ which would allow fans to give instant feedback in real-time.”
“For example by allowing fans to track their favourite teams or riders success along the route, it could create the feeling that they were riding alongside the competitors. And, in turn, encourage more people to give cycling a go for themselves to experience the same exhilaration.”
360 live stream action
“For any live sporting event to be successful, fans must feel close to the action and emotionally invested,” said Gareth.
“By attaching a 360-degree live stream camera to the back of the lead race vehicle, spectators could access a live stream of the race online and choose the perspective they wanted to view the race from - allowing them to feel like they were riding alongside the pros, in real-time.”
”Fans were also able to track the twists and turns the best young rider of the Tour was navigating, using GPS.”
Attracting new spectators
“The strength of the athletes set-against the backdrop of Scotland’s landscape made the Tour a spectacular, if somewhat damp, event for fans watching from the sidelines,” said James McCallum, former Scottish professional cyclist and assistant race director at Women's Tour of Scotland.
“To attract new spectators, we felt passionately that we had to make the course easy to track in real-time for more people to enjoy the Tour for themselves, particularly as the heavy downpours were preventing many from watching in-person!”
Part of the crowd
Not only did we want viewers to be immersed in the race, but to feel the atmosphere…
“Using a combination of action cameras attached to the front of the race vehicle, we developed an AI algorithm to count the number of fans present along the route,” Gareth added.
“For the organisers, demonstrating the engagement of the event was vital to secure vital funding for future Tours and allow informed planning as its popularity grew.”
It wasn’t an easy ride in all cases, with heavy rainfall throughout the Tour, organisers were forced to cancel the opening stage due to extreme weather conditions.
A race to the finish
In the race for the winner’s jersey however, the technology held up, allowing fans on the sidelines and online to experience the same spectacular sprint finish.
“The technology demonstrated that using just a small number of devices can make a huge difference in making an event more accessible and inspiring for fans” said James.
“The weather certainly impacted the race for fans, but with access to live streams from within the race, live tracking of the riders as well as the pioneering crowd counting analysis we have definitely shown that technology can enhance the sport for fans, for the participants and for race sponsors - without whom none of this could happen.”