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Data innovation lets fans customise their Tour de France adventure

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Different options for different audiences

‘Delight your audience’ (or your customer) is sound advice for any business. For Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), organisers of the Tour de France, it gets right to the heart of what they do.

What’s interesting about their audience is that not everyone is a cycling or even a sports fan. Some enjoy the scenic route (literally). Others tune in for the human drama: the trials, disappointments and triumphs that make this race so compelling. In addition to these different perspectives was a shift in viewing habits: digital channels offered on-demand choice for a growing audience of younger and more digitally connected viewers who were unlikely to be satisfied with the TV broadcast alone.

For A.S.O., the challenge lies in giving these different viewers the Tour de France experience they’re looking for. Here’s how Dimension Data has worked with A.S.O. to deliver that since becoming Official Technology Partner of the Tour de France in 2015. 

2015: Capturing the data

Our focus in 2015 was on capturing, processing and delivering data generated from trackers fitted to each rider’s bike.

For the first time, fans, followers, commentators and broadcasters could see live data on riders’ speeds, the distances between riders, and their relative positions within the peloton. Graphics based on data processed by our real-time analytics platform were shown as part of the TV broadcasts. So were social media updates on the @letourdata Twitter handle.

 Real-time analytics during the Tour de France

Data visualisations generated from the real-time analytics platform enhance the broadcast experience for viewers

This was the first step in revolutionising the viewing experience for fans. The second was almost serendipitous: early in the 2015 race, a major crash occurred. Our social media team took a quick photo of the data feed following the crash and immediately posted it on Twitter. This generated a lot of buzz and doubled the number of followers we had for @letourdata. It also got us thinking about what more we could do with the data.

 Tour de France crash tweet

This now-famous tweet doubled the number of followers of @letourdata and got us thinking about what more we could do with data

2016: We have the data. How do we tell better stories with it?

Our focus shifted from simply delivering data through a technology solution to seeing how we could use that data to tell more engaging stories about the race.

In 2016, a cycling journalist joined our team to help us bring these stories to life in a new way. By bringing together skills in journalism, data analysis, and social media, we created a team that could analyse the race in real-time and provide insightful race data and visualisations

Next-generation tracking devices enabled us to capture greater volumes of data and, with the addition of real-time information on wind speed and direction as well as gradients, we were able to share with viewers how these elements affected performance.

All of this data and related stories were then published through different channels, including new television graphics, a specific application for race commentators, the Race Center website and @letourdata on Twitter. Audiences could now select what they wanted to see, and on which platform.

2017: Using past data to predict future outcomes

Our next innovation was to bring machine learning to the Tour de France.

By combining historical data, such as performance in other events, and live race data, we could build algorithms to predict real-time race events. This brought a whole new level of excitement to the race as fans shared their opinions on these predictions. Was it likely that the peloton would catch the breakaway? What did people think of the stage favourite? We were able to achieve 71% accuracy in our daily top five rider predictions, a great result given the unpredictability of a complex race like the Tour de France.

These conversations were enhanced by rider profiles, another innovation we introduced that year. These showed a rider’s strengths and weaknesses in different stage profiles and analysed which environments and conditions were optimal for their performance

 2018: Sharing data on emerging technology platforms

Until now, much of the innovation we’ve seen at the Tour de France has been centred on gathering and using data. Our goal for this year is to continue to enhance the storytelling on all channels – television, digital and social media – which includes making our machine learning models even smarter.

Ultimately, it’s the riders who make the race so compelling. Our role is to evolve digital solutions so that viewers, broadcasters and social media users can get closer to the race and enjoy it even more.

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