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ITV in talks to show Tour de Suisse-backed virtual cycling series

An example of Rouvy's augmented reality technology which allows riders to compete remotely (Photo: Rouvy/TdS)

UK commercial broadcaster ITV is in talks to acquire rights to the forthcoming ‘Digital Swiss 5’ e-cycling event, SportBusiness understands.

The event, which will consist of five one-hour races taking place between April 22 and 26, has been created by a collaboration of Tour de Suisse organisers, Cycling Unlimited; team-owned cycling promoter Velon; and virtual cycling platform Rouvy.

The race is expected to be shown on the ITV4 channel should the free-to-air broadcaster reach an agreement.

International rights are being distributed by the Netherlands-based boutique consultancy Sports Media Venture.

The event will also be live-streamed on Velon’s website.

The ‘Digital Swiss 5’ will enable cyclists to continue to compete against one another while remaining in isolation as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Riders will be drawn from all teams competing in the Tour de Suisse, including UCI WorldTour outfits.

Rouvy’s technology uses a ‘smart’ roller trainer device, connected to cyclists’ stationary racing bikes, which adjusts the pedal resistance based on the topography of the race in question, which each individual will see in real-time augmented reality on a screen in front of them. Velon will provide live performance data, just as it would for real races.

Swiss public-service broadcaster SRG SSR will produce the world feed. It also holds the exclusive media rights in the country to the event from 2020 to 2022, which it acquired directly from Cycling Unlimited.

Deals have also been agreed with broadcasters such as L’Équipe TV (France), TV2 (Norway), ZDF (Germany), Eleven Sports (Belgium), SuperSport (sub-Saharan Africa), SBS (Australia), FloSports (the US), and J Sports (Japan).