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Tour de Suisse, Rouvy and Velon team up for virtual cycling series

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

The organisers behind the Tour de Suisse have become the latest rights-holders to turn to virtual alternatives to provide fans with sporting competition during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. 

Tour de Suisse, team-owned cycling promoter Velon and virtual cycling platform Rouvy have created the Digital Swiss 5, which will consist of five one-hour races taking place between April 22 and 26. The races will be broadcast live by SRG SSR, the Swiss public-service broadcaster.

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.

In this way, cyclists can continue to compete against one another while remaining in isolation. Riders will be drawn from all teams competing in the Tour de Suisse, including UCI WorldTour outfits.

Swiss cyclist Stefan Küng said that as well as being “an exciting addition”, the Digital Swiss 5 is “attractive for our sponsors as it allows them to regain attention”.

Cycling’s Tour de Suisse became one of the main properties within InfrontRingier’s portfolio since the joint venture company took over the organisation and rights commercialisation from rival IMG in 2014.

Following the sale of Infront’s shareholding in InfrontRingier (and its renaming to Ringier Sports), the event was outsourced and organised by a new joint venture involving Infront, Swiss Cycling, the Switzerland-based ProTouch Global and Tortour, the organiser of ‘ultracycling’ events in Switzerland.

This year’s edition for the race is scheduled to begin on June 6, with organisers yet to comment on whether the event is likely to go ahead. Grégory Rast, director of Trek-Segafredo Sports, has expressed his “hope” that the race would not be cancelled.