Tour de France generates more data company interest

our de France generates more data company interest

Le magnifique Le Tour de France is about to get under way, and this year’s event will feature more data science than any previous Tour de France, or any previous cycling race at all ever.

One of the main reasons for this is the increasing involvement of sponsors from the tech world, most prominent among them Dimension Data and CA Technologies.

Dimension Data has been the official technology partner for Tour de France since last year, and this year the company is investing big bucks in some big names and big data.

Among the big names the company has captured is Mark Cavendish, regarded as the best sprinter in the world. And the team it has built around him is called Qhubeka, which has as one of its goals to raise enough money to provide 5,000 bicycles to children in Africa. 

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Adam Foster, group executive, sports practice, Dimension Data, says: “Last year, the team was the first African team to participate in the Tour de France. This year, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is the first African World Tour team to participate in the Tour de France.

“Dimension Data is extremely proud to be Title Partner of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, and excited by the rider line-up selected by the team management. We’re looking forward to working with Team Dimension Data and Qhubeka during Le Tour to help raise funds for its #BicyclesChangeLives campaign, and put 5,000 African learners on bikes.”

The company has also introduced a number of innovations in data capture and analysis, as evidenced most obviously by the thing that sticks out from under the bikes’ saddles. 

Picture: Courtesy CyclingWeekly.co.uk
Picture: Courtesy CyclingWeekly.co.uk

Small GPS sensors on every bicycle which can capture a number of different metrics, from the velocity of the bicycle, to the heart rate of the rider. All of the captured data would be transmitted to data-collection point on the internet of things.

Dimension Data is teaming up with IBM to deliver the newly data-rich Tour de France experience. The IBM Streams technology is the central component in the data network, presenting the information in realtime and in a way that allows some insights to be drawn from it. 

Speaking to ReadWrite.com, Chris Howard, Big Data technical leader at IBM Asia Pacific, says the new system would “revolutionize the viewing experience for spectators of the Tour de France and really bring it into the 21st century — or even the 22nd century”.

IBM is providing a similar system for this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament, although that one is aimed at helping organisers engage with tennis fans on social media, as well as deliver statistics about the games themselves.

Meanwhile, Dimension Data has teamed up with Amaury Sports Organization, the main organisers of Tour de France, to provide data analytics for the event as a whole. So while television viewers may see the name of timepiece-maker Tissot whenever they see the clock appear on their screens, they will also see the name Dimension Data whenever they see any stats about the race and the riders.

Sports fans’ love of statistics is well known, from even before the days of Top Trumps.

But Dimension Data is taking things to a whole new level. The company will almost certainly have a mobile data centre moving alongside the cyclists on route.

Meanwhile, CA Technologies is sponsoring a team called Trek Segafredo, having recently signed a multi-year deal with the professional cycling team. The company uses a system called Agile Management to distribute race-time data.

Marco Comastri, general manager and president of CA Technologies for Europe, Middle East and Africa, says: “The methodology Agile is an approach that helps companies move more quickly from ideas to results. This is exactly what that underpins Trek-Segafredo — the team’s mission is to run to win, and the team is finding ways to use technology to achieve its objectives.

“This partnership will help the CA-Trek Segafredo team to become not just a cycling team with high performance, but also a company with high performance.”

Joe Vadeboncoeur, vice president of Trek Bicycle Corporation, says: “The world of cycling is based on the data. The challenge is to channel the huge amount of information available to improve the performance of our team, both operationally and in the race.

“Traditionally CA Technologies helps companies succeed in today’s economy of applications , so it is the ideal technology partner for the Trek-Segafredo team. The CA Technologies solutions and services will help us coordinate data from multiple groups of people , who are in time zones and continents and thus to work in a more productive, as a united team.”