Could we soon be seeing on-bike footage from big road races like the Tour de France? That’s the possibility UCI president Brian Cookson mentioned in a speech to a sports conference this morning.
On-bike cameras would open up possibilities such as “being able to share the view of Chris Froome as he rose up Mount Ventoux or came up the Champs-Elysees” in last year’s Tour de France, said Cookson.
Delivering the keynote speech to the opening day of the SportAccord convention of international sporting bodies, Cookson reiterated his determination to win the fight against doping in cycling, and hinted at a more flexible regime over technological innovations. He also repeated his suggestion that cyclo-cross should become part of the Winter Olympics, and suggested it should be joined by other sports that traditionally take place in winter.
He said: “We need to embrace innovation and sell our sport – in all its disciplines.”
Cookson said that cycling’s great strength was its huge worldwide grassroots base. He said: “In 2012, bicycles outsold cars in 26 of the European Union’s 28 member states. In China alone well over 400 million people own a bicycle. All this puts the UCI in a very special and unique position, and I want to see us realise the full potential of this wonderful base to our sport.”
“One of the biggest challenges – not just for cycling, but for many sports – is the need to evolve while staying true to the essence of your sport. How do you progress and embrace innovation in order to make the spectator and viewer feel even more engaged? We will look at technology such as cameras on bikes and in team cars to see how they can be used to enhance the viewer experience. Imagine being able to share the view of Chris Froome as he rose up Mount Ventoux or came up the Champs-Elysees to win last summer’s Tour de France. And why stop at cameras - what about having microphones on bikes or sharing rider data on screen.”
Cookson also spoke strongly about the UCI’s determination to solve the doping problem that has plagued cycling for the last several decades.
He said: “We have to have a sport where a parent can bring their child, and know that their son or daughter can go all the way to the top if they have the ability and dedication. Without having to lie, without having to cheat, without having to do things that will risk their health, without having to spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder. If we cannot do that as a governing body, then we have failed our members and our sport. But we are not going to fail. We are going to succeed.”
Turning to the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 discussion of the future of the Olympics, Cookson said it was important to have an “open and positive” debate.
He said: “If we, as leaders of our sports, cannot think out of the box and have this kind of discussion in good faith then we certainly run the risk of seeing our sports stagnate.”
That may well be a riposte to the president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), Marius Vizer who recently mocked Cookson’s suggestion that indoor sports such as judo and track cycling could be moved to the Winter Olympics to reduce the pressure on the Summer Games.
Cookson said: “In my own sport’s case, I have publicly advocated that a discipline like cyclo-cross would be an ideal addition to the Winter Games. It takes place during northern hemisphere winter, it offers equal medal opportunities for men and women, infrastructure costs to install a circuit are minimal and the first across the line principle is clear. And above all, it is a sport that reaches out to an incredibly wide cross-section of the population.
“These discussions fit with Agenda 2020 and I do believe it is right to discuss how we can be creative in looking at both the Summer and Winter sports programmes. For me this should include whether there is merit in considering sports that traditionally take place in the winter months being a part of the Winter Games. And if this leads to more disciplines and new sports in the Games, more people watching and engaged, then that could be a very good solution to several different challenges.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.