• On board at the Giro... The view from the bike of Andrey Solomennikov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) during Stage 7 of this year's race. (RCS Sport)Source: RCS Sport
On an innocuous day for the GC riders and a week into the year's first Grand Tour, organisers did something never done before in the history of broadcasting professional road cycling. Anthony Tan reports.
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Cycling Central
17 May 2016 - 7:30 PM  UPDATED 17 May 2016 - 10:51 PM

For the first time, we saw live pictures from inside the peloton. Not from a cameraman on a motorbike that had immersed itself in the bunch headed for Foligno, but from the bike of Andrey Solomennikov, a little-known rider on the all-Russian Gazprom-Rusvelo team. "RCS Sport and host broadcaster RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana) have reached an agreement allowing race footage to be broadcast live from on-board cameras mounted on a number of bicycles, starting in stage seven of this 99th Giro d'Italia," read a press statement from RCS Sport, following the seventh stage won by André Greipel.

"The plan, according to GoPro, is to be able to live-stream footage from every bike in the Tour peloton - something they believe possible as early as July 2017."

"For the first time in the history of the Corsa Rosa, an HD broadcast camera sending a live feed was installed on the one of the bicycles used in the race, giving fans a taste of what it is like to be in the saddle, right in the heart of the race."

The pictures weren't anything to write home about and from what I've read since, little fuss was made of it from journalists covering the race.

But perhaps there should have been.

Since the UCI legalised their use in races three years ago, Shimano and the Cannondale Pro Cycling team, as well as others, have been recording and broadcasting on-bike footage with the ubiquitous GoPro camera. However the footage has always appeared after, not during, the event, thus reducing the poignancy of what it's like to be in the peloton in the heat of the moment.

Imagine if, last Wednesday in Benevento, you were 'on-board' with Greipel's team-mate Jurgen Roelandts as he led the bunch for three out of the last four kilometres on Stage 5?

How about being on-board with Tom Dumoulin on the opening stage in Apeldoorn; what is it like to ride at your maximum for 11 minutes through a cacophonous tunnel of noise?

How does one successfully steal a march on the peloton, so deftly executed by Lotto-Soudal's Tim Wellens and Pim Ligthart en route to the first summit finish in Roccaraso?

And how, in Sunday's time trial, did the day go so wrong for Ilnur Zakarin and so right for Gianluca Brambilla, which saw the former hit the deck twice and undergo three bike changes, while the latter, against all odds after his stage-winning effort the day previous, held onto the maglia rosa by a single second?

Of course, being there with the big guns on the mammoth mountain stages to come - how good would that be?!

GoPro, in partnership with ASO and Velon, had cameras on at least 12 bikes in each stage of last year's Tour de France, also attached to team mechanics, soigneurs, and sport directors. We saw how visceral that could be when footage from an Orica-GreenEDGE mechanic emerged from the mass pile-up on Stage 3 that laid claim to Fabian Cancellara, the race leader at the time, and Simon Gerrans, as well as numerous others.

Still, no live on-board footage was shown, and most of the 110 hours of content captured each day has still not being seen in any widely distributed format, other than via social media. ASO owns all the footage, and GoPro was only allowed to produce one three-minute clip each day, which was available for broadcast partners to use as they saw fit. "I think next year will be a lot better at the content ingestion (side)," GoPro's Todd Ballard told VeloNews at last year's Tour. "There is so much content coming in every day that we are really working together with Velon and ASO and even some of the media directors from the teams about ingesting all that content and pulling the best moments from the 110 hours of content [each day]."

The plan, according to GoPro, is to be able to live-stream footage from every bike in the Tour peloton - something they believe possible as early as July 2017. "We don't have a timeline, but sooner is better," Ballard said. "I think we will go live from every bike, so every viewer can watch their favourite rider."

Imagine that: on your Giro or Tour tracker, the ability to get on-board with any one of 200 riders, all while the race is happening in front of you. Speed, heart rate, power, altitude gained, calories burned - all at your fingertips.

By getting in first, as patchy as it was and albeit with one rider, Giro organiser RCS has just upped the ante. Sooner is indeed better. I can't wait for more.

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