The UCI Track Champions League returns this weekend for its second edition, promising to further revolutionise the way fans enjoy track cycling.
In 2021, viewers could visit an app and view live data from the riders, including their power, speed, cadence and heart rate. There was even a function that allowed users to feel an athlete’s bpm through their phone’s vibrations.
This year, organisers Warner Bros. Discovery Sports claim to have stepped it up another level, bringing on tech company Infinite Reality as their “exclusive metaverse partner”.
In a statement shared last month, Infinite Reality CEO John Acunto said: “This is just the beginning of connecting amazing content with their audience in unique and immersive ways.”
What exactly this immersive experience entails, however, remains a mystery. So here’s what we’d like to see at the competition.
1. Cycling's Club Penguin
Perhaps the most interesting part of the partnership is that it will give fans “the potential to interact in the metaverse with their favourite athletes”.
Of course, the immediate image this gives is one of a cyclist’s Club Penguin - the popular online multiplayer game. Maybe users will be able to waddle up to Laura Kenny, or her chosen aquatic avatar, and strike up a conversation. “How’s it going, Dame Laura? Fancy a game of sled racing?”
2. F1-style data
For years, fans have been begging for more on-screen data. And until now the only real response has been WHOOP recovery scores, which quantify how sleepy a rider is.
We want to see a full F1-style dashboard, bursting with live data. Peak power, current speed, average power, rushing room, you name it. To appease the purists, the organisers can offer an old-school viewing experience with just the riders, their bikes and the boards.
3. Camera angle options
One rumour surrounding the event's new immersive format is that viewers will be able to switch independently between camera angles. This is something we would welcome wholly.
Think how much easier it would be to follow a points race or a Madison if you could focus on just the race leaders. Gone too would be the days of the jarring elimination race cutaway to rider spat out the back.
And why draw the line at the riders? Let's strap cameras to everyone and give viewers some point-of-view footage from the trainers and commissaires who are trackside.
4. Virtual reality racing
Onboard cameras have made for thrilling footage in recent years, but now we want the full race experience. Bring in virtual reality goggles so viewers can feel what it’s like to drop down the banking at 70km/h.
We want to bump shoulders with 11-time sprint world champion Harrie Lavreysen and experience a Mathilde Gros death stare first hand, without the usual requirements for athletic genes and years of a full training regime.
👀👀 pic.twitter.com/O27mDwWkrbOctober 22, 2022
5. More lava
While we’re on VR headsets, let’s use them to mix up the scenery a bit. Yes, the wooden track is cool, but why not swap it out virtually for a wilder alternative. Mario Kart’s rainbow road, with its technicolour tiles, springs to mind.
This technology could even stretch across to road racing. Take the Tour de France, for example. Next summer, the peloton will race up the Puy de Dôme, a dormant volcano, for the first time in 35 years. VR could allow us to watch the stage finale with lava spewing over the race leaders. Picture Tadej Pogačar, arms aloft, celebrating beneath a molten downpour.
The Track Champions League’s new immersive experiences will be trialled on 2 and 3 December at the competition’s final two rounds in London.
The first round will begin on 12 November at the Velòdrom Illes Balears in Mallorca, Spain.
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