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The UCI’s technical commission is reconsidering the use of bike-mounted cameras and GPS transmission units, the governing body announced in its fall Info Bulletin.
On-bike cameras were removed from competition in 2011, following their widespread introduction into the pro peloton at that year’s Amgen Tour of California.
Article 1.3.004 of the UCI’s technical rulebook establishes that any innovation must be approved before use — the GoPro cameras mounted under the saddles and on the handlebars of riders had not seen prior approval, and the UCI required their removal.
Units used by power meter manufacturer SRM to display location and power readings of certain riders during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, allowing fans to track both figures in real time during races, also had to be removed.
The GPS units and cameras were not actually banned — they were simply not approved. The distinction may seem redundant, but it means that rather than overturn an existing rule the UCI must simply approve units for use. The latter is a much simpler process.
The UCI brought together a working group to discuss the possibility of returning GPS units and cameras to competition in June of this year. The group includes UCI members as well as one representative each from the teams, riders, organizers, commissaires, timekeepers, television broadcasters, and manufacturers.
Cameras and GPS units could be seen within the WorldTour as soon as the 2013 season, which sets off in Australia on January 22nd. For the first time, perhaps because of pressure from broadcasters, the UCI seems wholly on-board with bringing the technology into racing.
“What must be developed is sound recording and on-board cameras, both in team cars and on bikes, as well as the full geolocation of riders,” French TV director Jean-Maurize Ooghe is quoted as saying in the bulletin. “We have to get to the point where all the riders can be located at all times. This will make cycling accessible to a huge audience and will put it right up there with other major televised sports such as Formula 1. It’s a really important issue.”
The issue of image rights has yet to be settled, however, and may prove the largest hurdle in bringing cameras back into the peloton. The technology is certainly no longer an issue.
While the on-board cameras hold obvious attraction for both broadcasters and fans, the UCI focused much of the bulletin on the positives of bringing GPS geolocation into the pro peloton. The governing body did note, however, that no such systems have been approved by the UCI as of yet.
“Systems that transmit riders’ personal data, such as their heart rates, have not been presented to the UCI for approval in accordance with Article 1.3.004,” the bulletin states. “The UCI must study the effects of the use of such systems in competition and the risks and consequences that their unrestricted use could have on races.”
Overall, though, the UCI’s outlook appears to be positive. The bulletin continues on, listing a number of benefits to bringing geolocation onto every rider’s bike.
“The ability to locate the exact positions of all the riders from the start of a race to the finish would, without doubt, be a huge development in the sport, particularly when it comes to media coverage,” the bulletin states. “This would allow them to better explain and analyze a race: team tactics, formation of a break, crashes, etc.”
Benefits for commissaires, tasked with enforcing the sport’s rules on the ground, were considered as well.
“It should also be possible to detect “sticky bottles” (abnormal accelerations due to assistance from team cars), crashes (severe decelerations) and technical problems (lack of movement),” the bulletin states.
More “Approved” stickers
Expansion of the UCI’s sticker program was also addressed by the Info Bulletin.
Beginning in January 2013, forks will have to be approved along with their corresponding frames.
The UCI cited difficulty in checking frames where the fork as been changed out, and the increasing number of time trial bikes being sold with illegal forks on an otherwise legal frame — a triathlon version, for example.
Total cost to manufacturers will not increase, the bulletin insists: “This does not in any way mean that additional costs will be applied to the approval of complete models (frame and forks), but rather that it will now be possible to approve forks separately.”
Manufacturers will be asked to place a smaller version of the “Approved” sticker bearing the approval code to their forks.