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Digital Swiss 5 virtually assembles WorldTour teams to race

'This gives us a motivation when everything else is so uncertain for the moment.'

Organizers of the Tour of Switzerland are turning to technology in hopes of providing a racing experience for pro cycling teams which have seen their seasons all but evaporate due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Digital Swiss 5 is a virtual race, planned to take place in the Rouvy environment from April 22 to 26. Individual races, each expected to last about an hour, will be contested over five consecutive days, and will feature many of the same roads covered in the Tour de Suisse. The event will be coordinated with Velon group which provides live data feeds for many WorldTour races.

Invitations to participate have been sent to all teams that are scheduled to race in this year’s Tour de Suisse, and each team may provide up to three riders. A complete start list will be available closer to the event start date.

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“This is a really cool way for us to interact with our fans,” said Australian Michael Matthews (Sunweb). “This gives us a motivation when everything else is so uncertain for the moment.”

Three-dimensional avatars of riders, on their respective teams’ equipment will be displayed along with speed, power, and cadence. Several teams will also be equipped with webcams so, “the viewers can see their faces, pushing watts,” explained a representative from Velon.

Groupama-FDJ team manager Marc Madiot confirmed, “Any initiative to encourage racers at the present time…why not? In the situation we are in, nothing should be [overlooked].”

“It does not replace the real race, however,” added Madiot. “On this type of bike, [there are] not the same sensations of speed, balance, and placement in the peloton. And remember, one fundamental difference between the virtual and the real: When I put myself in the place of a F1 driver, I’m able to go very fast, but I know that I risk nothing!”