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Want to see inside an elite ‘cross race? Follow it with a drone

Organizers of Superprestige Gavere trial drone footage at race Saturday only for the UCI to remove the flying camera.

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There was a new noise rising over the customary cheers, cowbells and orders for beers at the Superprestige Gavere this weekend.

A drone camera hovered above the race-track as event organizers Flanders Classics trialed new technology to bring the race into viewers’ living rooms.

The dramatic footage of Lucinda Brand leading the women’s race wasn’t to last long however. The UCI soon banned the camera from the course, prompting a flood of disappointment through the ‘cross community.

Veteran reporter and Sporza broadcaster Renaat Schotte deemed it a “sin” that the camera was forced off course. Others praised the idea as the socialsphere lit up with comments.

“The drone images in the Superprestige today are really an added value for our sport,” said multiple world champ Sven Nys. “If you want to innovate, this is the right direction.”

Brand, who went on to win the race, was a big fan of the camerawork.

“Amazing footage,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, this was the only flight, the UCI banned it during our race. But a big shoutout to the people who introduced this to our sport! I think a drone like this is an amazing feature to make the broadcasts even more interesting!

“The crew contacted me before the race and I know they are all about safety. The drone is small and it looks like the propellers are protected to not hurt someone. Hope to see these shots again in the next races!!”

Brand added a poll to her message, asking if viewers were a “fan” or wanted a “ban.” Opinion after some 3,400 votes currently stands at 96 percent “fan.”

In-race footage has become a mainstay in road racing through the Velon group’s use of cameras underneath riders’ saddles or handlebars.

Saturday’s drone footage in Gavere is the latest effort to bring similar innovation and engagement to the world of ‘cross and promote the discipline as a potential Winter Olympic sport. This year’s world championships saw the trial of a mixed relay race, while the World Cup made its first visit to the snow-line when the UCI created an event in Val di Sole last December.

The UCI, Flanders Classics and the Superprestige series are yet to comment on Saturday’s incident or on the inclusion – or exclusion – of drone cameras in future races.