How Team Sky’s riders stayed connected to win the Tour de France

Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas became the third Briton to win the Tour de France when he crossed the finish line in Paris last month. The Team Sky rider follows Sir Bradley Wiggins (2012 winner) and four-time Tour champion Chris Froome as Britain celebrated a sixth win in seven years. Of course these riders wouldn’t have been able to triumph without the unfliailing support of the Team Sky Performance Hub who provide technical support and technical innovation to keep them ahead of the competition.

The world’s most prestigious bike race presents challenges posed by terrain, crowds, and weather, with stages often in remote locations. The director’s cars are carrying three people, with a rear compartment full of equipment and are travelling at speed with the peloton. Until now, Team Sky had been unable to provide constant observation into the director’s cars during races.

“Professional road cycling is extreme, you’re constantly moving, you’re up mountains, there’s no mobile signal, you’ve created one of the most complex environments in which to get information through,” said Dr. Scott Drawer, head of the Team Sky Performance Hub. “Anticipating the route ahead of its cyclists and buying the team a few precious seconds to prepare support in cases of crash, injuries, changes in weather, punctures, and other such events can be crucial.”

Image credit: Russ Ellis, russellis.co.uk

Team Sky has been working closely with Dejero using the Dejero GateWay in-vehicle mobile connectivity solution within the sports directors’ car, to gain an understanding of how to use the solution to provide connectivity in the cycling environment. During the Tour de France, Team Sky used Dejero GateWay to monitor live TV feeds and track live environmental data and social media activity within its ‘follow’ vehicles.

On race days, the sports directors sit in the car behind the peloton and receive lots of inbound information, some from riders through radio communications and also through on race TV. “Until you have been on a race it’s hard to understand how difficult it is,” explained Drawer. “There is constant communication between the riders and the second directeur sportif (DS) car to share information on what is coming up to help reinforce strategy or to deliver information, for example the location of feeding zones. The DS is responsible for race strategy on race day, so it’s a big effort from mechanics, soigneurs, and medical staff to ensure plans are executed appropriately.”

In previous years, the only way Team Sky could get insight into the race was to watch it on an in-car portable TV, but in extreme environments it is notoriously difficult to get a signal and even then, there could be a huge delay on that signal. That means the team often hears something on the race radio and see it on TV 30 seconds later, if at all.

Image credit: Russ Ellis, russellis.co.uk

Sky like to look outside its normal industry to find creative ways to resolve challenges like this. Enter a collaborative partnership with connectivity technology provider Dejero, who provided the Dejero GateWay in-vehicle mobile connectivity solution that is now permanently installed in one of the team’s key cars and was used by Team Sky on the road to victory in Paris.

GateWay allows Team Sky to monitor the live TV feeds in order to anticipate the route ahead of the cyclists, buying them precious seconds to prepare support tools in case of crash, injury, punctures, and other unforeseen events. These feeds are provided by television stations and Team Sky locks onto those through a video streaming process.

The unique network blending technology in the Dejero GateWay solution blends 3G, 4G, and LTE cellular connections from multiple mobile network providers to create a virtual network capable of delivering high-throughput connectivity to the Internet, private networks and cloud services. The software dynamically and intelligently manages the fluctuating bandwidth, packet loss, and latency differences of individual connections to choose the optimal path to route IP packets to their destination. The result is more bandwidth, speed, and reliability over a secure connection.

As Team Sky continues its own R&D journey to improve their support hub, Dejero is helping the team to customize its workflow by providing the established GateWay connectivity technology, bringing the British cycling team ever closer to its goal of constant connectivity on any given tour.

Image credit: Russ Ellis, russellis.co.uk

“Remember, we are constantly moving around a country that has stronger signals on some networks than others,” Drawer commented. “When there is a network to lock into with a strong enough signal – we can find it, however, there are times – when you are up a mountain or on bumpy cobbled terrain where there is no network, so we have nothing to connect to.”

“Unbroken connectivity doesn’t exist yet, but GateWay helps us to lock onto the strongest networks whereever possible to improve the probability of us understanding what is going on during a race and to deliver effective information and support at the right time.”

Tour de France winners, Team Sky, provided new and exciting challenges in a new realm of connectivity for the Dejero technology. In this early stage of Team Sky’s R&D process, GateWay offers the performance team huge potential when it comes to monitoring the riders ahead and buying those crucial extra seconds to react. “In France mobile connectivity isn’t as good as other countries, with an awful lot of dead spots. But the GateWay solution gave us a more powerful connection than ever before,” concluded Drawer.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 731 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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