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Stuart Pickering's picture

Women’s World Tour 2016 report card

So the point of this article is to review the first year of the Women’s World Tour.

When it was launched it was going to be the best thing since sliced bread but has it lived up to all the hype the UCI gave us?

In my opinion the media and TV coverage is the first place where potential sponsors of women’s cycling will look to see if there is a good ROI (return on investment) crucial for the future and development of women’s cycling.

The following is taken from the UCI 2016 UCI WOMEN’S WORLDTOUR CANDIDATES GUIDE

 

4.5. TV CRITERIA

Media exposure is at the centre of the UCI’s strategy for the development of women’s cycling. Not only the quantity, but also the quality of the material produced and distributed to the media should

be representative of the image that the UCI, in partnership with organisers, wishes to promote of this discipline. To ensure that this is systematically delivered by events in the new series, the following

requirements will be established with organisers:

Candidates are required to produce their event for either: Live TV, live streaming (Internet) or at minimum 56 minutes same day highlights magazine. A news clip of approximately five minutes should be produced in all cases.

Post TV Production: To ensure the continuity and harmonisation of footage distributed, the UCI will seek to centralise the post-production of highlights magazines and provide the graphics and English

Commentary. Costs to be offset by each event.

4.6. DIGITAL CRITERIA

Websites are the first impression that teams, fans and media will have of your event, although websites alone are no longer sufficient; they must be supported by social media. The following criteria apply for all 2016 UCI Women’s WorldTour candidates.

WEBSITE

• Your event’s website must be functional in English and/or French.  

• It must include a PDF version of the technical guide for download

• It must include the highlights of the event as soon as they are available (to be provided by the UCI)

SOCIAL MEDIA

• Create a Twitter and Facebook account

• Define the # (hashtag) of your event early in the season and promote it

• Promote the # (hashtag) of the WWT

• Include live coverage of the event on Twitter (the UCI will assist with the planning)

 

So this is what we expected to get this year but with a few notable exceptions the World Tour failed miserably to meet what had been hyped.

The first race Strade Bianchi not only gave no live TV, the media reporting was pathetic.  There was a global sigh from the cycling community worldwide.    Highlight of the day was Canyon SRAM with a live periscope feed on the last climb.

Ronde van Drenthe lived up to what we had been promised and it was great!

We eagerly awaited Trofeo Alfredo Binda where live streaming was to be the high spot of the day. Except the live coverage consisted of one camera on the finish line giving a couple of minutes “live” every lap. The rest of the “live” broadcast consisted of interviews with nearly every person from the local community.  Towards the end we got some images of riders but these were delayed and just confused the race.  To be fair we did see later an hour long video of the event and it was broadcast on RAI sport, but here comes the first “Geo Blocked” of the year and we had to rely on a pirated version.

Gent Wevelgem left us feeling cold again…  Sarah Connoly set the tone “I have to start with a warning that we’re not going to get as much from Gent-Wevelgem as we did from the previous rounds of the 2016 Women’s World Tour, Strade Bianche, Ronde van Drenthe and Trofeo Alfredo Binda, BUT we still have highlights!”   That should have raised eyebrows, less than before?  Yes we did get a nine minute UCI Video and 7.5 minutes from Sporza.

Ronde van Vlaanderen came with promise but the English stream was pretty much a disaster but we did get lots of videos once again mostly pirate ones.

Fleche Wallone disappointed in the extreme, running concurrently with the men’s race, cameras all over the route only to get 30 seconds of the women’s race live.   Once again we got videos, but our favourite “Geo Blocking” was evident and seven minutes from the UCI.

 

By now we were seeing a pattern! And the UCI women’s Cycling twitter account was so noticeable in its absence.

 

Tour of Chongming Island Once again the promise of a live stream, but one that threw my anti-virus software into apoplexy so that was not going to be watchable, but a 26 minute video from the UCI came out but as usual days after the event, but so difficult and rather pointless.

Amgen Tour of California It was a proper tour but seriously reduced parcours from the men and a final stage criterium, why?  No live video but we did get highlights and again relying on kind people using periscope to provide finish video.

Philadelphia International Cycling Classic   Great media, great live video stream, if a bit pixelated, but a great event.

Aviva Womens Tour   Once again no live stream but hour long highlights if you could get to watch the UK ITV station which sadly a lot of us outside the UK could not do.  But great media and one of the best Twitter streams for the stages.

Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile   The biggest women’s race of the year and again we were reduced to pirated Italian video highlights and unlike years before it seemed the race organisation had forgotten how to use Twitter.

La Course by Le Tour de France The race that could be said to have been the start of the women’s cycling revolution.  Although it is a marvelous spectacle, with proper live TV and great prize money it is a criterium, albeit on the most famous road in cycling.   It is time that a women’s Tour de France was introduced but unlike a lot of people I say it should not run parallel with the men’s race or it will be lost in the hype.  Much better idea to invest the money in one of the other French women’s races and bring it up to the required standard.

Prudential Ride London Grand Prix   The total prize money for the Prudential RideLondon Classique is 100,000 Euros, the biggest prize fund in women’s cycling. The individual winner receives 25,000 Euros in prize money and the winning team is awarded 10,000 Euros. There were three Continental Tyres Sprints classifications in the race offering a further 12,600 Euros in prize money.
The race was shown live on BBC TV and worldwide for the fourth successive year. It was the first women’s race in the UK, outside the Olympic or Commonwealth Games, to be broadcast live.

But and here it is again it is another criterium, why when it could be so much better?

Crescent Women World Cup Vargarda TTT No TV coverage and poor organisation social media. There were almost no tweets about the race and again UCI Womens Cycling Twitter was also non-existent.   No time checks at all for a time trial?

Crescent Women World Cup Vargarda   Great live TV coverage if you were able to watch Eurosport, but for the vast part of the cycling world, once again were reduced to dodgy pirate streams.  Much better effort from UCI Womens Cycling Twitter account but race organisation social media once again almost non-existent, in fact not a single update tweet during the race, so we have to rely on 3rd parties such as the teams and or accounts as Voxwomen.

GP de Plouay-Bretagne Once again the vast amount of cycling fans around the world were reduced to pirate streams as the French stream was “geo-blocked” and of course Eurosport player is not available outside Europe.  It does have to be said that the pirate stream, for once, was clean and good quality, but still pirate.

Madrid Challenge Yes, another criterium but worldwide television coverage and so we have to give this a plus mark and also good social media coverage.

 

Overall

So overall what did I think of the inaugural Women’s World Tour?  We seem to have gone backwards from the 2015 Women’s World Cup.  The UCI handed the responsibility to the event organisers who have on most occasions failed to meet the parameters that were laid out in the opening document in all areas, TV, video, websites and social media. We greatly missed the 45 minute UCI highlights programs.  I have said before and I will repeat it, the UCI Women’s Cycling Twitter account, although it has slightly improved recently, has not met anywhere near the standard I would expect from such an important account.

Social media, websites, Facebook pages from races are generally poor. The race organisation must define and promote # 90% of the time # was defined and agreed by the Twitterati so we could follow each other!

When the only way to watch highlights is on pirate streams, or pirate highlights the whole concept has clearly missed the mark, not only that the amount of malware you suffer just to watch the sport that is a passion is horrible!  Of course I realise that I could pay for a “VPN” and cheat the system but once again that defeats the object of the WWT and globalization.  Do not get me wrong, the fact that so many races are being televised is a great step forward but that needs to be a much bigger global step.

We did not even get a good written English race reports from the UCI like we did in 2015 within 24 hours after the race although there was a weekly update. The lack of the UCI race report soon after an event was a huge disappointment.

 Apart from TV/video the written reports are incredibly important to get message across and race organisations did not do it.  GP Plouay, five lines of text and image of podium is their report and wholly unusable for news services.  At times I was hoping Boels Dolmans or Wiggle High 5 would win the races as I knew we would get a decent race report within 24 hours.

You have to remember I am writing this from a media point of view.  If I cannot get the information, reports, social media I cannot forward in on to my audience and grow women’s cycling.

UCI President Brian Cookson “It will provide the perfect platform not just to grow women’s cycling around the world, but also to boost the profile of women’s cycling“, and Vice-President Tracey Gaudry: “Teams, riders and event organisers are all on-board, and fans will now be able to see the best female cyclists all around the world.” 

I would give it 4/10 “Must do better” 

To be fair the contect of this article was sent to the UCI women'c cycling co-ordinator for comment and we have been promised a reply which we will add once received.

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