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Cycling enters the digital era

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It is well recorded in business citations that the adoption of digital technology provides a much-needed boost to stay ahead of the innovation curve and give the desired competitive edge.
Breaking records, however, by racing alongside big business into this digital era and illustrating seamlessly the value that big data analytics has on performance, is the world of sport.
This was highlighted by Scott Gibson, group executive at Dimension Data Digital Practice and Doug Ryder, team principal of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, a high performance African race team, at Saphila 2017 in Sun City earlier this week.
Gibson set the scene by talking about how today’s sport fans had changed from those in the past. He mentioned, in particular, how they showed shrinking attention spans and the manner in which they consumed sports content – for instance by either interacting with social media – tweeting, streaming and more – during a live match, or by demanding a more personalised experience with their favourite players. He noted that sport stakeholders needed to cater to and keep up with the new digital native sport fan in order to ensure an ongoing fan engagement.
Further, Gibson says there is value in sports stadiums embracing technology as it can not only smooth the process and overall stadium experience for spectators, but also reveal an increase in the ROI of a sporting arena. This is especially true of big data and how analytics gains from certain access points throughout the stadium, such as parking, seating, food and beverage outlets.
“Today it’s all about data, advising fans, monitoring and creating a smart stadium. And, it has changed the way potential problems are dealt with by no longer being reactionary but solving it becomes an issue,” he said.
Ryder pointed out that the power of data and “deep” analytics was certainly optimising Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riding performance.
“There is no guess work,” he said and demonstrated how the cycling team uses technology by, for instance, extracting data to show a rider’s medical status and riding position – also using this as both an ideal tool for tactical learning and engaging fans on social media.
Ryder explained that owing to forward-thinking procedures, the team, which he mentioned was initially compared to Jamaica’s legendary bob-sledding team within the global cycling world, had shown tremendous milestones since its inception 10 years ago – achieving its vision of cycling the Tour de France in 2015. Soon, the team, which has bolstered its potential even more, will compete in the 2017 race.
Technology – embracing hi-tech cycling, logistics, inventory planning, rider selection, staff planning, infrastructure – firmly intertwined with the team’s purpose to bring bicycles into African communities and an unwavering commitment by each rider in the team to this charitable cause, sets team Qhubeka apart, said Ryder. “You need the right tools for both high performance and culture.”
“Importantly, in sport, it is not only about tracking, but also by using algorithms to tell stories that hold sport enthusiasts’ attention and entering his or her digital world with digital answers,” concluded Gibson.
What may in the past seem like an unnatural pairing – sport and technology – is quickly becoming the new normal and a much-needed aid for participant, team, fan and sporting stadiums.