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Bikes, camera, action! Amgen tour experiments with on-bike cams

The Amgen tour is supplying bike-cam footage to NBC Sports, and it's hoped that one day cycling fans might see NASCAR-style shots

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SACRAMENTO, California (VN) — The Amgen Tour of California is on the forefront of technology, and not just because it’s within shouting distance of Silicon Valley — the race is testing the latest in action video cameras under special dispensation from the UCI.

With the help of Shimano and its new CM-1000 sports camera, the Amgen tour will be supplying edited video to NBC Sports for its nightly prime-time coverage.

“The UCI has given us an exemption to use cameras this week,” said race director Jim Birrell. “It’s a beta test, so we’ll be taking good notes, both from our perspective as the race organizers, but also from the teams’ and the viewer’s perspectives.”

Between six and 10 riders will use the cameras each day of the race. Shimano is providing cameras, while K-Edge components supplies its Go Big Pro handlebar and saddle-rail mounts.

At the end of each stage, Shimano employees will collect the cameras’ memory cards and edit the footage into a 30- to 60-second summary. And they have to move fast, since they only have about an hour to get the footage to NBC Sports.

The cameras don’t have enough battery life for an entire stage, but are easily turned on and off via a button on the bottom side. Shimano says riders have used the cameras in training and are familiar with them. The UnitedHealthcare team has four of them — two riders use handlebar-mounted, forward-facing setups while two use saddle-mounted, rear-facing cameras.

Sprinter Hilton Clarke has a front-facing camera, while leadout man Ken Hanson has a rear-facing camera.

Giant-Shimano’s John Degenkolb also has a front-view cam while leadout man Koen de Kort has a rear-view setup; the stage-one footage showed Degenkolb jockeying for position with Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish.

“I think that one of the lessons we will walk away with is how we take that passive data and make it real-time,” said Birrell. “We’re not far away from that and I think in the next couple years we’ll be able to remotely operate these cameras and provide the viewers with real-time video. We want to give them the ‘in-car camera,’ like in NASCAR, and really enhance their experience.”

At the end of stage one, UCI president Brian Cookson said bike-cam video “is something that I’ve wanted to see.”

“I haven’t seen the outcome yet, but I’m not aware of any problems, so just waiting to see what the results are,” he added.

The Shimano CM-1000 is wireless-capable and ANT+ compatible, so if the UCI approves cams’ use in more events, it’s possible for team directors or producers in the caravan to access the cameras through the cameras’ wi-fi signal.

Of course, riders and teams have to sign off on using them, too. The CM-1000’s weight is comparable to that of a Shimano Di2 battery, according to Shimano.

“I’d be into using the camera on some of the flat stages, but not in the mountains. I wouldn’t want the added weight,” said Giant-Shimano’s Lawson Craddock.

UHC’s Danny Summerhill was excited about the cameras, as are a lot of his teammates.

“I’ve heard some rumors about how it could be used in live coverage if it gets approved after this event. I think it can bring a lot to the sport,” he said.

If accepted by the UCI, riders, and viewers, cams could add another dimension to what race directors can offer their TV partners and the audience.

The Shimano CM-1000 is not yet available to consumers. It is expected to be available in early August and will retail for $300.


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