Inside the game: Eurosport’s Tour

France: As one of the longest-established add-ons to France Television’s host coverage of the Tour de France, Eurosport’s production sees 35 people comprising four crews traverse France. Sometimes that transfer is an easy one, sometimes it’s a race against time.
Last Tuesday’s stage was a case in point. The race itself ran a mere 158km from Aurillac to Carmaux. The transfer was mapped out at 160km but, according to Stefano Bernabino, Chief Editor at Eurosport International, there were plenty of roadworks along the way too.

“We produce a show right after the start so we don’t take off till up to an hour after the race starts,” he says. “And as we were on the road we were listening to the race radio, and it was saying the peloton was 110km away from the finish, when we were 120km away. Then it was 80km away, we were at 90; the pack was at 40 we were at 50….We were always behind the peloton, but eventually we arrived as they still had 10km to go.”

Eurosport produces a a 20 minute show at the start of every race day, which it balances with a 10 or 20 minute show after the day’s racing with reaction and analysis from riders, directeurs sportifs and other interested parties. It also inserts interviews it’s shot on Panasonic P2 throughout the day and, this year, has even embedded a crew with the Astana team.

“One of the things we’re doing new at the end of the stage this year is showing the riders either the sprint, their attack, or one of the other significant events from the stage for the very first time on a monitor to get their comments,” says Bernabino. “We have three cameras set up at the finish: one wireless camera which goes all the way down to the area where the riders and teams are; then two cabled cameras – one with the monitor, and one just after the finish to get immediate reaction.

“It’s a moving event,” he adds when asked about Le Tour’s main challenges. “Every day there is a different situation and different logistics to contend with. Weather conditions change day after day too. It’s an everyday marathon, not only for the riders but for the television crews following the race. And after what happened with the accident there are many more instructions on the media not to impact on the race.”

Bernabino refers to the accident, which saw a Euro Media car sideswipe Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha as a ‘scandal’, but even that incident and its continuing reverberations cannot hide his enthusiasm for what has been Eurosport’s biggest production of the race to date. And there are plenty more ideas for the future, including the use of live GPS data that will provide realtime information on gaps, breakaways and closing speeds, and even an idea to get closer to the strategies that make Le Tour such an enthralling event – akin to a game of chess played on bicycles over 3000km of French roads.

“We are thinking about putting cameras in the directeur sportif cars so we can cover the tactics better,” he says. “To have live cameras in the cars and be party to all the strategies of a cycling race would be really interesting, but of course they will want to keep those things secret. Still, it might be possible…”

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