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Virtual bike races as hard as Tour de France, says expert

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Virtual bike races as hard as Tour de France, says expert
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

  • Virtual cycle races take place of cancelled road races
  • Big names like Chris Froome have been taking part
  • Cycling data expert says virtual races are proving to be just as hard as the real thing

Virtual cycle racing is proving to be just as hard as road races such as the Tour de France, according to professional riders and a leading sports data analyst.

Races on virtual platforms such as Zwift and ROUVY have filled the void left by the cancellation of professional road races over the past few weeks, with big-name riders like Chris Froome and Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet taking part in events such as the Digital Swiss 5, the Zwift Tour for All and the Team INEOS eRace on Zwift.

Together with a panel of cycling experts from bonusfinder.com, professional cycling coach and data scientist Philipp Diegner – who regularly analyses UCI WorldTour races – has assessed the publicly available performance data from more than 200 efforts made by pro riders in recent virtual races.

Although virtual races are up to six times shorter than road races, Diegner said they have proved to be just as difficult as road races and have caught some professionals off guard. ”The racing is short and particularly intense,” he explained. “It is 45-90 minutes of racing instead of 3-6 hours. The consequence for the riders is that there is no opportunity to save energy like they have in road races, so they have to make prolonged, all-out efforts that push them to their physical limit.

“Professionals are not necessarily used to this and it can be a shock to the system. Virtual racing is as hard as road racing; it is just that endurance is a more decisive factor in road racing, whereas virtual racing is one hour of pure, intense suffering.”

Pro rider Chris Hamilton, who rides for Team Sunweb, agreed with Diegner when he described one virtual race as “the hardest thing I have ever done”.

Diegner selected the following 10 performances as the most impressive he has seen in the professional virtual races to date.

 

Rider Team Race Time Speed (avg km/h) Power (avg watts) W/kg (avg) Ride Info Source
Chris Hamilton Team Sunweb Digital Swiss 5 Race 5 01:00:13 37.7 393 6.05 Strava
Filippo Ganna Team INEOS Digital Swiss 5 Race 2 00:55:17 48.7 463 5.51 Strava
James Piccoli Israel Start-Up Nation Zwift Tour for All Stage 3 01:41:56 42.7 335 5.2 Zwift Companion
Louis Meintjes NTT Pro Cycling Zwift Tour for All Stage 5 01:23:40 33.3 323 5.7 Zwift Companion
Stefan De Bod NTT Pro Cycling Zwift Tour for All Stage 5 01:23:49 33.3 357 5.4 Zwift Companion
Nicolas Roche Team Sunweb Digital Swiss 5 Race 3 01:12:11 27.9 391 5.51 Strava
Pello Bilbao Bahrain – McLaren Zwift Tour for All Stage 3 01:42:39 42.4 330 5.5 Zwift Companion
Rohan Dennis Team INEOS Team INEOS eRace on Zwift 00:58:01 29.2 373 5.18 Zwift Companion
Tobias Ludvigsson Groupama – FDJ Digital Swiss 5 Race 4 00:48:00 46 428 5.63 Strava
Nicolas Roche Team Sunweb Digital Swiss 5 Race 3 00:54:17 29.4 397 5.59 Strava

 

 

Watts per kilogram is widely recognised as the most accurate barometer of effort in pro cycling. It takes the average power a rider produces over a set period of time and divides it by their weight in kilograms. The hardest road races require the winner to produce about 4/wkg over five hours. In virtual races, the winners have been nudging 6w/kg for between one hour and 1hr 45min.

Diegner said: “Chris Hamilton only finished fourth in race five of the Digital Swiss 5 but riding for one hour at 6.05w/kg is world class. He rode the last 12 minutes at 6.58w/kg, which would win him most WorldTour mountain stages.

“James Piccoli’s win on stage three of the Zwift Tour for All was a similarly amazing effort. He rode for one and a half hours at over 5w/kg and then kicked again and rode the last six minutes 25 seconds at 6.46w/kg. That’s unimaginable for amateur riders on Zwift.”

One lesson that emerged from the analysis was that the riders who are most successful on the road, such as Froome and 2019 Tour de France winner Egan Bernal, were not necessarily as effective in virtual races.

Diegner believes this was because successful road riders did not adjust to the nuances of virtual racing as well as others, but he expects them to start replicating their road success in virtual races with time and experience.

“Take Egan Bernal in the Team INEOS eRace on Zwift,” Diegner added. “He wasn’t competitive. That may be because he did not go all-out and was treating it as a training effort. But ultimately, once a rider with his capability gets used to the intensity, he will start winning like he does on the road.

“It is similar with sprints. Someone like [former three-time world champion] Peter Sagan might not get virtual racing right to begin with, but when he learns when and how to expend his power, he will start winning with the same regularity as on the road. Knowing when to start the sprint and how to reach max power in online races is a skill that has to be developed.”

Industry News

European Volleyball Confederation Selects Genius Sports as its Official Technology Partner

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The European Volleyball Confederation (CEV) has entered into a long-term technology and integrity partnership with Genius Sports Limited.

As part of the deal, all major men’s and women’s CEV competitions across indoor, beach and snow volleyball will be powered by Genius Sports’ leading suite of scoring, coaching and competition management solutions to drive the sport’s digital transformation.

e-Scoresheet, the preeminent live scoring solution in world volleyball for over a decade, has now been specifically developed for beach and snow, providing CEV with consistent and official match scoresheets across dozens of competitions such as CEV EuroBeachVolley, the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Tour, and the CEV Snow Volleyball European Tour.

CEV fans, statisticians, coaches, administrators and members will benefit from Genius Sports’ leading data-driven solutions, streamlining key processes such as delivering real-time statistics to fans, digitally managing competitions and allocating referees to matches.

As the trusted integrity partner to the National Football League, English Premier League and Euroleague Basketball, Genius Sports will also help to preserve the transparency and fairness of European Volleyball from betting-related corruption. Its Bet Monitoring System will analyse 24/7 betting activity on all CEV competitions, cross-referencing real-time odds movements with predictive algorithms to automatically flag any potentially suspicious activity.

“The partnership with Genius Sports is a pivotal piece of our long-term vision to modernise Volleyball and its governance. We wish to innovate at all levels and the latest solutions provided by Genius Sports will be playing a key role in supporting our efforts to engage with our passionate fans even further and to provide a standardised, high-quality digital experience across all of our competitions,” Aleksandar Boričić, President of CEV, said.

“Providing sports with cutting-edge solutions to maximise the value of their live data and streamline the running of their competitions has been a central part of our business for more than 20 years. This approach is more important than ever for us and our partners and we are proud that our partnership with CEV will drive the growth and digital transformation of European Volleyball across indoor, beach and snow,” Mark Locke, CEO of Genius Sports, said.

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Industry News

Catena Media Reports Strong Growth in Q3

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Catena Media has announced the preliminary results for the third quarter ahead of the interim report to be published on November 17.

The company reports strong growth in revenue and adjusted EBITDA fuelled by an exceptionally strong US performance, along with an impairment charge arising from a writedown of German and French sports assets.

Revenue in Q3 is estimated at EUR 33.1m (24.9m), up 33% from the same period last year. Revenue from North American iGaming increased by approximately 124% and accounted for 51% of group revenue during the quarter.

Organic growth is estimated at 23%, or 34% excluding the now-regulated German iGaming market, where revenue fell approximately 62% and accounted for 4% of group revenue during the quarter.

Adjusted EBITDA, excluding items affecting comparability, is estimated at EUR 16.0m (12.0m), an increase of 33% and corresponding to a margin of 48%.

Operating profit will be negatively impacted by a non-cash impairment of intangible assets in accordance with IAS 36, resulting in an estimated writedown of EUR 49.4m. EUR 42.8m of the writedown pertains to German sports assets acquired between 2016 and 2018. EUR 6.6m relates to French sports assets acquired in 2018.

The writedown and consequent impairment charge reflect an updated assessment by management of the assets’ expected future earnings in the context of recent regulatory changes in Germany’s iGaming market and overall market conditions. Management regularly assesses expected future earnings in accordance with IAS 36 and may further adjust assets’ amortisation plans. The writedown will have no impact on cash flow.

Catena Media CEO Michael Daly said: “Q3 was an exceptional quarter with September revenue breaking our monthly all-time high. This was the result of our strategic investment in organic development, particularly in North America, and was supported by two recent acquisitions in the United States and the opening of the iGaming market in Arizona. The impairment charge adjusts our European business to new market realities following a review by the management team and our focus on transforming the business to reach maximum potential.”

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Industry News

888 Announces Q3 2021 Trading Update

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888, one of the world’s leading online betting and gaming companies, has announced a trading update for the three months ended 30 September 2021 (Q3 2021). The Group’s Q3 2021 performance was in line with the Board’s expectations.

At the end of the Period and following policy changes published by the Dutch Gambling Authority (KSA), the Group took the decision to cease provision of services in the Netherlands from 1 October 2021. The Group continues to believe the Netherlands represents an attractive medium-term opportunity and intends to apply for a local licence in the coming months. Notwithstanding this unforeseen development within the Netherlands, the Board remains confident that the performance of the Group during the current year will be in line with its expectations.

Looking ahead, the timing of any licence award within the Netherlands remains unclear, but the Group aims to be operational within the country during the second half of 2022. This temporary closure is expected to negatively impact 2022 EBITDA, post certain mitigations at Group level, by approximately $10 million, with no change in the Group’s expectations for 2023 and beyond.

Itai Pazner, CEO of 888, said: “Q3 2021 was a period of outstanding strategic progress for 888. During the period we announced the transformational acquisition of William Hill International, successfully launched SI Sportsbook in the US, and began operating 888sport under a new licence in Germany as we continued to execute our plan to build a global online betting and gaming leader.

“Alongside these important strategic milestones, I am pleased with the Group’s continued positive trading, particularly as we lap very tough comparative periods. This performance reflects the continued success of our data-driven investments and execution against our product-leadership plan that delivers ongoing improvements in the usability, quality and safety of our sports betting and gaming products.

“Underpinned by our advanced technology, leading products, and strong brands, as well as the increased scale, talent and diversification that the Group will benefit from as a result of its combination with William Hill International, we have a very exciting platform for long-term growth.”

Business Review

Q3 2021 was a period of significant progress for 888. During the Period, the Group announced the transformational acquisition of William Hill International, which will significantly enhance the enlarged Group’s scale and create leading positions in several key regulated markets. In addition, the Group continued to deliver on its long-term growth strategy in the US market with the successful launch of SI Sportsbook in Colorado, utilising 888’s in-house sports betting platform for the first time in the US.

B2C

Gaming revenue growth of 11% was led by casino, reflecting the continuing success of the Group’s investment in enhancing the user experience through product and content leadership as well as AI-driven personalisation.

During the period, the Group launched more than 150 new casino games including several in-house developed games, which continue to resonate well with customers and provide a differentiated experience. Alongside expanding the range of content, the Group continues to improve the experience for customers using AI-driven recommendation engines and personalised offers, which it believes is leading to increased share of wallet, and therefore market share gains in several key regulated markets such as the UK, Italy, Spain and Romania.

Betting revenue declined 15% against Q3 2020 when the Group delivered a very strong performance that benefited from a condensed calendar of sporting events following Covid-related disruption, particularly within football across the Group’s UK and key European markets. Compared to Q3 2019, betting revenue increased 21%.

B2B

Revenue from 888’s B2B division increased 4% to $9.6 million, with both the bingo and US operational segments delivering moderate growth.

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