Topics in this article

On 1 July 1903, the first-ever riders in the Tour de France departed from Montgeron in southeastern Paris on heavy bicycles with single-speed drivetrains and solid rubber tires.

Over the years, bicycles became lighter, more aerodynamic and equipped with multiple gears, allowing riders to tackle all kinds of terrain more efficiently. Carbon-fiber frames and advanced gear systems now provide enhanced speed, control and comfort.

But it’s not just bicycles that have changed in the 121 years since Maurice Garin crossed the finish line to become the inaugural Tour de France winner. Technology has also greatly improved the performance of the riders – think aerodynamic cycling kit and equipment as well as advanced training devices such as power meters, heart-rate monitors and linked GPS units that use smart software.

Technology has also changed the way fans experience the race. They don’t have to be at the side of the road or wait for a newspaper report giving the highlights of the day’s events. Today, they can experience every second of the action as it happens on platforms like the Tour de France Race Center, from just about any team’s or rider’s perspective.

Steering into the digital era

As the race gained in popularity over the decades to become a premier global event, Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), the race organizers, have prioritized modernization and innovation both in managing the event and in keeping fans engaged.

The Tour de France entered the digital era with its first website in 1995, and A.S.O.’s initial experiments with live trackers on bicycles started in 1999.

In 2014, this forward-looking approach led to a partnership with Dimension Data (now part of NTT DATA). In just three months – and just in time for the 2015 Tour de France – we implemented reliable, IoT-enabled live tracking of the full peloton and real-time data-gathering, including the ability to display rider speeds on live TV.

Our timeline of cycling innovation

The A.S.O. and NTT DATA partnership has grown every year. We test ideas, introduce new technologies and explore new ways of using technology to create different experiences for everyone involved in the race. Our approach of coinnovation is transforming the fan experience and race operations, not only benefiting not only the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift but also shifting or transforming the entire sports industry.

As we celebrate 10 years as the Official Technology Partner of A.S.O., let’s look back at some of our key achievements over the years:

  • In 2015, we started with a world first: real-time rider tracking enabled by IoT and real-time data analytics, which we once again improved in 2016 to get more out of the data that we collected during the race and to tell new stories to engage with fans.
  • Then, in 2017, we added new live race data insights and visualizations with @letourdata and enhanced TV graphics to make our data-driven storytelling even more compelling. We also ran our first “hackfest”, where employees could present their ideas for innovation.
  • A year later, we deployed machine learning and AI models to provide insights on race favorites, break predictions and other race forecasts.
  • In 2019, we trialed an augmented reality application – the winning idea from one of our hackfests – and in-car race dashboards to support race officials, among other innovations.
  • When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world in 2020, we had to adapt many of our solutions and platforms to stage the Virtual Tour de France and Virtual Tour de France Femmes on the Zwift cycling gaming and training platform.
  • Since 2020, we’ve created the world’s largest connected stadium, spanning more than 3,500km in rural France, by deploying a digital twin of the race, which uses real-time information to replicate this dynamic event digitally. Spanning race vehicles, the publicity caravan, event assets, staff locations, the event village, weather conditions and more, this solution is a game changer for race officials.
  • We have also introduced an AI-enabled digital human named Marianne. This lifelike avatar is located in our Tech Truck at the event and interacts with NTT DATA clients, answering their questions and sharing Tour de France information.

A groundbreaking development

The launch of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in 2022 with NTT DATA as a proud founding partner – the first women’s Tour de France in more than 30 years – was another major achievement.

The event has raised the visibility of professional women’s cycling, leading to massive growth in viewing numbers (up 73% in 2023) and attracting new investment in the sport.

We are excited to continue our involvement in the Tour de France Femmes in 2024, leveraging NTT DATA’s end-to-end capabilities in edge computing, networks, cybersecurity, cloud and more once again to make the race coverage the best in the world through the Race Center, including @letourdata, and the Fantasy League.

This year’s women’s race will start on 12 August in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and finish after eight stages in the French ski resort of Alpe d’Huez.

Ready for another year of innovation fueled by data

In 2024, our AI- and data-driven approach will once again allow A.S.O. to connect with fans on multiple digital and broadcast platforms and provide new levels of insight into the 21-stage Tour de France between Florence, Italy, and Nice, France.

We’re also continuing to digitally transform race operations for both the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes, enabling the organizers to make faster and more accurate decisions based on real-time AI models that includes the race position, location and speed of each rider. 

As a result, our multimodal large language model can accurately predict cyclists’ relative positions during the race in the event that network connectivity is down. The AI essentially takes over the Race Center for broadcasters. 

These achievements on our 10-year journey with A.S.O. are a testament to the power of long-term partnerships and digital transformation to revolutionize not only these races but also the sport of cycling. We have pushed the boundaries of technology to delight cycling fans and support race officials, and we remain committed to ongoing innovation as we look to the future of the Tour de France.