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Live in the moment: WBD aims to capture every minute of Tour de France Femmes

Guy Voisin, senior director of cycling and golf, talks to TVBEurope about the broadcaster's plans for its coverage of the inaugural race

As part of its commitment to women’s cycling, Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) will be covering every turn of the wheel during the first Tour de France Femmes, which begins on Sunday.

WBD is broadcasting every race from the UCI Women’s World Tour – of which the Tour de France Femmes is a part – across its platforms in 2022, with a further 15 women’s road cycling races not part of the Tour also screened.

As with the men’s race, WBD wants to take fans right to the heart of the action in the Tour de France Femmes, with former road racing champion Iris Slappendel set to travel alongside the peloton on a motorbike and broadcast live in the same way Bradley Wiggins and Alberto Contador rode alongside the men.

“Basically we’ve copy pasted our coverage of the Tour de France Hommes for the Tour de France Femmes,” Guy Voisin, senior director of cycling and golf tells TVBEurope.

To help it reach the trickiest parts of the Tour’s route, WBD employs Aviwest’s LTE WiFi products. “We have two reporters on the team who will be getting us the roadside reports, seeing what the crowds are seeing, doing interviews at the beginning and the end. They will use the Aviwest tech to send back pictures to us,” adds Voisin.

“We also have an RF cam, we went with NEP as our supplier, that we’ll be using for the finish line interviews. We take the feed from the host broadcaster Amaury Sports Organisation and enhance it for the viewers’ experience with interviews etc. We even have reporters who feed back to us from their mobile phones. Once in a while a reporter will be walking along and they spot Geraint Thomas or Mariana Voss and they’ll do a quick interview using their phone.”

While the Aviwest tech gives WBD access to mobile signals, the company will be backing that up with satellite in the form of Elon Musk’s Starlink. “Aviwest’s technology is bonded cellular but it also permits you to bond in a Wi-Fi or wired internet link,” explains Voisin.

Guy Voisin

“It’s going to follow us on the Tour de France Femmes so at the finish line or on the top of the mountain, where even cellular doesn’t get very good coverage, we can pop up the Starlink. When we’ve been testing it we’ve been getting 200 Mbps down and 24 up.

“If you’re using it within its limitations, you can do something amazing,” he continues. “I can literally say, let’s go into the peloton or let’s go to the side of the road at the top of the mountain and talk to Hannah Walker who’s living the Aple d’Huez Dutch corner experience. She doesn’t even need to be live, she can record a piece and send it back to me as quick as possible. And then I’m getting that on air maybe a minute later. It’s still giving you the action and still making you live the moment and that’s what’s important to the storytelling part of it. This technology is a great storytelling tool.”

As with the men’s race, WBD will employ its Cube studio for Tour de France Femmes. “We have the inclinometers and we have the examination of the gearing,” says Voisin. “The tech will change because the women don’t use the same gear as the men and but for something like the inclinometer, where it goes up 24 per cent, it will still go up 24 per cent because they’re going up the same climb.”

Asked why it’s important for WBD to broadcast the women’s race, Voisin says the answer is simple: “It’s great sport,” he states. “We’re coming up to maybe the climax point of the last few years for women’s cycling with the Tour de France Femmes.

“We’ve had to make as much noise as possible over the last two years to build up to this kind of climax moment. I think we’ve done an OK job. I think we’ll do more. But at least we’re at a good place. It’s going to be really exciting next week when the Tour de France Femmes gets going.”