It’s not been a great year for cycle racing and one of the casualties, cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, is the Tour de Suisse, which was scheduled to take place in Switzerland in early June.
Velon, the company set up to promote the sport by 11 of the top pro teams, has stepped in to put on a virtual Tour de Suisse, or the Digital Swiss 5 as it’s named the series.
The race follows the virtual Tour of Flanders earlier this month, which saw Greg Van Avermaet win from 13 riders on a 30km course. The Digital Swiss 5, however, will run over five days, with far more teams and riders taking part.
The Digital Swiss 5 will take place on Rouvy, an indoor cycling app that places riders’ avatars on real-world footage. Riders will use smart trainers, which in turn will adjust resistance according to the undulations of the route.
The Digital Swiss 5 consists of five races from Wednesday 22 April to Sunday 26 April.
Like the real thing, the Digital Swiss 5 features pro riders and will be run over parts of the same course as the Tour de Suisse, with each race lasting around an hour.
The races are significantly shorter than what you’d expect to see in the Tour de Suisse, however, but still contain plenty of climbing. The routes also vary from day-to day and should suit a range of riders as a result.
Hosted on the Rouvy virtual cycling platform, riders will use their smart turbos over the five consecutive days, with their 3D avatars, complete with team kit and bikes, racing in real video footage from each of the stage’s roads.
Each rider’s speed, power and cadence data will be shown on screen.
When is the Digital Swiss 5 taking place?
The third race takes in the infamous climb of the Nufenenpass, which rises to 2,478m.Digital Swiss 5
Race one – Wednesday, 22 April, 1710–1820 (CET)
Agarn to Leukerbad
1,192m of ascent
Race two – Thursday, 23 April, 1710–1820 (CET)
Frauenfeld to Frauenfeld
180m of ascent
Race three – Friday, 24 April, 1710–1820 (CET)
Fiesch to Nufenenpass
1,512m of ascent
Race four – Saturday, 25 April, 1710–1820 (CET)
Oberlangenegg to Langnau
Race five – Sunday, 26 April, 1410–1520 (CET)
Camperio to Disentis-Sedrun
950m of ascent
Rouvy is also hosting a “fan race“, whereby amateur racers can compete over the same course as the pros. Each fan race will take place at 1900 CET after that day’s Digital Swiss 5 pro race, with prizes on offer.
How to watch the Digital Swiss 5
Velon will be streaming each race live on its Facebook page. Each participating team will also stream the event on its own Facebook and Twitter pages (except in the USA, Canada and Japan).
You will also be able to watch on the Rouvy app, where you’ll be able to follow individual riders or see everyone in the race, including their position, speed and power.
In the United States and Canada, the Digital Swiss 5 will be broadcast on FloBikes. SBS Australia will be showing the event in Australia.
The Digital Swiss 5 will also be broadcast globally (except USA and Canada) on the Olympic Channel.
If you’re in Switzerland, each race will be screened live on SRF, with commentary on Swiss radio.
The race will also be broadcast locally in Belgium, Poland, Portugal, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Sub-Saharan Africa, Japan, Myanmar, Taiwan and New Zealand.
See the Velon website for the full list of individual broadcasters.
Which teams are involved?
Sixteen WorldTour teams, two ProContinental teams and the Swiss national team are slated to take part, with each team fielding three riders per day.
AG2R La Mondiale
Deceuninck – Quick-Step Team
EF Education First Pro Cycling
Israel Start-Up Nation
NTT Pro Cycling
Total Direct Energie
Swiss national team
Which riders are taking part?
A star-studded line-up is expected for the Digital Swiss 5.Digital Swiss 5
Teams can rotate riders from one day to another.
Riders scheduled to take part include current men’s world road race champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (Team CCC) and rising Belgian star Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quickstep).
Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep), Paris-Nice winner Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and UCI hour record holder Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling) are also on the start sheet, along with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo).
Team Sunweb’s Michael Matthews is also one of the riders expected to take part.
“These are difficult times for everyone at the moment and this is a really cool way for us to interact with our fans and race when standard racing is not possible,” says Matthews, who won the Tour de France green jersey in 2017.
“It gives us something to be motivated to do and be excited for when everything else is so uncertain at the moment. I personally am really looking forward to watching and maybe even racing myself.”
Paul has been riding since he was a teenager and has been writing about bike tech for almost five years. He was into gravel before it was even invented, riding a cyclocross bike across the South Downs and along muddy paths through the Chilterns. He dabbled in cross-country mountain biking too, before returning to drop bar bikes.