Tour of Britain, Tour of Scotland?

It’s the Scottish stage of the Tour of Britain today, looking outside, the weather looks stereotypically ‘Scottish’. After a glorious summer, cycling audiences worldwide now see Scotland in the middle of a storm, with max temperatures of about 12 degrees, 100kmh wind gusts & rain all day. If Cancellara were here he’d be telling the press his life was in danger & he would have face the indignity of wear an extra layer of clothing, so much so that you wouldn’t be able to see his bib shorts through his Leopard jersey, a travesty in his eyes. Everybody’s going to be dressed in rain capes or ‘Gabba’ jerseys, it’s not going to be quite the TV friendly marketing video we all know Scotland can produce on a nice, or even an ordinary day. Unfortunately it look likes we’re in store for a low visibility stage, with the windy potential for a lack of helicopters & live TV coverage.

TV Audiences

The Tour of Britain has grown considerably in recent years, with the successes of UK cyclists the home audience has multiplied. This year things have changed again, with the race being broadcast on live on both ITV4 & globally on Eurosport. This allows organisers Sweetspot to increase the impressive figures from 2012, of showing the race in 124 countries to over 288 million homes (excluding the unofficial pirate stream audience). The Scottish stage won’t be shown live in ITV4, only Eurosport, due to contractual commitments with the British Touring Car Championships.

Details HERE for TV coverage.

Live coverage starts today at 2pm (to 4pm) on Eurosport, with highlights on ITV4 at 9pm.

Marketing

The weather has a profound effect on the returns to local economies from hosting televised events like the Tour of Britain, not just in the amount of people who will turn up. The value of worldwide coverage on a sunny day, compared to when it’s blowing a hooly (trademarked by http://velocast.cc/), for an area that has a high interest in tourism, is very different. The current stage in Scotland suits the Tour of Britain, it limits the potentially bothersome long transfers, it’s close to the centre of population in Scotland. People will turn up to watch & it can be easily linked to the stages south of the border, through the denser populated areas, full of people willing to watch the event, which is what it’s all about, selling products.

So we have different marketing strategies at play in different races across the world, the master of it, the Tour de France, is able to gather large fees from towns & regions it visits, with finish locations being the most lucrative. Along with the stunning backdrop of France, helicopter cameramen taking just as many shots of château’s & mountains as they do riders, it also attracts big name sponsors, sports fans, non-sports fans & the French housewife/househusband daytime scenery viewing market, an excellent alternative to the kind of ‘This Morning’ & ‘Jeremy Kyle’ shows that can be found at these times.

Why not our own Tour?

So this brings me to bring up the question of the viability of a modern Tour of Scotland. Unsubstantiated rumours of a future Scottish Tour have been floating about for years, with not one confirmed interested party I might add, so don’t get your hopes up. There is nowhere more dramatic on a sunny day, but our sunny days are normally few & far between, apart from the glorious summer of 2013. Scotland has the potential to woo international audiences & perhaps attract them here for a holiday, a potential Scottish Tour would likely be based around that, with stages into sparsely populated, but incredible looking areas on TV. It would therefore be a very different model from the current Tour of Britain, which can visit the densely populated areas & gather an impressive amount of roadside fans, which looks great on TV. I can’t imagine that we’d see anything like that in Scotland, as we would imagine it would be based around funding from a tourism budget, otherwise we’d just have races in & around our city centres. This works great for one-off events like the British RR Champs or the Commonwealth Games, but a true Tour of Scotland can have these, plus the things Scotland is famous for, mountains, lochs & incredible scenery.

A race such as this can start small, and grow into something like the Ras in Ireland, it would have to do this before it got to the point where it received TV audiences abroad, unless a committed company saw an opportunity & started big. This is maybe where reality hits hard, we don’t have a history of being able to produce an event of this type, mainly because we’ve never tried. The Girvan/Tour DoonHame was an excellent event, very well organised, but suffered from funding issues.

A home Tour could give aspiring amateur riders something to focus their season on, if it eventually attracted some international amateur teams & the domestic semi-pro squads. In Ireland, the Ras provides a huge opportunity for riders to gain selection for county teams, the same could be done for the Scottish regions, selecting their best riders to race together in one event per year. If it attracted some media coverage, then surely sponsors could cover at least clothing & hotel costs.

How could we start the ball rolling?

Next years Commonwealth Games is going to generate a huge interest in cycling, so it could be an ideal opportunity to start something, not necessarily a week-long tour, but something we could use to test the practicality of it. How about a four-day event, utilising a bank holiday Monday. Three events could be run by volunteers, clubs who have the ability to run an event well, there’s plenty of them out there. These could be point to point events, where the next day, another club takes over to host the next stage. The Friday event could be run by Scottish Cycling, meaning we don;t have to expect the volunteers to take a day off their work, which isn’t going to work really. We’d need to use host towns that have the capability for a couple of hundred extra people, but in tourist areas, this shouldn’t be a problem, in fact the local area may welcome it.

These are just some thoughts, but I’ll be expanding on them in future, to see if it really is a pipe dream, or if a Tour of Scotland in a few years time could become a reality, with the involvement of Visit Scotland & the Scottish Government.

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