Tour de France May Broadcast Race Chat as Wiggins ‘Nails’ Rival

As Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins raced up the final mountain yesterday to leave behind closest rival Vincenzo Nibali, his chat with a teammate might have improved the television broadcast.

“We said, ‘He’s nailed, he’s finished,” Wiggins said of his conversation yesterday with Team Sky teammate Chris Froome. Tour de France executives want to air internal team discussions to appeal to television viewers and boost ratings.

Wiggins has a 2-minute, 5-second lead over Froome in the overall classification. Froome hasn’t challenged the advantage of his fellow Briton during the race and twice slowed down for Wiggins to catch up yesterday.

Nibali, an Italian with the Liquigas team, is in third place 2:41 behind Wiggins, who’s seeking to become the first British winner of the race. Today’s 138-mile (222-kilometer) flat stage between Blagnac and Brive-La-Gaillarde will be followed by a time trial tomorrow and the final ceremonial ride to Paris on July 22.

The executives of Amaury Sport Organisation, which runs the Tour, are also in talks with teams about fitting cameras on bikes, said Jonathan Vaughters, the manager of the Garmin-Sharp squad and the head of the teams’ association.

“There’s a possibility of increasing the audience and increasing the value of TV rights,” Vaughters said by telephone yesterday.

The Tour was the 12th-most popular televised sporting event in 2009, drawing 44 million viewers for a single mountain stage, according to Initiative, a London-based media-buying agency.

Modern Push

There’s a push to modernize coverage that’s distributed to other networks by public broadcaster France Television, ASO Managing Director Yann Le Moenner said.

Formula One auto racing, which had the third-most popular event in the Initiative research with 115 million viewers, is among sports that broadcasts edited conversations between team directors and drivers.

“We need to work better, in a more effective way, to bring the sport to the future,” Le Moenner said in a recent interview in Paris. “Whether that be live data, the sound of the peloton, or cameras on bikes.”

Le Moenner didn’t disclose whether the race’s audience is increasing or falling.

The discussions between ASO and teams could lead to more cooperation in cycling, which has a history of infighting, Vaughters said.

“My hope is that we can start small and build on that,” he said.

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