Review by Patrick Avenell
The 2012 Tour de France (‘Le Tour’) is getting as a hot as the mountains are high right now. To complement its live, daily coverage of the race, SBS has released the Tour Tracker app for iOS and Android — it’s free and has some impressive features.
Tete De La Course
(‘Head of the Course’: the rider(s) leading the stage)
Without doubt the best feature of this app is the ability to stream the race live on your smartphone or tablet. Whereas SBS’s TV coverage of the race begins at 10pm (all times AEST), and they don’t actually start showing the race until 20 minutes (instead filling that time with mindless guff), the app video goes straight to live coverage from much earlier in the night. Some might say an hour or so of cycling at the start of a stage is non-essentially viewing, but when those 30 minutes includes the start of an hors catégorie climb (‘outside classification’: the biggest mountains on the course), such as Stage 11’s Col de la Madeleine, it makes a big difference.
Plus, if you’re on an iPhone or iPad (and many Android products), because SBS HD is only 720p, the resolution is actually better on the screen than on your TV.
(‘Pursuers’: the rider(s) chasing down the leaders on the stage)
The integrated mapping features, including live Google Maps and a profile map showing the elevation changes on stages, takes you on an iVirtual tour of the French countryside as the cyclists cross the Alps and fly down the sides of mountains on the way to Paris. While the race is live, the maps plot where the groups are on the road, so you can measure in both time and distance how successful the breakaway is progressing.
A profile map of Stage 12. When the race begins, the groups of riders will be plotted on this and the Google Map of the course.
Groupe Maillot Jeune
(‘Yellow Jersey group’: the group containing the overall leader of the race)
Live updating on sports apps are like time trials in cycling: they can make or break your experience. Thankfully, this app is the opposite of the Schleck Brothers, who are famous for throwing away Grand Tours when racing against the clock. With live texts feeds of placings, times and distances, plus detailed descriptions of the course and likely challenges, users of the app can preview the next stage, review what happened and, most importantly, can follow all the attacks live when streaming the race isn’t an option.
(‘Pack’: whichever group in the race has the most riders, often doubles as the Groupe Maillot Jeune)
Not as sexy as a breakaway or a bold attack up the switchbacks of the Alpe d’Huez, the Pelaton is the primary group of riders in the race. In the world of apps, this refers to all the little features that exist to keep you entertained while the race is progressing primarily in pelaton formation. Thankfully, this app has some good material, hidden under the name Extras.
There’s a glossary of Le Tour lingo (Cycling 101), the 2011 standings as a point of reference, a map of the whole 2012 course and access to the app’s Tweet stream for those not on Twitter.
There’s also a dedicated section for looking through all the teams and riders on the Tour, complete with jerseys, numbers and photos so you can identify riders seen on the TV. This section could be a lot better, however, as the profile information on each cyclist is pitiful: there’s no date of birth, place of residence, previous best finishes or supplementary information about the athlete.
(‘Red Lantern’: the last placed rider in the overall classification)
Currently Tyler Farrer of Garmin-Sharp, in the context of this high concept app review, the Lanterne Rouge refers to the biggest let down of the SBS’s Tour Tracker: the Standings feature.
One of the most exciting things about Le Tour is the changes in rankings, be it the General Classification (Yellow), Points (Green) or King of the Mountains (Polka Dot) competitions. Once Le Tour hits the mountains, there are huge swings in time, as breakaways catch up to overall leaders and one-time challenges start to fall away. Unfortunately, Tour Tracker does not have a ‘live ladder’ feature showing how these changes are affecting the overall standings.
Surely the rider profile for the great Cadel Evans could mention he's the defending champ.
Despite this disappointment, there is no doubt that SBS’s Tour Tracker is the gold standard (or yellow jersey) of live sports apps. We wait with optimism to see how Foxtel’s Olympic Games app performs in comparison.