How does the Tour de France photo-finish work, which decides the riders on the line? – West-France evening edition

For many years now, the photo-finish has been used to decide between several runners in many events. On the Tour de France cyclist, this happens very quickly thanks to technologies which make it possible to give almost in real time the winner of a stage.

This is the image that is not uncommon to see during group arrivals, shortly after the passage of the first riders on the line. The photo-finish is the most authentic element that determines who wins a race, whether in athletics or cycling, for example.

On the Tour de France by bike, it is very present. Even if, during the first six stages, it was not used to decide between two riders, since all those who won did so more or less broadly.

However, the photo-finish is useful and must be delivered quickly so as not to allow time to procrastinate, as was the case last April, during the Amstel Gold Race, a cycling race which takes place in the Netherlands. Low, where it was necessary to wait for long minutes before having the confirmation of the success of Wout Van Aert in front of Tom Pidcock.

“Five seconds to give a ranking”

On the Grande Boucle, Tissot, a Swiss watch brand, provides this image. She takes part in the various events organized by Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), as official timekeeper. “Behind this name, we are responsible for all the timing elements, whether it is time control or photo-finish, explains Pascal Rossier, head of operations and technologies at Tissot. We are also responsible for delivering results. “

The finish of the Amstel Gold Race with Tom Pidcock (left) and Wout Van Aert (right) who had won the photo-finish (Photo: EPA-EFE)

In addition to the timing aspect, the contribution of the photo-finish results from the installation of several elements. For several years, riders’ bikes have been fitted with transponders, allowing them to know in real time where they are. This also makes it possible to generate the gaps and send a signal when crossing the finish line.

But to give the result almost instantly, you have to have the photo-finish. It is this which will make it possible to formalize the result of a stage. “We have five seconds to give an unofficial classification of a stage, a podium at the graphic level, continues Pascal Rossier. We have about ten seconds to give an official order for the general. “ A huge responsibility, therefore.

10,000 images per second

This photo-finish is installed in two places on a stage of the Tour de France: on the intermediate sprints and on the finish line. For this, the installation is simple, but sophisticated. And it must allow efficiency so that everything goes very quickly.

“An image with a TV camera is not necessarily the truth, Pascal Rossier slice. The photo finish is really the truth. To achieve the photo finish so quickly, we have a system on each side of the line, with a camera on each side. We also have suitable operators. The people who work on the photo-finish have experience, they also work on other major events such as the Tour of Italy or the Tour of Spain. “

An example of a photo-finish, with Elizabeth Deignan winning ahead of Marianne Vos in the 2020 Course by le Tour (Photo: Reuters)

Over time, technology has evolved as well, with a capacity for precision that has become increasingly greater over the years. “Our photo-finish has achieved the ability to scan the finish line at a rate of 10,000 images per second, specifies the manager of Tissot. When you are in the 10,000th, you manage, with the screens we have, to really zoom in and quickly give information to the marshals to say who is first and who is second. “

Technology therefore helps to perfect this expected image with each close arrival. And she should appear on the various TV screens by the end of the Tour.

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