Alfonso García-Lozano is a telecommunications engineer from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. He began his professional career at Accenture, before making the leap to Everis in 1996, where he spent most of his professional career until becoming a partner. In 2020, after 23 years at Everis, he joined Bkool as CEO, a pioneering company in indoor cycling simulation that he co-founded in 2009 and which has seen exponential growth in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
BKOOL, as a technology company in the sports industry and, basically, in cycling, with a distinctive product and service based on the “gamification” concept, has a privileged position in terms of envisioning and being part of the present and the future of the sports industry. What are the main trends of the sport industry moving forward, especially from an innovation perspective?
We have seen that audiences, organizers, sponsors, and teams are all looking to the digital world to complement and help promote physical events. We see traditional competitions with online virtual versions, and teams organized around these online races.
As far as virtual sports are concerned (as opposed to esports linked to video games), the evolution will come on several fronts. First, we need to be able to guarantee fair competition, so we will see new controls and safeguards to ensure everyone is competing on equal footing. Second, we will see increased opportunity for socialization and the creation of online communities for those with common interests.
Due to the pandemic, sports enthusiasts are looking for safer options to pursue their passions. The result is that we have seen an exponential increase of interest in platforms that allow for participating in sports training and competition at home, as well as training outside without close contact with others.
BKOOL is basically a technology company in the sports industry focused on gamification and, mainly, specialized in cycling. What are the main milestones of BKOOL history and your main achievements so far?
Today, more than 10 years after we began, BKOOL is still a global leader in sports simulation technology. Our innovative indoor cycling platform offers a broad, immersive experience complete with video, map, and game-style 3D views. Users can ride any route in the world, join events, race on the velodrome, or take a fitness class – all from the comfort of home. This has all been core to our mission as a company.
Back in 2010, we were pioneers, as BKOOL was the first to bring the complete package of an advanced smart trainer and dedicated video and resistance simulation software to market.
In 2019, BKOOL decided to move away from manufacturing trainers and smart bikes to focus exclusively on where we can bring the most value to our customers: our software.
Today, BKOOL is undeniably the most realistic cycling simulation platform with the widest ranging feature set on the market. Any BKOOL subscriber can have their outside rides imported into BKOOL automatically to ride anytime they want, or they can import a route from a standard GPX file. We currently host nearly 10 million routes from around the world, with thousands of them equipped with a choice of map, video, or our exclusive 3D World AI-generated views. We also maintain two virtual velodromes based on actual facilities, velodromes where BKOOL subscribers can train and compete – another BKOOL exclusive feature. We have created thousands of structured workouts and built an easy workout creator module to make it simple for anyone to create their own in minutes.
A few years ago, we launched the perfect complement to the simulator: the BKOOL Fitness app, with fun, indoor cycling, and fitness classes for all levels.
Recently, it was publicly announced the agreement that BKOOL has reached with RCS Sport (organizers of, among other major events, Giro d´Italia), to organize the Virtual Giro d´Italia for a period of three years. What will be the main characteristics of this agreement and what we can expect from Virtual Giro d´Italia from a fan and from an innovative technology perspective? The main objective of the Virtual Giro d'Italia is to provide any cycling enthusiast the chance to feel what it is like to race a stage in one of the world's most epic competitions. The routes will be segments of actual stages from the 2021 Giro, with exciting new technology that will integrate riders' 3D avatars into the video we have recorded of the routes. This will be the most immersive, most realistic experience yet.
And since we want as many people as possible to ride the Virtual Giro, we will be keeping it active throughout much of the upcoming year.
But this is just the beginning. We have a few more surprises in the works that will give participants the chance to learn more about the wonderful Italian countryside, and we expect to add more features and special content throughout our 3-year contract with RCS Sports.
Giro d’ Italia has a robust portfolio of sponsors. What will be the main benefits of Virtual Giro d´Italia for the sponsors? Will be it possible to be associated from sponsorship perspective only with Virtual Giro d´Italia? The management and sponsor agreements for both the Giro and Virtual Giro are all handled by RCS Sports, but the potential sponsor advantages of a Virtual Giro are significant. For one, it gives the event a longer lifespan than just 3 weeks. It also expands the audience into the digital world for greater reach to passionate cycling fans. And there are additional opportunities for exposure within the virtual world. RCS Sports will have the possibility to offer some other amusing experiences to Virtual Giro d’Italia sponsors.
Regarding the possibility of a different sponsor list for the Virtual Giro, that is up to RCS Sports. BKOOL is prepared to support any initiative that RCS Sports wants to pursue.