Tour de Tech - 3 key technologies that influence performance at the Tour de France

Tour de Tech - 3 key technologies that influence performance at the Tour de France

07
Jul 2022
Performance

Well into the first week of the Tour de France and there will already have been hundreds of terabytes (1 Terabyte = 1000 gigabytes) of data sent around the world about every detail of each stage, the weather, rider statistics and of course, the racing live. With sport becoming more and more data driven we wanted to take a look at 3 key technologies that teams will be using to help inform race strategy, fuelling plans and monitoring riders fatigue. 

“The technology we use allows us the foresight of accurate planning, and the insight of detailed analysis and review” 

Alex Camier - Elite cycling coach

Power meters & heart rate monitors  

Every rider in the Tour will have a power meter fitted to their bike and be wearing a heart rate (HR) monitor! These are two of the oldest pieces of technology that are used in professional cycling and still probably the two most important.  The power meter provides a vast amount of data about the calories a rider burns during a stage - this is really important information as it helps to refine the recovery strategies and plan the next day's fuelling. By knowing what you have burnt you can make a detailed plan about how much you need to recover, without having too much power to weight ratio is extremely important. There are also other factors that can be identified from power data such as rider fatigue and imbalances in power production between legs (this can lead to musculoskeletal injuries if unchecked by the physio’s). 

If power meters describe the “external” load (i.e. what is applied through the bike) then HR monitors are what is used to describe the “internal” load (i.e. the stress placed on the rider's body). By monitoring the changes in resting HR and the HR response during stages coaches and race staff can detect if a rider is recovering effectively and potentially spot when a rider is fatiguing even before the rider feels it themself. 

Interactive Mapping Technology 

As more and more data is available about the stages, new technologies have emerged which give teams incredibly detailed information about every metre of a stage. 3D maps of the elevation that can overlay live weather conditions mean race directors can update riders and plan optimal clothing for the riders, and respond if the conditions change! From a fuelling perspective it has meant that feeding points can be planned and mapped to exact locations during a stage where it will be vital to provide more fuel, or cooling ice on hot days. The riders can now be told “ok there is carbo drinks and gels on the right hand side of the road in 1km” and one of the domestiques can grab them on the move and hand them out to the team. This level of detail has meant that very specific fuelling strategies can be put in place to optimise performance in a way never before available. 

There is even software available that allows riders to ride a TT course on a turbo trainer with a VR experience that accelerates or slows the speed of the video in correlation to the power the rider is putting out, to simulate the course and plan key markers that identify when to push and when to hold back. 

Analysis Software 

The thing about data is that you have to know what to do with it! It's very easy to have data for the sake of it - unless you do something meaningful with that data its not really that useful. That is where analysis platforms come in, they take all the raw data and convert it into more manageable chunks that a coach or race director can look at and quickly get an idea about what the data is telling them. 

If we take power data and HR data as an example, there will be tens of thousands of data points from a stage during the tour, so looking at the trends and responses of the athletes over time is vital to understanding the bigger picture; that could mean the data from a single climb or over a couple of days. 

Using historical data to model expected performances is another vital function of analytical software. Doing this allows coaches and race directors to plan the best strategy to fit the type of riders they have taken to the Tour. 

Technology and your fuelling

You don't have to be a team on the tour to get the benefit of technology on your workouts. hexis is the first system to take thousands of data points and breaks them down to give you a fuelling plan that supports your day and your workouts. Discover how hexis can work for you on our main page hexis.live

Dr. Sam Impey

Performance Scientist

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Dr. Sam Impey