Testing times pay off for cyclists

29 July 2014


Ready for gold: Double gold medallist Sam Webster with University of Waikato sports scientists preparing for the Commonwealth Games.

University of Waikato sports scientists are enjoying the success of our track cyclists at the Commonwealth Games – particularly the sprint cyclists – the five of them have won five medals, including double gold to Sam Webster.

The University of Waikato Sports Science lab

Before leaving for Glasgow the world champion cyclists were based at the Avantidrome in Cambridge and spending time in the University of Waikato Sports Science lab to test and monitor aspects of fitness, including oxygen consumption, training intensity and recovery between workouts.

The information provided gave coaches a better understanding of the cyclists aerobic and physiological condition and enabled coaches to modify training and optimise specific target areas.

“You bet we’re pleased with the Glasgow medal haul,” says Joe McQuillan a Waikato University sports scientist based at the Avantidrome. “It’s always great to work with athletes, and in this case to have performance and training data on the Commonwealth’s most successful track cycling sprinters is great in determining the pathway for aspiring sprinters”.

Preparing for world championships

This week the Waikato lab is full to overflowing with the New Zealand junior track cycling squad as they prepare for their world championships in Korea. The group, all under 19 and mostly still high school students, have been using the lab to acclimatise to the environmental conditions they’ll meet in Korea where it will be 30 degrees-plus with humidity as high as 80 percent.

The acclimation process will help them feel more comfortable in the first few days of arrival and ensure maintenance of their training ahead of the start of competition.

 “For these five controlled, heat stress sessions we’ve cranked up the heat in the lab and we’re checking their thermal comfort and performance measures every 15 minutes of the 60 minute session,” says Mr McQuillan. “We balance their feedback with how much ‘heat stress’ we want to put them under and to assess how they cope in general. We’re are also monitoring body weight and liquid drunk before and after the session to ascertain who sweats more.”

More aware of perceptual responses

Armed with each athlete’s perceptual responses and weight changes – some lose more than a kilo in weight in a one-hour session - the coaches are now more aware of athletes who might need to monitor hydration and fatigue levels during actual competition.

Head coach Ross Machejefski says working with the university has been very useful. “Not just having access to the lab but also to be able to talk about different aspects of their training. With BikeNZ’s sports scientist currently in Glasgow, it’s been good having Joe here with his knowledge to call on.”

The junior cyclists who come from all over New Zealand have been training in Cambridge for a fortnight and leave for Korea on Friday. 

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