Olympic Shorts

There’s a pause in the Olympic cycling program with the time trial not until Wednesday and then activities start in the velodrome on Thursday. Remember you can download an iCal file for your electronic diary for the dates and timing of all events.

The Olympics are very different from everything else we are used to. A rider who makes a mess of the Tour of Flanders can hope to make amends in Paris-Roubaix. Have a jours sans in the Tour de France and you can hope it’s someone else’s turn the following day. Even if things go wrong in the world’s there’s always next year. But the Olympic road race? It’s not until 2016 and the Rio race promises to be very hilly.

British Hot Pants
There seems to be no end to the amount of money the Great Britain cycling squad has to spend and the latest gadget is “battery-powered hot pants” according to an article by the Sydney Morning Herald. You almost want to check the date to make sure it’s not April Fool’s Day but there is logic to it.

Hot pants
Warm up without moving

Just as motor racing teams use electronic blankets to keep rubber warm, these help keep muscle tissue warm. But a “warm up” is also about improving blood flow and I wonder how a heated suit really keeps the muscles warm. But other squads might have an anxious look when the British riders sit in their special suits and they’re sat on rollers with a plain towel hanging on their neck. If it chills the ambitions of the others, it’s already worked.

No more Vino
Alexandr Vinokourov will retire after winning his medal. We’d got used to Samuel Sanchez with his golden shoes and helmet but “Vino” is set to vanish. He wasn’t even going to be in the race, he was set to retire last year but the Astana team quickly realised they didn’t have enough points to guarantee their status in the World Tour and so Vinokourov made a comeback to lend his points. He kept racing but until the Tour de France he finished no higher than 17th during the season but came good with a fourth place on the Stage to Bagnères-de-Luchon, the day of Voeckler’s second stage win. It’s not unique, cycling has seen several world champions retire, taking the rainbow jersey out of the peloton for a year.

Czech Mate?
Roman Kreuziger is having to defend himself against allegations from the Czech media that he helped block for Vinokourov. Both ride for the Astana team, indeed Vinokourov gave Kreuziger his job.

It’s hard to know what to make of these allegations. Not Kreuziger, it happens all the time, see Bernhard Eisel doing his usual job for Cavendish. It’s probably because many cycling fans might understand what is going on but outsiders get easily outraged.

Big crowds, small race
There were huge crowds out to see the Olympic road races. Many riders complained about the proximity of fans despite 68km of barriers along the route. Britain is Europe’s third largest economy and a considerable draw for team sponsors. But it’s biggest race is the Tour of Britain every September which is slowly growing in stature, duration and organisational ability but that’s about it on the UCI calendar.

There’s talk of the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire for 2016 but what about a sustainable race instead of hosting irregular one-off events? The calendar of races in Europe is already overloaded so I don’t know if more racing could be added but perhaps the British race can be moved up to 2.HC status and attract a deeper field. But it’s all Catch-22, you can’t have a big race without TV coverage but you won’t get TV coverage unless it’s a big race.

Sports Scientist Podcasts
Ross Tucker, one of the authors on The Science of Sport blog, has done two interviews with with the British Journal of Sports Medicine podcast. The first episode covers some ideas about what it takes to be a champion, exploring genetic inheritance versus training across different sports and the second looks at training and racing techniques including an explainer of Team Sky’s pacing strategy in the Tour de France.

Overall the BJSM podcast covers a range of topics well beyond cycling but it’s interesting in the light of the Olympics and this time they’ve invited Tucker who dips into cycling too.

I’d also recommend the Science of Sport blog too for general analysis of the games. Whilst much of the media is dedicated to the “wow” factor and hyping home heroes here you will find analysis of technique and bio-mechanics.

25 thoughts on “Olympic Shorts”

  1. 68km of barricades is a staggering figure; 68 km = >223,000 feet. In the US you can easily spend $1 per foot for barricade rental (that doesn’t necessarily include labor to set them in place). Even at a discounted rate for these, one could cover the entire budget of a low level UCI 1 day event for less than the cost of the barricades at the Olympics!

    • If the women’s race was 144km and had two laps of Box Hill at 16km each, this means we can deduct one lap’s distance to get the length of the course, so about 128km meaning enough to cover half of the course or over a quarter if used on both sides equally. It’s huge and watching the coverage, all the barriers looked new and shiny. Someone’s done good business here.

      • Pretty much the last 15km was almost entirely barriered so that’s almost half the total amount of barriers used up already. Obviously at the limpiks the barriers can be used for other road events, but it’s still big bucks. Pounds, even. There was also a phenomenal number of traffic islands being reinstated when I passed through just after the race.

        There is talk of there being an annual race on the same circuit, but having seen what went into the weekends races it would take a serious amount of money to put it on to he same standard on the same route.

      • I heard the barriers were provided by a brand new company called Cycling Event Control* to a specific direction from the UCI to barrier as much of the course as possible.

        *Directors include Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid

  2. The Olympics are indeed very different from anything else in cycling. The road races were competitive and exciting and won by worthy contenders. Even the TV coverage was acceptable, at least by US standards – admittedly a low bar. What I did not see was a team race.
    Perhaps it was the lack of radios, or the small squads. I did not see protected team leaders, organized chases of breakaways, or teammates helping a stranded rider return to the peloton. It was just a bunch of individuals doing their own thing. (Perfect for Vino, I suppose!) Anyone who watched Sky’s Tour tactics might wonder if the same rules applied. Perhaps the Olympics should introduce some type of team medal?

  3. Talking of races in the UK, it seems to me a 2 or 3 day race in Cumbria could be quite interesting. Some nice short & hard climbs. Although might be a bit empty spectator wise 🙂

  4. “Many riders complained about the proximity of fans” – I thought the British public were very considerate, I didn’t watch all of the racing (about half on and off whilst painting the spare room) but every shot seemed to show the fans standing on pavements/grass verges rather than crowding onto the road like we are used to in the mountains in the tour.

    I enjoyed the women’s race much more than the men’s. I think the smaller team sizes and shorter race worked well. I didn’t agree with the tour de france being boring, and didn’t understand the comments being made about smaller teams making it more exciting, but I think now I do (still don’t agree on banning race radios).

    • I think it was because in the mountains the riders go past almost one by one and at a slower speed but here the bunch was going fast through urban/suburban streets with people crowding to get a photo, one or two putting their feet in the road or sticking their arms out with cameras etc.

      • Yes, i was on the box hill loop on the A24, a fast stretch, with big crowds both sides, but nothing to cause a problem. I think perhaps it was a combination of this fast roads, and the general excitement of everyone and perhaps people who dont normally watch cycling not realising how fast or close the riders go past. On the first lap Vino was about two feet away from me, brilliant stuff.

        What i do think is that people who are not cycling fans, are really interested in cycling as a sport, its engaging and tactical, and also a spectacle, and I think people seem to appreciate this much more than something like football or a more ‘normal’ sport. So hopefully this will be good for the Tour of Britain. This year I think the last stage finishes in Guildford so there should be some of the Olympics effect left.

  5. Thanks for the Sports Scientist link, it is a good listen. I’m only a few days into the olympic games and already nobody is explaining to me why a swimmer is faster or what makes a better gymnastic.

  6. I thought the Box Hill circuit was just right – both races gave different types of rider a chance. Why not use the Box Hill circuit for a “Surrey Cycle Classic”, perhaps finishing up the cobbles in Guildford High St (as one of the stages of the Tour of Britain will this year). Could be great for crowds etc. although one downside is that I hear that the speed bumps are to be put back into Box Hill once the Olympics are over. Groan.

  7. Don’t forget the UCI one day ‘classic’ in April round Rutland. Epic this year more like!

    Had a great week end, on saturday was perched on a narrow walk way on an unprotected narrow road with the bunch inches away and on sunday i was behind one of the many miles of barriers set back four feet from the road being told not to lean out too far… go figure

  8. It’s the same with Germany, a big nation but not many races. We say the sport is strong in Europe but it is missing in several European nations.

    • >ASO need to get hold of those barriers to stop the disconcertingly increasing number of rider/spectator incidents

      “reduce” perhaps, but not “stop”. There is no accounting for idiots. Even on Saturday I saw a dog trying to escape under the barriers, and various nutters jumping over them!

  9. Geez…I was under the assumption that Vino’s victory now obligated him to race 4 more years to appease the “Bettini Rule”…(adorn every conceivable piece of kit with gold…World Champ stripes too, when applicable). Sanchez certainly upheld the standard for the last 4 yrs… It would be a shame to see the garishness vanish from the peloton for the next 4 yrs… Could someone (for shits & giggles) please submit some design ideas for what Vino’s Gold Medalist Astana Kit could look like…

  10. I suppose the heated suit works simply by raising outer body temp and so the blood vessels will expand to loose heat, causing an increase in blood flow, the opposite of an ice bath.
    I have mixed feeling about Vino going, I loved to watch him race until he was caught doping.
    I could see a yearly road race around London, but only if a mass event takes place as well (which I think is planned), this would be similar to shutting down roads in central London for the marathon. I think cycling may be catching up on running as a mass participation event sport, due to charity rides and sportives.

  11. Are you telling me Vino won’t ride at this years Worlds? Surely….

    Re Ye – see my comments relating to growth statistics on twitter this morning

  12. “battery-powered hot pants”
    There’s every year a new groundbreaking development. “Best since sliced bread!” For one year.
    Anybody remember 2 years ago everybody had the compression socks like Lance? Last year everybody swear on ice bath after the race…
    Both not spotted this year. This year after race “Brailford spinning class”, like TweeterSagan called it.
    Season trends.

  13. I saw an interview with someone from BC, they said the hotpants are not to be used instead of a warm up, they are apparently because there is 10 minutes or so between finishing warm up on the rollers/turbo and actually getting onto the track, so they keep you warm in that period when you would otherwise be cooling off.

  14. I appreciate that this is a somewhat old post, but I relation to the hot pants- keeping the muscles at a decent temperature after the warm up maintains an optimal temperature for enzyme activity responsible for the energy systems – the warmer the muscle, the faster and more frequent the enzyme catalysed reactions, therefore more energy is released quicker- pretty useful for largely anaerobic efforts such as the sprint events

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