Former Olympic champion turned TV presenter Chris Boardman visited Loughborough University earlier this summer to test what effect the conditions in Rio de Janeiro will have on cyclists competing at the Olympic Games.
Undertaking physiological tests in various environments allowed both Boardman and university academics to understand the factors that will cause the likely deterioration in performance of some athletes in the latter stages of both the road race and time trial in Brazil.
“Rio is going to be hot and has the potential to be humid,” said Boardman. “Riders should have done heat training camps and be acclimatised for humidity, so they should be ready to go on the big day. It’s quite a mountainous course as well, which will play a factor.
“Loughborough is overflowing with facilities to do all kinds of testing and we’ve been able to look at what happens when you expose an athlete to high heat and altitude, and we’ve been able to do physiological testing and simulate climbing all within a few hundred metres. It’s a pretty special place.”
He continued: “Physiology testing is absolutely critical to an athlete’s preparation because it’s just putting markers down that you can then measure and see whether you’re getting better or getting worse, so there absolutely essential.
“When I was competing it was a big part of my work and it actually kept me interested in the journey rather than just the destination – there was something I had to beat, a marker in the sand. We’d try different types of training and then we were able to come back and assess whether that training had been successful, so physiology tests played a huge part in my career.”
Richard Ferguson, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, added: “For our testing ahead of Rio we’ve focused on the physiology and environmental laboratories to do a wide range of physiological testing before the athletes head out to The Games. This has helped us to understand their physiological responses and adaptations to both training and acclimatisation.
“What most riders should have done in the build up to Rio is spent a long period of time acclimatising to the environment they’re going to face – it’s in the longer events such as the road race and time trial where the thermal stress of the environment will have a significant impact. It’s not just the cycling, but any of the long distance events where the conditions will have an impact.”
Report courtesy of Loughborough University