Understanding Tour de France

June 4, 2019 / no comments

The 2019 Tour de France begins on Saturday July 6th through Sunday July 28th.  The event is the third most viewed sporting event after the Olympics and World Cup watched by 3.5 billion viewers. This overview provides a breakdown of the basics of the tour and fun facts to better understand the race.

How far do they ride and where?  The 2019 Tour will travel 2,150 miles during a 21 day span beginning in Brussels and ending at the historic Champs-Élysées in Paris. There are 21 stages with each day brings various terrains and distances including individual time trials. The route is determined by a committee often made up of former racers looking for new ways to challenge the cyclists each year.

How big are the cyclists? The average man is typically between 5’ 8”- 5” 10” weighing about 140 pounds with 4% body fat. Each cyclist will begin trimming down 3 months in advance to ensure a lean body for the race.  There have been larger successful cyclist like Mario Cipollini who is 6” 2” weighing 170 lbs. While he never won the tour outright, he was known as the strongest sprinter on tour winning 12 individual stages.

What is a Peloton?– The Peloton is the name for the cluster of riders in a tight formation. This grouping allows cyclists to draft off each other conserving energy throughout the race. The riders in front block the wind as well as creating vortices allowing cyclist behind to save as much as 40% of their energy depending on the wind.

There are some disadvantages of being toward the back of the pack. Cyclists are literally inches apart traveling at average speeds of 30 mph making reaction time virtually impossible. Therefore accidents that occur are often because it is very difficult to see or react when drafting in the back.

Peloton shape may change depending on direction of wind so if you see a cluster toward the rear, then there is likely a strong tail wind. If there is an elongated shape to the group then they are fighting a crosswind.

Every aerodynamic advantage including shaved leg and arms helps conserve energy. A fun 3-minute video showing benefits of shaved vs. unshaved body can be found here.

How much do the bikes weigh?  The governing body named Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) mandates the bikes need to weigh a least 6.8 kg or about 15 lbs. With today’s technology like carbon fiber materials, it is easy to eliminate weight off your bike.  When riding 2,150 miles, you’ll want to schlepp as little as possible so most cyclists keep their bike weight close to the minimum, however the lightest bike does not necessarily win. You still need to pedal it efficiently.

How many calories to the riders burn during the race?  The daily calories consumed ranges between 5000 for flatter courses to 7000 for the mountain stages so roughly 6000 calories. To put that in perspective, these cyclists can consume 9 Burger King Whoppers, or 54 Bud Lights, or 242 carrots a day for 21 days straight….and not gain a pound. Yowza.

Why do the different jersey color mean?
The Yellow Jersey– The  prized jersey is the equivalent of the Green Jacket in golf’s Masters Tournement   The yellow jersey is awarded after each stage to the rider who is the overall leader of the race. Each day the total amount of time taken to finish that stage is added to the cumulative time of all previous races, and the overall leader is determined.  There is also a point system based up on stage difficulty that can impact the winner but essentially it is the overall leader that earns the jersey.  The cyclist who is leading after each stage wears the yellow throughout the next stage.

The Green Jersey – Also known as the sprinters jersey is awarded to the cyclist with the highest number of points. Points are awarded to cyclists who finish first, second, third, etc.. at each sprinting stage. Points are awarded depending on the type of stage and position of the cyclist. You don’t have to win each stage to earn the green, but you do need to be near the front for as many sprints as possible to earn the points and jersey.

The Red Polka-Dot Jersey: The King of the Mountains jersey. Points are awarded to the first rider to reach the top of designated hills and mountains. Mountains are given points according to steepness and distance with points corresponding to the grade. The red polka dot jersey  goes to the rider who has won the most points in the mountain stages by reaching the top of various climbs first.

The White Jersey: Only for  the younger riders under the age of  26. This is worn by the cyclist with the lowest overall time.

What does it cost to payroll a cycling team? Every sport has financial disparity and cycling is not any dissimilar.  The team with the largest budget is UK’s Team Sky with a budget of $45 million per year. Not surprisingly they have won 6 Tour de France titles and have their sites on 2019.  The team with the lowest budgets have a payroll of $4 million per year and you guessed it…. have never won.

All teams have 8 riders in the race with each having a role to support the other. Essentially you have one top rider and the rest are blockers and tacklers for this rider. Only one person wins but it does take a team effort.

Enjoy the race!

3 Ways Bicycling is Good for You

January 23, 2019 / no comments

Bodies, Brains, and Confidence: 3 Ways Bicycling is Good for You 

We know bicycling is good for us.  The biggest, most all-encompassing metric there is —  how long you live —  shows the cycling literally gives you more life. A Dutch study found that every hour spent cycling adds another hour to your life. A study by the Journal of Sports Medicine showed that the more you cycle, the more longevity you receive; Tour De France cyclists live eight years longer than average. But cycling isn’t just about living more, but better. Here are three ways cycling makes life qualitatively better.

A Better Body
Almost every muscle in your body is used in cycling. Leg muscles are worked most, for pedaling, but your abs and back muscles do the work of stabilizing while your shoulders and arms work way more than you might realize in supporting you at the handlebars. Even your gluteus maximus (i.e. booty) gets worked on the down-pedal. So you are thoroughly exercised, yet in a way that doesn’t stress your joints — a win-win for your whole body, hence the quality of your life.

A Better Brain
A funny thing happened during a study on schoolchildren’s performance that was focused on the impacts of breakfast and lunch — almost as an afterthought, scientists also looked at how kids got to school. It turned out it had a bigger impact than even what the kids ate: those who cycled to school performed markedly better than those who rode in cars.  “As a third-grade pupil, if you exercise and bike to school, your ability to concentrate increases to the equivalent of someone half a year further in their studies,” said Niels Egelund, a co-author of the study. This extrapolates to adulthood: several studies demonstrate boosted brainpower in adults, so much so that cycling has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s in the elderly.More Love Life
So it only follows if you’ve got a better brain and a better body, your love life is likely to also be a bit busier. A Mindlab study showed that cyclists are regarded by others as 13 percent more intelligent, 13 percent cooler, and 10 percent more kind — and a whopping 23 percent said they’d rather go a date with cyclist versus a runner, soccer player, or tennis player.

Written by Morgan Sliff

Biking and knee health

November 14, 2017 / no comments

How does cycling impact your knees?

A big advantage of cycling is that it’s a low impact sport. This means it is easy on your joints attracting people of all ages. Repetitively spinning your leg over and over again takes its toll. Knee pain is the most frequent injuries in cycling, from professionals all the way to amateurs. So, how does low impact exercise cause this? In this article we explore some of the main causes of bad knees, and ways to fix them to keep you cycling.

 

Too far too quickly
Trying to do too much, too quickly can cause knee pain. The knee is supported by connective tissue. If you push yourself too much, by rapidly increasing your distance, speed or climbing, then you are putting added pressure on your knees. They will not be acclimatised to dealing with the added load. The result is inflammation of the knee, triggering pain. Just like building up muscles, you need to gradually let your knee joints get acclimate to the added load; only increase ride lengths or times by 20% when you first start cycling. Furthermore, always warm up which gets the connective tissue in your knees ready for load bearing; start out with each ride with gentle cycle at high cadence to get the blood flowing to your joints and muscles.

 

Poor fitting saddle
Having a bad fitting bike can cause all sorts of misgivings. Too long of a stem is bad for your back, however, for knee pain, the biggest culprit is saddle fitting. If the front of your knee is the problem, try raising the saddle a bit or moving it back in relation to the handlebars. If the back of your knee hurts, try lowering the saddle a bit or moving it forward a bit in relation to the handlebars. Imagine pedal motion is the arm of a clock; you can check positioning by placing your pedals in the 6-o’clock and 12-o’clock positions and rest your heel on the lower pedal. Your leg should be straight, which equates to a 20- to 25-degree knee bend when clipped in. When both feet are positioned parallel to the floor (3 o’clock and 9 o’clock), the forward knee should be over the ball of your foot.

If you find pain persists, we recommend getting a professional bicycle fitting. This will ensure you have a bicycle set up which puts you in the best position to eliminate pain.

 

Over Training
Cycling works specific muscle group, primarily quadriceps. If cycling is your main exercise, it is likely you have overdeveloped quadriceps and underdeveloped glutes and hamstrings. This imbalance can put pressure on your knees, which require an equal balance for support. Cyclists should rectify this imbalance; strengthen all muscles groups, by doing resistance-training exercises for all muscles in your legs, core and back. There are cyclist’s specific routines, and also tailored to specific goals, such as longer endurance or more powerful sprinting. British Cycling and Training Peaks are good resources to find a routine to support your needs.

 

 

 

Too high gear
A common mistake by cyclists, particularly those starting out, is to cycle in too high a gear. It often seems that a higher gear is faster. However a faster cadence in a lower gear is now considered better. ‘Mashing’ gears with cadence below 70rpm puts a lot of strain on the knee joint. The school thought is that higher cadence gives you better endurance as you rely more on the aerobic system, which can recover faster than the muscular system. A cadence sensor may be a useful training aid to help you understand correct cycling gears. This fits ether on the crank or wheel, with a computer display in the handlebar. This displays live cadence data during the ride, so you know if to change gear, and also post ride data to analyse your pedal habits.

 

Weak core
Core is not just about strong abs; your core, is actually group of muscles including abs, hip and glutes. These help stabilise and support body movements. The core supports riders in the saddle providing a platform to push off and balance. Over a long ride, just as leg muscles fatigue, so do core muscles. A weakened core results in less support and cyclist legs becoming lazy and moving side to side while pedalling.

It is important to train your core off the bike. You can find specific training exercises for cyclists, aimed at core strength. You should train your core at least once a week, and ideally when you have time away from the saddle to allow sufficient recovery.

 

Stretching
Throughout the pedalling rotation, leg muscles remain slightly contracted, and not at full stretch. Over time, this shortens the muscles and connective tissue, causing reduced flexibility. If you have poor range of motion, your pedalling may end up causing pain as your kneecap is unable to track in a healthy fashion. You can minimise this by doing a warm down stretch after every cycle. Additionally, foam rolling all leg muscles can keep legs feeling flexible. If you have long standing pain, getting a sports massage can help break any knots or tensions areas in your legs.

 

Pedal position
Where you put your feet on your pedals has a big effect on your knees. Cleats should be positioned so the ball of your foot is directly over or even a bit behind the pedal axle. Your cleat angles should be aligned with the natural angle of your heels, since unnaturally toeing in or out can stress your knees. Road cleats can also have float adjusted. This is the amount the shoe can move before unclipping; too little and the knee can be forced into painful positions too much float allows the knees to toggle all over the place which not only wastes watts, but stresses your joints. Nikola Innovation Pedals have taken this a step further with revolutionary ZIVO technology by allowing your legs and knees move in their intended position.

Feel free to give us a call or drop a note if you have additional questions or comments on your knee health.

 

Tips for Cycling Hips

March 2, 2016 / no comments

Tips for Cycling Hips

Each year over 100 million bicycles are sold to cyclists with a wide range of skill levels and conditioning. The number of riders grows for many reasons, including good health practices, affordability, and just for the pure fun of riding.

The increase in the cycling population also brings a range of injuries. Among the most common are:
Stiffness in hip rotator muscles
Repetitive stress injury (RSI) affecting the Iliotibial Band
Strains of the quadriceps and hamstrings muscles due to over-training

The image below, courtesy of Stephen Lardson (USA Cycling Coach), diagrams the muscles used and when they are activated in the pedal cycle. It’s not surprising that your hips can be sore or injured while cycling given the extensive use of muscle power.

Cycling Pedal Stroke & Muscles Used

Three quick stretching and strengthening exercises I do almost daily help my hips tremendously and are easy to do at work or at home.

Walk backwards- This simple yet effective activity strengthens muscles like tibialis anterior and gastro Achilles, benefiting your knees and hips. It takes a bit of getting used to in terms of coordination and awareness, but it feels great after a few days. Additional benefits for walking backwards may be found at this site.
Stretch your hips- My left hip hurts most often, likely a result of my love of golf. Swinging a club brings tremendous torque on your hips. For right- hand golfers your left hip is prone to soreness; the opposite for lefties.

I stretch my hips by sitting upright in a chair without supporting my back with both feet flat on the ground. I raise and place place one leg crossed over the other so my ankle is resting on my other knee. Gently I bend at my waist, slowly moving forward, stretching the piriformis muscle in my hip. Perform 5 or 6 times and repeat for the other leg.

Step Exercises- A variety of ways to accomplish step aerobics like using a simple plastic step block found at most gyms:
Taking stairs instead of elevators wherever possible Most smart phones have the ability to track your stair activity. Track your stair climbing for a week and see how your legs and backside feel.
Squats are another great method of strengthening muscle groups in and around the hips. Starting with no weights, begin practicing the motion. Once comfortable with the motion and balance, add a small amount of weight increasing each week and you’ll gradually see and feel the benefits.