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Belgian Olympic Cycling Team Prepares for Beijing
By Staff
Date: 5/3/2008
Belgian Olympic Cycling Team Prepares for Beijing

Belgium Team Prepares for Beijing
Belgian candidates for the Olympic cycling team were tested this week in Luvain to prepare for the weather conditions expected in China. Photo Journal by Yoni Peeters

By Yoni Peeters

All of the Belgian athletes who are candidates for a selection for the Olympics were required to go to the  University of Louvain for a tests to see how they responded to the extreme heat and humidity of Bejing. The weather conditions at the Olympic events will be one factor that most riders will find demanding along with the air pollution. I have to admit being in the simulated environment with the heat and humidity was down right uncomfortable; I could only stand about half an hour while taking the photos before running out and cooling down for a bit.

Philippe Gilbert the winner of Omloop het Volk warms up and chats with Dirk De Wolf. Jelle Vanendert is in the background riding. Photo © Yoni Peeters

On Wednesday last week, exactly 100 days before the start of the Olympic Games it was Philippe Gilbert, Jelle Vanendert (Française des Jeux) and Maxime Montfort's (Cofidis) turn to participate in the testing. Earlier in the day, Frederik Willems (Liquigas) and Maarten Wynants (Quickstep) did there training and testing.

Montfort and a technician watch the computer readings on Gilberts computer.
Photo © Yoni Peeters

Click on picture for a larger image.

Maxime Monfort looks a bit flushed from the heat. - Philippe Gilbert gets hooked up for the tests Photo © Yoni Peeters

In a climate-controlled room they simulated the parcours on bikes. After the warming-up, the test was subdivided into three parts of 20 minutes each in which the cyclists did the three climbs of the race.

The technicians watch as the riders suffer in the heat and humidity. From left to right Montfort, Gilbert and Vanendert. Why don't they turn the fans on?  Photo © Yoni Peeters

Not only was the parcours simulated in the test; perhaps more importantly the expected heat and humidity in the Chinese capital on the day of the race later this summer. The temperature was set at 35°C (98 F) and a miserable 70% humidity.

Maxime keeps his cool. Photo © Yoni Peeters

The riders efforts were measured in the training drill at a max 5.5 watt/kilogram.

After 1.5 hours they had lost 1.6 liters of sweat (2 kilos). At the Olympics, this showed the riders would have to consume 2 bottles of fluid for each circuit of the race to keep up with the loss and not dehydrate.

The effort of a climb begins to show as the Gilbert and Vanendert's concentrate and their skin glistens with sweat. Photo © Yoni Peeters

During these efforts, several measurements were recorded and then analyzed. The doctors tracked the riders temperature, urine, production of lactic acid, concentration of salt in the sweat. Each of these was then analyzed to see what could be done to mitigate the weather conditions at the Olympics. For example: the higher the concentration of salt in their perspiration (sodium loss) would help to determine the level of supplementation for the riders in their water during the race.

A technician takes a blood sample from Gilbert to measure lactic acid. Photo © Yoni Peeters

Philippe Gilbert takes the test in stride and gives a cheerful smile.
Photo © Yoni Peeters

Before heading to the Tour, Philippe Gilbert will race in Picardie, Lorraine, Venendaal and Tour du Suisse. Montfort's next races will be Catalonië and the Dauphinée.

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