Friday, July 9, 2010

Bionic Bikers

The Radio Shack professional bike team hired Dr. (Ph.D) Allen Lim away from another team (a reported $500,000 contract) to handle the riders' performance development (nutrition, performance output, recovery, etc.). One of his major emphases is the connection between core temperature and performance—the hotter the riders get during a race, the more their performance suffers.

To monitor the riders' core temperature during a race, before each day's stage in the Tour de France (going on now) they swallow a tiny "thermometer" contained in a small capsule. The thermometer transmits their core temperature to the team car that follows the riders. When a rider's temperature starts to rise too far, Lim will use the team radio to remind the rider to take in more fluids, or drop back and pick up an ice pack which he drops down the back of his jersey, or pour more water over the top of his head while riding -- all of which can help lower the rider's core temp and increase his output.

The team members also wear a light headband at night when they're sleeping that transmits sleep patterns (brain waves) to a monitor that records their "quality of sleep" during the night. As the three-week tour progresses, nightly recovery becomes increasingly important to the next day's performance, so sleep is critical.

Sounds like Radio Shack is getting their $500,000 worth -- I guess.

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