Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Bobridge Hour Attempt - Round One

Bobridge's credentials to date have already established him as a champion. That can't be debated, and barring any catastrophic incidents in the future, he will always be a champion. With that said, let's not talk about how his attempt at the hour was a success. It wasn't. He failed. Failing is ok. Without the risk of failure, there is nothing to celebrate in success.

He's a professional athlete in a sport where the majority of the time you don't succeed. This is his job. It requires sacrifice, compromise, and pain. But show me a job worth doing that doesn't.

As for the effort itself - We've all seen the graphs comparing his hour effort to the other two recent ones:

Voigt holding pace and lifting at 35km with a super human effort we've come to expect from old Jensie. Brändle went out holding a slightly higher pace, then fading at the same point Voigt lifted. Brändle had enough in the bank at the 36-37km mark that even with the drop in speed, he still took the record. Two different pacing strategies, both which succeeded.

After Voight effectively set the 'new rules' hour record, the goal posts moved. They'll continue to move as riders set new records. This means the every single box has to be ticked for anyone attempting the hour.

There isn't a lot published about the technical side of Bobridge's attempt. I think they gambled on a the weather being a lot warmer for the attempt. DISC is only 60m or so above sea level, so they needed all the atmospheric and environmental advantages they could get. They lucked out on a uncharacteristically cold summer week in Melbourne, and an even colder day. Pumping the velodrome full of hot air in the hours prior would have helped, but not as much as having everything nicely slow roasted up to a warmer temperature in the days prior.

The skinsuit he was wearing was also said to be custom made for the attempt. It looks like they borrowed some fabric tech from Rapha/Sky looking close up. It is hard to tell without handling it. A marketing shortfall here is not using (or offering) a skinsuit that people could purchase from Tineli themselves. Is their standard offering not fast enough? Does making a 'fast suit' cost too much? There are significant aerodynamic differences in skinsuits and materials used. If Tineli offered a 'BobbersSuit' I'm sure people would be all over it. Although since he failed at this attempt the marketing spin would be a little tougher.

What about the helmet he used? It was different to the one he set the Pursuit world record in. Was the Kask a sponsor requirement? Did they test a number of helmets with his somewhat more relaxed than normal aero position to determine what was optimal? I would assume so, but wind tunnel time is VERY expensive. Regression testing at a velodrome can be mildly expensive and time consuming. I didn't see any wind tunnel time promos or believe they would have had enough time between Nationals and Tour Down Under to collect data from the velodrome. Maybe they did....  I don't know. 

The loop thing hanging out his nose? There is no independent / peer reviewed studies showing these devices work, so that has zero to do with sports performance. I assume it is there to pay the bills. This hour attempt costs money. Much like how professional tennis players reach for their wrist watches for any post game interview. Endorsements pay the bills. Unfortunately for Rhinomed, the attempt didn't work out.

Finally back to his pacing. His coach and mentor, Tim Decker, is undoubtedly THE BEST person to be standing trackside for Boberidge on the day. A champion in his own right, with more experience and mental toughness than we could imagine. With pacing/timing tape markers planted trackside and Decker watching him like a hawk, there was no reason to deviate from the plan.

"The first 20 minutes I was riding to what we wanted to do", Jack Bobridge.

So what we're seeing in the graph was the plan. Bobridge used the same approach as Brändle to bank a lead and hold on. Unfortunately it didn't pay off. At 10km he had a clear lead, but from then on he was unable to dig deep into those special physiological characteristics that separates him from the rest of us and set a new record.

The Science of Sport summed it up perfectly, "Physiology is a reliable 'debt collector'!"

Would he have succeeded with a different pacing strategy? We will never really know. What will be interesting is to see what changes are made if he has another attempt at it. He has our support, and a lot of data collected from his first attempt to work with. Fingers crossed we get to support him again for round two! 

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