Retül at team camps: BORA-hansgrohe
Partnering with Pro tour cycling teams is something Retül has been doing since the introduction of the Retül 3D motion capture system over a decade ago. Throughout the years, our staff of Retül fitters have worked with several teams to help pro tour riders get into the best possible position on the bike to reduce the chance of injury and increase performance, while also enabling our fitters to use the data collected for more in-depth research and development.
In the months of October and December , our team of Master Retül fitters, who also do research and development for Human Performance at Specialized Bicycles, took a journey overseas to both Austria and Spain for the BORA-hansgrohe pro cycling team camps. This year our fitters had two specific goals in mind: dial in the riders positions for the upcoming 2019 season, AND conduct additional in-depth research that has not been done at team camps before.
The introduction of this new research protocol included the addition of metabolic testing (aka VO2- Power) that involved a critical tool in testing and developing next generation concepts with the athletes, while also helping them chase that next level of performance; that tool was the Retül Müve SL dynamic fit bike. “We could not have completed our metabolic protocol without the real-time adjustment that the Müve SL offers. We were able to change the position of the bike without the rider stopping their pedal stroke, and then assess the real-time Retül data and VO2 responses.” Explains Todd Carver, head of the Human Performance department at Specialized Bicycles. Carver goes on to explain, “We can make aerodynamic improvements all day. But without knowing the consequence to metabolic efficiency we could be making mistakes that would actually cost riders time.”
Our team has worked very hard over the last year to develop a protocol to combine aerodynamic and metabolic power that actually works. Through data synchronizing and post-processing we have eliminated the barriers of being able to provide this service to our riders. However, much of the bike fit work takes place ahead of the Velodrome aero testing where the S-racing aerodynamics engineering team can validate which position is the fastest. This year involved the riders being fit on a few different bike types: Specialized Tarmac, Specialized Venge and the Specialized Shiv TT. The Shiv TT fits were done initially on the Müve SL in conjunction with the Vantage 3D motion capture system. Then, the riders positions were put to the test at the Velodrome in Palma, Mallorca Spain.
“We use the Retül fit system to check the bike against UCI regulations and to test different positions for possible aero testing. Often a more comfortable position allows the rider to relax into the aero bars and is often faster - sometimes saving up to a minute over a 40km time trial. That can make a huge difference in TT race results,” informs Retül Fitter and Human Performance Sports Scientist, Jason Williams.
Before getting started with the metabolic testing, the fitters needed to get a baseline of where the riders are at on the bike, and what improvements (if any) need to be made to their positions. During the October team camp, the fitters have the opportunity to meet riders that are new to the team, as well as catching up with team veterans.
For new riders, the goal is to get them set up on all of their new equipment. Often times the new riders have not had any experience with the gear provided by the team’s equipment sponsor. Since Specialized is the exclusive equipment sponsor for BORA-hansgrohe, this means that not only are they riding on Specialized bikes, but they are also fully outfitted with Specialized saddles, shoes, footbeds (SL and custom) as well as helmets. Even the TT helmets are a critical factor when doing fits on the Specialized Shiv TT bikes.
“We spend a lot of time making sure that they have the best opportunity to adjust to the new equipment early in the year when the training miles are pretty easy.” States Carver. “For the returning riders, we spend time setting them up on new equipment in the event they have a desire to change saddles to a different model, or if we have a new shoe that they have not used. It’s usually making sure that the new equipment they have can be replicated into the positions they have previously been successful in.”
With returning riders it is important to check their riding positions and collect new data for the upcoming season. Some of these riders might experience issues on the bike, or have the desire to change equipment models with the hope of finding those marginal gains that can have a major impact during a race. “Sometimes we are solving problems. It could be that at some point in the previous session they had an injury, or a change in their bodies that require us to figure out the best way to approach the new season.”
During the December and January team camps, the fitters check to see how the bike fits and new equipment are working out for the riders, and then go on to fine tune positions as needed. This is also the time where they are working with riders that want a more detailed fit session to address any concerns. This involves technical testing, checking in on new equipment and, of course, focusing on aerodynamic and metabolic testing.
The fitters travel with two full Retül systems to the team camps – as well as a Custom Footbed kit. They perform the exact same fitting protocols at the team camps that would be performed in a retail setting. “All of these riders have the same challenges that most of us “regular” riders face, it’s just that the time/mileage they spend on the bike often amplifies everything, so something that might not be a big deal to us, has to be taken very seriously at this level.” Informs Carver.
Jason Williams goes on to note, “We worked with several athletes this year where we used the Retül data to encourage a rider to adopt a different size frame. Usually the team managers and PT's are thrilled because they look at the riders in the bunch and say "why is he riding like that?" and we have the data to explain why and to help make a well informed change.”
These pro riders basically want the same thing as anyone, to be comfortable on the bike, prevent any injuries, and above all, increase their performance so they can be riding at the top of their game.
See the full gallery below to view all the behind the scenes bike fit action at this year’s BORA-hansgrohe pro cycling team camp.