Digital solutions for body and brain, on and off the bikeBlog
A platform for peak performance
As Doug Ryder (Team Principal) has said, running a cycling team is a bit like distance learning: our people are all over the world. We have to be forward thinking about every aspect of our performance and find ways to keep the team connected, focused, and motivated.
No team on the WorldTour has unlimited resources. Just like any business, to get the best results we must decide where to put those resources on any given day. And if we can make better-informed decisions, quicker, we can win more races.
We’ve leveraged technology in a big way to become a high-performing racing team from the southernmost tip of Africa. We’ve measured our own riders against data from some of the best in the world to understand the gaps and build the bridge. In this sense, I believe we’re the most progressive team on the WorldTour.
Understanding our rider data is integral to our success
Measuring and monitoring for marginal gains
Technology can help our riders achieve marginal gains that will have a big impact on their overall performance. We collect a wide range of data from different sources – apps, wearables, live race data – to get a clearer view of how our riders are doing.
The power meters we use on the bikes are an essential daily training tool. With data from the meters, we can measure the intensity of the time a rider spends on the bike and get a 360-degree view of where their output goes. This helps us optimise their training load to make sure they’re preparing properly.
The health and wellness app, Phila, has some new features and now integrates with some of our other platforms
The app was designed to help us support our riders better by identifying anything that could affect their training – a bad night’s sleep, injury, or adverse weather conditions. They complete a short questionnaire on the app each morning, and their updates are immediately shared with coaches and other support staff. The Team has really seen the value of this app and riders all use it regularly.
The latest version has an evening questionnaire as well, which is tailored to what the rider was doing that day (training, racing, or resting). Coaches get an automatic notification when a rider has completed the questionnaire, and they can respond immediately – a green light for ‘train as planned’, amber for ‘train but be cautious’, or red for ‘don’t train, we need to talk about your programme’.
Their race feedback becomes part of the race report, and other data from the app is integrated with Today’s Plan, our coaching platform. We’ve also improved the injury reporting mechanism so we can respond immediately and keep detailed records of injuries.
We can log in to the dashboard at any time and get a snapshot of the whereabouts, training load, performance metrics, and injuries of illnesses of the entire team.
Integrating data from different apps gives us a single snapshot of every rider in the team
Capitalising on our intellectual property
Developed specifically for the team, the app was primarily to give coaches, directeurs sportifs, and team doctors immediate information on the training load and wellness – mental and physical – of each rider.
Lumin Sports has taken this to the next level and has now made this available on the market as a companion app, called Phila. Because we hold some of the rights to the app, we’re able to drive revenue back to the Team. So, the app is not only changing the game in terms of rider performance, it’s also transforming our business model as we’re now able to monetize our intellectual property.
The connected athlete: tech to take us to the next level
This year, we’re experimenting with Internet of Things (IoT) devices that monitor a rider’s power output, heart rate, and cognitive functioning from the bike. We can see if a rider is starting to fatigue mentally – a major factor contributing to a decline in physical performance – and intervene early to address issues with motivation and anxiety as the WorldTour progresses.
Technology on the bike monitors various aspects of a rider’s physical and cognitive state
We’re also trialling a weight-management app. Based on several weigh-ins each day, it measures how much weight a rider loses throughout a race and calculates their sweat rate at different temperatures. This helps coaches prescribe how each rider should rehydrate during a race, and what they should take afterwards to replace the vitamins and minerals lost.
Garmin wearables provide valuable data on a rider’s minimum resting heart rate, energy expended during the day, and even their sleep patterns. By combining all this data, we have a good view of the movement patterns of riders, 24/7, and can make sure we aren’t missing any key elements.
Optimising opportunities with technology
One of our biggest challenges is keeping track of a team of 70 people all around the world. Technology is vital for monitoring riders and connecting them to a broader support structure. It helps us make the best decisions for each rider on a daily basis.
Our technology partners are key to us being able to stay ahead of the game here, and we rely on them heavily to bring our ideas to life. Our next goal is to automate data collection more and simplify the way the data is presented so it’s easier for riders to digest and understand.
Digital solutions are enabling us to develop each rider’s performance as the season advances, while taking care of their physical and mental wellbeing, even though we’re literally spread all over the world. Ultimately, we aim to have one system that brings everything together to help us make smarter decisions, optimize opportunities for riders, and increase the likelihood of success for the Team.