A new gizmo is giving Australian cyclists the edge as they prepare to chase gold at the London Olympics.
The small computer fitted beneath the bike saddle measures the force applied to pedals throughout the pedalling cycle and during different phases in a race.
Research leader Dr David Rouffet from Victoria University's Institute of Sport Exercise and Active Living said this data – fed back into training and analysed along with video footage – was already resulting in performance improvements of one to two percent.
"That sort of performance improvement may not sound like much but is in fact massive for an elite sprint cyclist," Dr Rouffet said. "That one-tenth of a second in a 200m race can be the difference between winning a medal or not."
Dr Rouffet explained that perfecting pedal force at a range of cadences was the key for cycling performance as it transferred directly into cycling speed. While this is common knowledge, the ability to accurately measure that force has been limited – until now.
The small piece of hardware, recently developed with Victoria University engineers Ian Fairweather, Robert Stokes and Rhett Stephens, is so small and unobtrusive it can be fitted during training and competition rides.
"This provides a unique opportunity for the Australian coaches and athletes to evaluate their technique while they are performing in the competition environment, which is much more useful than data recorded on a lab bike," he said.
Dr Rouffet has successfully developed his new approach to cycling performance with coaches and athletes of Cycling Australia and Cycling Victoria, but also with sport scientists of the Australian Institute of Sport and the Victorian Institute of Sport cycling.
The system has recently been used by the Australian Team at the new Olympic velodrome in London during February's World Cup Classic with impressive results. The technology has also been used for optimizing the preparation of the elite Australian cyclists for the UCI Track Cycling World Championships held in Melbourne (April 4-8).
Over coming months, Dr Rouffet is hoping to provide the Australian track cycling team with information to help them achieve success at this year's London Olympic Games.