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The Science of the Tour de France

The Science of the Tour de France by James Witts

Written by 220 Triathlon writer and former editor James Witts – The Science of the Tour de France from Bloomsbury Publishing, retails at £16.99. The new book launched in June to coincide with this year’s TdF, provides insight into professional cycling and reveals some of the revolutionary training tools, sessions and tactics employed by leading teams including Sky, BMC Racing, Tinkoff, Movistar and Trek Factory Racing.

Author James Witts spent 12 months at the Tour de France teams’ training camps and races (and hours on Skype!) – to uncover what goes into creating the Chris Froomes and Alberto Contadors of this world. He interviewed the likes of sprinters Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan, but also the coaches, sports scientists, nutritionists, aerodynamicists and chefs who help to create champion pro riders.

He discovered that science plays an increasingly important role in peak performance…

Teardrop explodes
Turning to the bikes, book publisher Bloomsbury notes how manufacturers spend millions designing new frames via CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and wind-tunnel research… ‘A teardrop-shaped frame, for instance, produces 20 times less drag than a round tube. In training, teams will also load the frames with sensors that gauge how a rider’s bike position changes at different speeds. They can then tweak how the rider positions himself on the bike to cut through the air faster.’

Cold as ice
In the hotter Alpine stages, the roads can get littered with women’s tights. Teams pack them with ice and put them in their team car’s fridges before passing them to riders who stuff them beneath their shirts. Teams such as Giant-Alpecin will also consume Ice Slushies before hot time-trials to cool their core temperature so they can race faster.

Witts also discovered why altitude tents are the norm, and why transcranial brain stimulation could be the future for professional cyclists. Electrodes connected to riders’ helmets may well be on the performance menu come 2020!

The Science of the Tour de France is a read that truly delves into the science of Le Tour. It also offers the keen and recreational cyclist a range of training, gear and nutrition tips that they can apply to their own performance.

James Witts has a background in sports science, and is a writer for a number of magazines, including Cyclist, Cycling Plus, New Scientist, BikesEtc, 220 Triathlon, Runner’s World, Men’s Health and GQ.

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