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17th December 2015, 9:11am
Pushed to the limits: new cycling team put performance to the test in sports science centre
Bryan Steel at the Human Performance Centre A newly-formed team of amateur road cyclists led by a former Olympian will work with sports scientists to implement  training and assessment techniques usually reserved for elite athletes as they strive to join the fast track to the highest level of competition cycling.

Experts in sports physiology based in the Human Performance Centre (HPC) at the University of Lincoln, UK, have started a programme of assessment which uses pro-level cycling ergometers to analyse performance, combined with high-tech oxygen consumption and blood lactate analysis to help create tailored training plans for each member of the East Midlands-based Godfrey Bikewear Race Team.

Under the tutorage of World Championship and Olympic medal winner Bryan Steel, the team’s four riders – Corey Ashley, Ross Lamb, and Pierre Vernie, all aged 20, and David Ogg, who is 22 – hope to progress from regional club level cycling to pro level, with the ultimate ambition of reaching the level required by elite international teams.

At the University’s Human Performance Centre, the riders are being put through their paces on stationary SRM cycling ergometers for a range of assessments covering sub-maximal, maximal and sprinting efforts. Masks connected to computers monitor real-time oxygen consumption while blood samples taken at regular intervals measure the accumulation of blood lactate – an indicator of the body’s response to physical workload.

The riders also undergo skinfold analysis to determine their current body fat percentage. The results of these tests help to inform the personalised training plans developed by Bryan, their coach, and allow monitoring of progress over the course of the year.

Simon George, Manager of the Human Performance Centre at the University of Lincoln, said: “When you are training at an elite level, you need to make sure that the work you’re doing is right for you; there is no such thing as ‘one programme fits all’. We use analysis like this to help provide information that can be used to tailor training schedules based on each rider’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

“The HPC has provided similar analyses for a wide range of athletes and teams, including F1 racers, elite junior kayakers and world-ranked para-athletes from a number of disciplines. Being able to access this level of training support at such an early stage in their racing careers will mean that the riders can gain a deeper understanding of why their body is working the way it is, and what they need to do to make improvements to their performance.”

The cyclists’ support programme began at the end of November 2015 and the riders will be tested regularly to enable their training schedules to be adapted to suit their needs as they progress. They will balance work and study commitments with around 20 hours of training each week, which will involve a mixture of riding and conditioning.

The aim is for the team to compete in four East Midlands regional and one national road race each month. In March 2016 the team will head to Majorca for a warm weather training camp.

Their coach Bryan Steel, who was a member of the British Cycling team for 18 years, winning silver and bronze medals at the World Championships and Olympic Games in the Team Pursuit, added: “Road cycling is a bit like chess, and to go to the next level you have to be more tactically aware and work as a team, playing to each other’s strengths. We’ve got grinders, sprinters, hill climbers and all-rounders.

“This team offers the riders a chance to access the level of training and expertise they need to take the leap to potentially becoming international road racers. This team is a pathway for our riders; if they are still with us or are racing locally in three years’ time, we’ll have failed.

“We needed to have the best support and facilities coupled with the best training environment available – the University of Lincoln’s Human Performance Centre provides this. Our races will be a team effort; they will turn up as a four and identify a race plan, execute that and hopefully produce a win.”

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