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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, January 10, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. - Michelangelo

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

Les Woodland's book Tour of Flanders: The Inside Story - The rocky roads of the Ronde van Vlaanderen is available as an audiobook here. For the print and Kindle eBook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Jumbo-Visma riders Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos win national cross championships

Here’s the news release from Jumbo-Visma:

Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos have both won the national cyclocross title in their homeland. On the Belgian coast, Van Aert proved once again to be too strong for the competition and won his fifth title. For Vos, it was her seventh victory in her country’s championship.

Wout van Aert:
Last week Van Aert announced that the Belgian championship would be his final race of the cross season. The sky-high favourite got off to a flying start in Middelkerke. The competition was able to compete with the rider of Team Jumbo-Visma for one single lap. In the second lap, however, Van Aert increased the tempo. He quickly left the competition behind. The 27-year-old Belgian crossed the finish line with a lead of almost one minute and a half. It meant his ninth cross victory in ten races this season.

Wout van Aert headed for another cross win.

Shortly after his victory, Van Aert said he was delighted. “This fifth title means a lot to me. I started as the favourite, which is not easy. On paper, you can only lose. Today I tried to use it to my advantage and I think I did. The legs were good from the start. In the second lap I saw my chance to get away from the rest of the field. Then it was important to stay focused and not make any mistakes. I enjoyed the past few weeks and rode some nice cyclocross races. From tomorrow the focus will fully be on the road season. For now, I’m going to enjoy this title together with the team. I’m proud to retain the national jersey”, Van Aert concluded.

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Marianne Vos:
In Rucphen, The Netherlands, a strong Marianne Vos was alert from the start. She did not waste any time and showed her ambitions. The rider of Team Jumbo-Visma Women increased the tempo a few times and, at the second attempt, broke away from the entire field. The 34-year old rider finished the race fully focused and secured her seventh Dutch title.

Marianne Vos wins Dutch cross championship number seven.

“It went well today”, the new Dutch champion said. “The start was good and that is very nice on this fast track. I took a small lead fairly early and then tried to expand it. With Lucinda Brand right behind me, I knew I couldn’t stall. This is what I had hoped for. It is very nice that it worked out. A championship is always extraordinary. The way it went and the strong field of competitors make this title extra special.”

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Glucose Biosensors: A revolution in cycling or exaggerated hype?

Team Bora-hansgrohe posted this interesting interview:

Do glucose biosensors and trackers actually deliver what they promise? Is the current hype surrounding them exaggerated? In our interview with Dan Lorang, Head of Performance at BORA - hansgrohe, we try to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.

More and more, photos of small white dots adhered to the skin of different athletes are popping up on social media - glucose biosensors. Feel better, perform better and regenerate faster. These are just some of the promising marketing messages going around. However, how beneficial is tracking one's blood glucose levels, and can conclusions really be drawn about performance or the quality of training?

"Basically, the first thing to say is that these trackers come from diabetes research and are used very successfully there. For people with diabetes, it’s a great help to consistently keep an eye on their blood glucose levels. So in that respect, these trackers are indeed welcome and very useful," says Dan Lorang. However, the question then arises as to what extent diabetics and top athletes are comparable, or what insights can be derived from blood glucose level measurements that can be useful in training and competition.

In this case, the UCI was quick to take the step of banning trackers during races. During training or times of rest, however, measuring and tracking is permitted. Lorang is sceptical about whether collected data can be used to draw conclusions that are relevant to performance: "Among other things, it is envisaged that measurements in training will reveal individual blood glucose zones in which the athlete can optimally perform. In the best case, the athlete should then consistently move within this zone. The crux: During exercise, the blood glucose level of top athletes remains fairly constant and slowly decreases with the duration and intensity of exercise. The body attempts to proactively avoid swings that are too large. Therefore, any spikes when consuming a carbohydrate drink, for instance, are generally short-lived, and the body is quickly able to re-establish a more constant level. In principle, the better the body is trained, the more stable the blood sugar behaves.

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What becomes very recognisable is a significant drop in blood glucose levels and therefore the threat of hunger pangs. However, this should really never happen with professional athletes in any event. Thanks to sophisticated feeding strategies during races, incidents such as hunger pangs are a thing of the past. If the athlete's feelings and actual reality do not match, the sensor can help him or her perform an internal calibration and bring feelings and reality back into harmony.

So are the devices useless in the realm of competitive sports? According to Lorang, the measurements do have an indirect effect: "It’s definitely the case that athletes can be made more aware of the topic of fuelling. If you’re always checking your blood glucose level during training, you automatically pay more attention to the correct energy intake. The differences and effects of particular foods can also be recognised more easily. I’ve already worked with these systems with individual athletes before. It’s more that we’re able to promote self-awareness than being able to draw significant and valid conclusions about training and performance. At the moment, after a short test phase, most athletes have left it behind relatively quickly."

However, the most meaningful conclusions are most likely to be seen in the area of recovery. "Blood sugar levels also react to stress and mental strain. If athletes fail to devote enough attention to regeneration, spikes in blood glucose levels will become noticeable. It’s possible to create awareness among athletes to pay more attention to their regeneration, which is a very important issue! Furthermore, over a certain period of time, it’s also possible to see which regeneration measures are helpful, which nutrition strategies make sense and how much sleep the athlete requires as a minimum. Yet to be fair, it must be said that I would also see these findings through regular HRV measurement," says Lorang.

For the moment, the benefits of blood glucose monitoring for competitive sports are somewhat limited. However, for the future, such technologies could very well provide beneficial insights for sports scientists. "If you can then use these sensors to continuously measure lactate levels within the blood, for instance, which should become possible, then these measurements could become an absolute gamechanger," says Lorang, highlighting the potential of the underlying technology in the world of elite sports. "This would mean a big leap in terms of training and load regulation, as we saw in the late 1990s with the move from HR measurement to power meters."

All in all, it remains to be seen in which direction this will go. Despite intensive marketing efforts by manufacturers, the technology still seems to be overrated with respect to competitive sports.

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