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Old 08-06-12, 10:08 AM   #1
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No Limits

I have been watching Team GB set one world record after another at the track. In fact, they set them sequentially in the men and women's team pursuit - WR qualifying and WR with each succeeding race to the finals. I am very happy for them and find it inspiring and exciting to watch.

The question is how is it possible? I do not think it is pharmacology per se. Although, a rogue athlete is always possible but I doubt that the entire GB team with government funding went to the dark side. It would be ridiculously scandalous and would eventually come out.

I think it is attention to a 1000 details when others are only willing to pay attention to a few.

It is total and complete commitment to that event giving up having any life other than cycling putting cycling first above anything else.

They do not have any bruisers (huge men and women) and all the GB team has leg speed to die for and spins at higher cadence than their competitors.

Finally, psychologically they believe there are no limits.

IMO, the no limits is the toughest one to get. We all believe in some type of limit - power, age, max HR, LT, lactate production, strength, muscle size, height, lung capacity, red blood cell count, heart size and etc. IMO, the brain processes all that and starts to believe it - all bad. I think the Brits have developed a way to coach athletes that consistently frees their mind - no limits. That coupled with total focus and commitment yields consistent superior results.

What are your theories?
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Old 08-06-12, 10:59 AM   #2
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From what I've read, I think you can add to your list a very Darwinian approach to the application of resources across the entire GB Olympic effort. Show good results, and you are extremely well supported. If the results aren't what is expected, the resources get reallocated elsewhere. With the respurces concentrated like that, the top athletes are able to cover all the bases.

Does anyone know if the GB team uses the psychologist that supports Sky? The 'empty the mind' methods adopted by the Sky guys to maintain focus made them appear almost zombie-like in pre-race interviews. But then, maybe that's redundant when the athlete is British?
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Old 08-06-12, 11:10 AM   #3
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The psychologist was on board with the track team long before Sky came along.

Judging from what Brailsford has said in public, they have taken periodisation and developed it to a fine art. The Olympics this year, being in London, has been their focus for four years - they haven't really cared too much about the last couple of World Championships, they've simply treated them as B races and not altered their long- term training plans to accommodate them. They measure absolutely everything and work on the details with an obsessiveness that is probably unmatched even in these days of sports science and ultra-professional preparation. Like Hermes, I doubt that they are doping. Too much at stake were anyone caught.

I think the psychological edge is a product of their focus on the Olympics as their goal. They know that they are in much better shape than they were at the World Championships - it's said that virtually everyone, even old man Hoy, has been posting PBs in training - and they believe they will take the opposition by surprise. The French coach was expressing bewilderment the other day, saying that the other countries had managed to get to the level the Brits were at in Beijing, only to find they have taken it to another level.
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Old 08-06-12, 11:13 AM   #4
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Dang, Chasm.. I baited you and you just ignored it. <grumble grumble>
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Old 08-06-12, 11:16 AM   #5
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Dang, Chasm.. I baited you and you just ignored it. <grumble grumble>
We zombies don't really understand provocation...
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Old 08-06-12, 11:23 AM   #6
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I should add that AZT has it right about the Darwinian approach. The national funding, much of it from the lottery, gets allocated based on prospects of success. The cyclists, rowers, to a lesser extent the swimmers, have had long- term investment, so the funders are constantly reinforcing success. And that Darwinian approach extends to team selection, as one can see from Hoy not being allowed to defend his sprint title.
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Old 08-06-12, 12:36 PM   #7
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Funding of any development program is a key metric for success. And most programs are Darwinian in nature. No one funds a losing proposition for long.

What is not explained is the consistency and supremacy - one WR after another. The racers do not even look tired. Set a WR in the morning and another in the afternoon.
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Old 08-06-12, 01:24 PM   #8
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I just ordered 10 gallons of Manchester water.
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Old 08-06-12, 03:12 PM   #9
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I think they also shared the method with the track and field athletes.
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Old 08-06-12, 03:29 PM   #10
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I think they also shared the method with the track and field athletes.
No, not exactly. They have begun to try to apply the same principles, with very strong leadership from an extremely hard-line Dutch coach that they hired at great expense. But as far as I can see, the diversity of the track and field disciplines and the act that each athlete tends to have their own coach with their own methods has made it impossible to impose the same sort of uniformity of standards. So while performance has improved in track and field, it remains inconsistent by comparison.

The Brit who won the 10000 metres trains with Salazar in Oregon. His training partner, an American, was second.
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Old 08-06-12, 05:19 PM   #11
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Article about attention to detail.
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Old 08-06-12, 05:46 PM   #12
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The article covers some things and... I had the opportunity to get to know the Team GB mechanic at masters track worlds in 2010. The USA was next to GB and much like GB trying to colonize the USA, GB did not have enough room and occupied some of our space. USA and GB were next to each other. In talking with the coach / mechanic, he was constanly fretting over details.

He pointed out to me that the bearings in my HED trispoke with total S1ht and fixed them with some super secret spray. He claimed the only bearings to use were ceramic from Sweden and the Asian ceramic bearings were total s1ht. He claimed he had done SRM power meter testing and typically improved bikes by 10 to 15 watts by "correct" drive train and bearings.

It is not so relevant if the numbers are true but he believed them and claimed they were supported by his own testing.

High quality ceramic bearings are uber expensive. And most racers and coaches will think that one has more money than brains if you start to make purchases that yield a couple of watts for several hundred dollars. However, if one finds enough incremental watt savings and is willing to pay up for it, then it may add up to a competitive advantage. Especially, if the competition is satisfied with business as usual.

However, that does not explain the constant increase in WR per race. Every time GB does team pursuit they set a new WR. And the execution is flawless. Typically, when one is nearing a record, execution gets a little ragged. GB looks good every time. It looks like they have something left in the tank.
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Old 08-06-12, 11:23 PM   #13
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Another tidbit... from Adam Duvendeck, VSP Director... And on another note, the London Velodrome leaks. Interestingly, the velodrome in Anadia Portugal leaked and the masters world championships were delayed until the track dried.

Leaks Canít Stop High-Tech Hot-Pants
Not even a rain storm can cool off the British track cycling success with their hot pants.
The British Olympic track cycling team has already won 4 gold medals on their home track, and they credit much of their success to the newly unveiled special battery powered hot pants for the occasion of the Olympic Games.

The pants are designed to keep the muscles in the legs at an optimum 38 degrees (C) from the time the cyclists finish their warm up to the last possible pre-race moment. They have quick release zippers which allow the British team to take them off in an instant. The scientists, along with its maker Adidas maintain that the pants will change cycling, much like high tech suits have changed swimming, and will be adopted by other sports. Despite leaks in the ceiling of the Pringle which have left parts of the infield wet, the rain storms outside havenít been able to cool down the hot knickers of the British.

--Read what the British team has to say about their edge here: http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsde...pic-glory.html, or the leaky Velodrome roof here: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympic...7952--oly.html
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Old 08-07-12, 03:27 AM   #14
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Just another observation. In the Kierin this morning Chris Hoy was the only rider in his heat to wear an aero helmet. Given that they touch 70kph, I'd expect that to make some difference. So the question is not "why is he wearing it?" but "why isn't everyone?" Maybe another example of how other teams simply aren't as focussed on marginal gains.
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Old 08-07-12, 10:33 AM   #15
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Without a doubt the attention to detail is a big part of the equation, and it's frankly shameful that any olympic team wouldn't be paying attention to the same degree. But as we wll know, "it's the engine", and their training methods are going to be become the new standard.
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Old 08-07-12, 12:51 PM   #16
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If Hoy posted on BF, some would say he has more money than brains. We all know that helmets do not make a difference and it is all about the engine = yes and no. The aero helmets with face masks cost about $300 and at 45 mph will probably save a lot of watts. Belarus, Russia, Ukrain and many others do not have the budget to purchase the best equipment. And the funders of the funding have to allow the coaches and management latitude to spend, what some would deem lavishly, on equipment, training, hot pants and etc. And if you spend the money on hot pants, you had better win.

I ran a global development company and I was expected to win. I was given a lot of latitude to spend money to win. If I did not win, it was pretty ugly and this is especially true of the funders / board do not completely understand the goals, competition and requirements to win.

That is one reason i like spending my own money on racing that I think will have a yield. If it does not work, I can look in the mirror and have a discussion with myself.
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Old 08-07-12, 02:25 PM   #17
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I'm with you on paying attention to every detail, Hermes, I just know that if the racers swapped equipment, many (maybe not all, but many) of the results would remain the same. Hoy will still stomp you in a Keirin wearing the less aero helmet. The biggest gains are in fitness, skill, and form. GB has made huge gains, and I believe the biggest factor has to be in their training.
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Old 08-07-12, 03:18 PM   #18
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I think you are missing a key point. As your frame the swapping of equipment, I would agree. However, I have watched Team USA Sprint Team at VSP workout and they are coached by a Brit from the "British" program. They workout really hard. It is amazing to see them on the track. I think it is a systemic mindset that starts with athletes being selected that are willing to totally commit to win sacrificing everything else and are supported by funding that is committed to win. Everything else follows. Hoy is totally committed to winning so he gets the good stuff which only makes him even better and since he has the best stuff it reinforces that he can win.

Are the racers from team USA talented and committed to win? Yes. Do they have funding and a systemic program that is as committed as they are? i suspect not.
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Old 08-07-12, 03:22 PM   #19
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I think it's a combination of a precedent setting level of funding and detail, and dope. Something new and undetectable. My two cents.
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Old 08-07-12, 05:39 PM   #20
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Are the racers from team USA talented and committed to win? Yes. Do they have funding and a systemic program that is as committed as they are? i suspect not.
I agree with you, and we've seen it over and over through the decades, in a variety of sports. Some country/university/team develops a 'program' that gets breakthrough results far superior to everyone else's. The program is always Darwinian, it is always well funded, it always focuses on the details, it always involves a total commitment, and, sadly, it often involves a banned component. What we have seen is a series of breakthrough performances by GB cycling. Given that the single biggest improvements in cycling typically are with the athlete, and giving GB the benefit of the dope doubt, I believe the biggest factor has to be their approach to training. Yes, it stems from the total commitment and mindset, but that mindset ultimately boils down to what is done, tangibly.

I hearken back to Dennis Conner in his America's Cup days. He turned yacht racing on its head by applying just the total commitment approach you describe, with no detail too small, and a systematic approach to minute improvements. He was the first to use a "trial horse", building two identical boats, then making small changes to one and evaluating its performance relative to the other. His book "No Excuse to Lose" became a textbook for how to win in any sport. And yet, even when giving a truly amazing performance (some would say the best ever) he lost the cup to Australia. He lost it because Australia came up with a breakthrough design (a winged keel), which provided an advantage that couldn't be overcome. Many thought it an unfair advantage, but it was deemed to be within the rules.

The question, for me, is whether the GB performnace is a result of the cumulative effect of a great many small enhancements, or of a breakthough, which would have to be in training. And I know that you can't truly separate out any one factor. It's holistic, with the training being part and parcel of a whole that also includes equipment, nutrition, psychology, etc.
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Old 08-07-12, 06:41 PM   #21
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Call me a skeptic, but when an entire team (Sky) lays waste to the field and never has a bad day, history tends to reveal that not everything was on the up and up. As far as the GB track team goes, I can accept a lot of the track results based on the fact that they put more into their program than any other country and folks like Sarah Hammer get into the mix , but I have to question the sudden improvement of Kenny. Bauge would agree with me.

That said he's a kid and kids get better. But that was a bit more of a shellacking from less than a year's training than I might be able to swallow.

To follow up on Shovel's thought, I would not be surprised to find out there's something new either in a technique or "supplement" that's not going to run afoul of WADA for now.

And it irks me that this is what we've come to. I'd really like to be less skeptical.
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Old 08-07-12, 10:36 PM   #22
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Of course, there may be reasons for Bauge's scepticism. He may find it difficult to believe that anyone could be as good as he is without doping because he himself would have found it impossible. After all, he is the only athlete under discussion who has found it convenient to miss tests.

I don't understand the reference to "less than a year's training" for Kenny. Four years ago in Beijing he got the silver, second only to Hoy, when he was a kid of twenty. It's true that Bauge was superior to him at the worlds in Melbourne, but it's pretty clear that GB were treating the worlds as a B race this year. And the four years from twenty to twenty four is a long long time in terms of physical development.

I too am irked that this is what we've come to. This is the same team, and in about half the cases the same personnel, that everyone was prepared to accept were the best in Beijing and even before that. They have continued to prepare as obsessively as ever, and to scour the country for talent, ever since. So if we accept they were the best four years ago, and that they have continued to be just a bit more savvy and systematic than anyone else in the intervening period, why wouldn't we accept that the gap has grown?

As for there being either a technique or a supplement, there are all sorts of training techniques. If they aren't pharmacological, and if the equipment is legal, it's difficult to see what the problem would be. Nobody is compelled to publish their training regimes and there is nothing unethical about seeking a competitive advantage. As for drugs, even the resources of British Cycling don't extend to financing their own drug development programmes. If there was something new out there, they wouldn't be the only people to know about it, and someone would be whispering.

None of this proves they are clean. But this team works together as a tighter unit than pretty much any other. It isn't like most teams, in which individual athletes and their coaches could go rogue without the management understanding what is happening. If it is happening, it must be systematic and lots of people must know, including a bunch of very young athletes, some of whom arent too bright. That's a pretty big risk to run in a national, and nationally-funded, team that is vocal about its anti-doping credentials.
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Old 08-07-12, 11:08 PM   #23
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AZT, I watched the Keirin and all the racers had aero helmets although Hoy's was more of a TT style helmet. First, Casco claims that their helmet is "aero" and a couple of my racing buddies use them in TTs. My take is that a lot has to do with head position and ones ability to keep the body posture. Keirin is probably has the most crashes of any races. I do not like the idea of "pointy" helmets. If I were going to race Keirin, I would get a Casco. And I think they are cool. i think the most aero helmet is the Giro Selector but once again a lot depends on body shape and how one holds ones head.
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Old 08-07-12, 11:27 PM   #24
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I'm seriously considering a Casco type helmet, because I think most of us are rarely in the perfect position to get the most from a 'tail'. I'd like to be able to get my head lower without losing the aero shape. With the right shape, tilting your head down gets you more of a turtle, and you don't lose anything when you are looking up. Seems that way to me, anyway.
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Old 08-08-12, 07:42 AM   #25
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because I think most of us are rarely in the perfect position to get the most from a 'tail'.
I think Kask will sell a boatload of these:

And, somewhat related, I think these will become very popular for the road (though maybe not in heat of AZ):

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