This is an updated version of article that appeared on TechWeekEurope. For more sports technology coverage click here.
There was a time when a half-time orange and the magic sponge where the height of technological innovation in sport, but in 2014, sporting federations and teams have armies of coaches, sport scientists and nutritionists whose job is to extract every ounce of performance from their athletes.
Video and data analysis is now used in almost every part of professional sport and cycling is no exception. For Great Britain’s world champion cyclist Elinor Barker, it helps her train, understand and improve her performances and help her fight the battle against doping.
Barker, winner of the team pursuit event at the 2013 and 2014 World Championships, won silver in the 25km points race and bronze in the 10km scratch race at the Commonwealth Games and is adamant that technology has helped her in her preparation.
“I mainly use things like TrainingPeaks (an application that allows athletes to log, analyse and plan training sessions) and Dropbox to keep in touch with my coaches,” she told TechWeekEurope. “My coach can send a Dropbox folder to a number of athletes so we can all have the same training and then we feedback personally on TrainingPeaks.”
Barker is an ambassador for Dell, which is the official hardware partner of Glasgow 2014. She uses a Venue 11 Pro tablet and a Dell XPS 12 laptop to analyse her data, using the USB port to connect her bike computer which tracks her training sessions. Her bike computer connects to heart rate monitors and speed sensors that provide data that can be visualised and analysed to see how she is performing.
“I can plug in my bike computer and have all the information that I need to send to my coach,” she explained. “They can say ‘I want you do to ten minutes at 230 watts’ and I can plug in my bike computer to my tablet and send it back and I can see if I’ve done it or not.
“Being able to analyse my training in full detail is really helpful. I can look at videos, graphs and can try and combine it all and see what went wrong and what I can do next time.”
This data is more important for timed events so Barker can set target times to achieve in practice rather than road events which require strategies that depend on what the opposition is doing. But it’s not just in training that technology has its benefits.
When at track events, someone from British Cycling films races so the team can analyse what happened after the event, while even in between races, a member of the coaching team might come up and provide some information that could prove useful in the next race.
“In team pursuit we have a graph to see how the change in speed worked and what’s effective,” said Barker.
But of course, technology is useful away from the track as well. With the World Cup series spanning several countries, the tablet helps Barker keep in touch with friends and family over Skype and fans on Twitter.
This makes Wi-Fi coverage important, especially in the athlete’s village in Glasgow. But there are other reasons too. As part of Barker’s anti-doping requirements, she must tell the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) where she will be for at least one hour of every day, three months in advance.
“I put it between six and seven because I know I’m going to be in bed,” she added, explaining that any changes must be done on a system known as ‘Whereabouts’. “If I can’t update or change that it would be pretty bad.”
Barke also competed in the 3,000m individual at the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome during the Games and participated in the road race and the time trial. We asked her beofre the games if the prospect of competing for Wales was one that excited her, and if she valued the opportunity to take part in a senior multi-sport event.
“I did the Youth Commonwealth Games in 2011 and it will be nice to be riding for Wales and to be part of a tight, close knit team,” she said before the games.
But what about competing against her Team GB team mates who will be lining up for England, Northern Ireland and Scotland?
“It’ll be weird competing against them but also it’ll still be competitive,” she said. “It’ll be fun I think.”