draining, debilitating, pulse-raising, strength-sapping, vision-inducing heat. Extreme
temperatures are no friend to the cyclist, something EF Education First Pro
Cycling Team’s Simon Clarke describes so succinctly.
To discuss with him the
searing heat that characterises many of the engagements in the elite UCI
WorldTour is to encounter an attitude so rational and accepting that one might
almost be discussing the inevitability of ever-worsening traffic at rush hour,
or an increase in the price of fish, rather than an elemental discomfort foe
that, if not properly engaged, can place a rider’s life in danger.
Consider that Clarke is
a Grand Tour stage winner, with two victories at La Vuelta España. He has raced
the Tour Down Under on eleven occasions. His home race is, by common consent,
the hottest on the calendar, with La Vuelta considered the only race
comparable, in temperature terms at least.
“Definitely, a few
stages of the Vuelta have come close to the heat we face at the Tour Down
Under. It can be pretty challenging, but instead of trying to fight against
something you can’t control, it’s better to take a positive approach and find a
way to get through those conditions,” he says.
- https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_3-819x1024.jpg" alt="" data-id="5109" data-link="https://journal.pocsports.com/simonclarke_1600x2000_3/" class="wp-image-5109" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_3-819x1024.jpg 819w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_3-240x300.jpg 240w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_3-768x960.jpg 768w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_3.jpg 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 819px) 100vw, 819px" />Mike Woods getting cooled down at Tour Down Under
- https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_4-819x1024.jpg" alt="" data-id="5110" data-link="https://journal.pocsports.com/simonclarke_1600x2000_4/" class="wp-image-5110" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_4-819x1024.jpg 819w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_4-240x300.jpg 240w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_4-768x960.jpg 768w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_4.jpg 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 819px) 100vw, 819px" />
- https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_5-819x1024.jpg" alt="" data-id="5111" data-link="https://journal.pocsports.com/simonclarke_1600x2000_5/" class="wp-image-5111" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_5-819x1024.jpg 819w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_5-240x300.jpg 240w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_5-768x960.jpg 768w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_1600x2000_5.jpg 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 819px) 100vw, 819px" />
His comment reveals as
much by what he doesn’t say. “Pretty challenging” is as far as he will go to
acknowledge the intense physical demands that come from racing in temperatures
which, in other countries at least, would spark a weather warning. The amateur
rider might consider riding in such conditions (not racing – mark the
difference) for even an hour or two as a story on which to dine out. Clarke, by
contrast, does not regard racing in more than half of the Tour Down Under’s
twenty editions as remarkable, but merely as part of the job.
Modesty is part of the
equation here, no doubt, but Clarke’s analysis uncovers other insights. For a
professional athlete, the principal duty is to perform, and developing a
mindset to enable this, regardless of weather conditions, is part of the
“You can compare the
human body to a car. With no water in the radiator, it loses power and then
conks out completely. Riding a bike in extreme heat can have a similar effect.
Your heart rate increases as it tries to maintain circulation, but your power
decreases as a result. The body is a well-regulated machine, with limits that
will stop you before you can seriously damage it, but you soon discover that
you can’t produce any more power, and quickly find yourself out the back of the
race, riding on your own.”
https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1125_1-1024x512.jpg" alt="" class="wp-image-5112" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1125_1-1024x512.jpg 1024w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1125_1-300x150.jpg 300w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1125_1-768x384.jpg 768w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" />Simon Clarke at Strade Bianche
Clarke has managed to
avoid the doomsday scenario he describes so clearly and has experienced the
combined effects of a relentless sun and a relentless tempo.
“Not all eleven Tours
Down Under have been ridiculously hot. If I remember correctly, 2007 and 2017
were the two super-hot years. Not every year is completely unbearable, but when
it is, which happens now and again, it’s important to have good equipment.”
The equipment a rider
can look to for assistance in the battle with heat is now highly sophisticated,
ranging from pre-race aids like ice vests to fabric treatments that dissipate
the ferocity of the sun’s rays. The helmet, naturally, is one of the cyclist’s
most important weapon in the face of such an unrelenting foe and managing heat
from the head.
“The head is an area
where you can lose a lot of heat, but when you put on a helmet, while it’s
great for safety, it’s not great for heat dispersion,” Clarke says. “If you
want optimal heat dispersion, you don’t wear a helmet, but of course that’s not
good from a safety perspective. The ideal helmet is one that has the biggest
impact on heat dispersion. My Ventral Air is the best helmet I’ve ever worn.
It’s the one that comes closest to the feeling of riding without a helmet.”
- https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1600_1-1024x819.jpg" alt="" data-id="5114" data-link="https://journal.pocsports.com/simonclarke_2000x1600_1/" class="wp-image-5114" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1600_1-1024x819.jpg 1024w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1600_1-300x240.jpg 300w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1600_1-768x614.jpg 768w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" />Simon Clarke at Tirreno-Adriatico
- https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1600_2-1024x819.jpg" alt="" data-id="5115" data-link="https://journal.pocsports.com/simonclarke_2000x1600_2/" class="wp-image-5115" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1600_2-1024x819.jpg 1024w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1600_2-300x240.jpg 300w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1600_2-768x614.jpg 768w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" />Simon Clarke at Strade Bianche
ventilation ports and internal channels manage airflow by controlling intake
and release. The effect is realized across a range of speeds, keeping the rider
cool on climbs, while reducing drag at higher speeds. Clarke, a rider strong
enough uphill to have won Grand Tour stages and quick enough down the Poggio to
claim a superb top ten finish at this year’s Milano-Sanremo, is well qualified
to comment on where a helmet needs to perform.
“It’s all well and good
having a lot of vents, but if they’re not strategically placed to create air-flow,
they’re no use,” he maintains. “A vent that allows air into the helmet must
have an outward vent that allows it to pass all the way through, otherwise air can
get trapped. The helmets we use generate an aerodynamic air-flow, but also
helps to take away the hot air you face when racing in high temperatures. It
has a dual effect.”
- https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_8-819x1024.jpg" alt="" data-id="5146" data-link="https://journal.pocsports.com/1600x2000px_8/" class="wp-image-5146" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_8-819x1024.jpg 819w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_8-240x300.jpg 240w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_8-768x960.jpg 768w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_8.jpg 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 819px) 100vw, 819px" />
- https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_6-819x1024.jpg" alt="" data-id="5141" data-link="https://journal.pocsports.com/1600x2000px_6/" class="wp-image-5141" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_6-819x1024.jpg 819w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_6-240x300.jpg 240w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_6-768x960.jpg 768w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_6.jpg 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 819px) 100vw, 819px" />
- https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_7-819x1024.jpg" alt="" data-id="5142" data-link="https://journal.pocsports.com/1600x2000px_7/" class="wp-image-5142" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_7-819x1024.jpg 819w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_7-240x300.jpg 240w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_7-768x960.jpg 768w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/1600x2000px_7.jpg 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 819px) 100vw, 819px" />
The helmet is one of the
few technical advantages that remain with a rider once the race is on, and the
air-conditioned sanctuary of the team bus has been left behind; the ice vests
returned to storage. Technical fabrics offer some mitigation from the heat, and
even ice socks are not unheard of, but no single piece of equipment has so
great an impact on heat management as the helmet.
The EF Education First team
will start any race where heat is a factor with a distinct advantage. Perhaps
it is no coincidence that its blistering start to 2019 came in the blistering
heat of an Australian summer: victories before the European season had even
begun. We might reasonably assume that, among the myriad factors and marginal
gains that come to determine the outcome of a bike race, the Ventral Air has
played its role.
Significantly, Alberto Bettiol
won the hugely prestigious Tour of Flanders wearing a Ventral, the aero focused
sibling to the Ventral Air. Belgium is not widely known for its soaring
temperatures, but the Tuscan’s career-defining victory in one of cycling’s
historic, ‘Monument’ Classics proved that effective heat management is an
advantage wherever exertion is a factor. After nearly six hours of racing, Bettiol
had sufficient resource to launch a 500w attack on the Oude Kwaremont to set-up
a 17km solo effort and seize a memorable victory.
https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1125_2-1024x512.jpg" alt="" class="wp-image-5113" srcset="https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1125_2-1024x512.jpg 1024w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1125_2-300x150.jpg 300w, https://journal.pocsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SimonClarke_2000x1125_2-768x384.jpg 768w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" />
As Clarke concludes – “Heat
is challenging, but it’s better to take a positive approach and find a way to
get through those conditions. Having good technical partners, like POC,
A proactive approach is one championed at POC’s Stockholm headquarters, where the advantage of a cool head to Clarke and his teammates is never underestimated. That it has already proved of such advantage to EF Education First is a justifiable source of pride.
The post Cooling the heat appeared first on POC Journal.