On the final day of the 2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia, I had the pleasure of meeting with Bart Knaggs of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. He showed me a personal media player that the team is using to help hone time trial riding techniques. The personal media player they use is a prototype unit called Vassili made by First International Computer that incorporates the AMD Alchemy Au1200 processor.
Bart explained that five Discovery riders went to Allied Aerospace in San Diego over the winter and tested in their Low Speed Wind Tunnel. That facility is outfitted with AMD technology to control the system and record the data. They videotaped every rider's run from 3 angles: top view, side view, and head-on. While they're riding, a data screen is projected onto the floor of the tunnel right in front of the rider so they can see how changes in position affect their drag and power output throughout the run.
Video was produced for each rider that shows each of the three angles plus the data screen. The idea is to show the riders their runs prior to TT stages during their warm up as a refresher on which positions will provide the optimal balance between maximum power and minimum drag. After a time trial is over, they take any available video and still images and compare it to footage of the wind tunnel and see if there are any biomechanical differences.
Knaggs also said that AMD and the Discovery Pro Cycling Team are building a little application that runs on the Vassili that will let them take the profile of a time trial and use those characteristics to help choose optional equipment for riders' time trial bikes.
He said that the team tried to make a small adjustment to Lance Armstrong's positioning during the Stage 3 Individual Time Trial in Rome. The adjustment turned out to be a poor one, so they came back and reviewed the position footage that they had on this device, compared it to what they saw, and they will factor that information into future training and racing.
The team sees this kind of biomechanical analysis as the next frontier beyond standard measures such as heart rate, cadence, and watts produced. He thinks this will be particularly important for younger riders such as Tom Danielson who is still improving his technique in larger ways.
This portable media player technology and the programming that goes with it are a few of the key contributions that Advanced Micro Devices is making as a sponsor of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. The team is high on the portable media player concept because of its extreme portablility and its flexibility in that applications can be run on it as well. They don't always have the time or space to use a laptop.
It's not to surprising to me that a professional cycling team has been shown personal media player technology, but the fact that the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team has embraced the technology to this extent certainly does. Most of the cycling world first became aware of their commitment to wind tunnel testing last year in the first episode of The Lance Chronicles. They've now expanded this testing to multiple riders on their team, and they are constantly referring back to the results and benchmarking themselves against them as they train and tinker.