PowerTap Visits Velopolis – French Cycling
When it comes to cycling there are few nations more steeped in history than France. For over a hundred years the cycling world turns its eye to France every July to watch the biggest spectacle on two wheels, the Tour de France. And 2016 will be no exception. However, this year more of the attention turns to the track as countries sharpen their focus leading up to the Olympics and for France this means an opportunity to maintain their position as track cycling's dominant force and history's top medal earner, both in Gold and total medal counts.
The recent completion of the cycling megaplex in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, just outside of Paris at the end of 2014 has given French cycling renewed enthusiasm with its vision firmly focused on world domination. Velodrome National, as it's dubbed, houses a state-of-the-art facility for road, track, MTB and BMX disciplines and is home to the Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC) or French cycling. The velodrome was host to the 2015 UCI World Track Championships, which saw France rack up an impressive 5 gold medals. In addition, the center is serves as the center for Badminton, Combat Sports and is in service of the community with fitness classes and other courses in Sport Health. PowerTap was recently invited to the facility to speak about opportunities to collaborate with the track and BMX programs and we jumped at the chance.
The following is a photo collection from our visit.
A very visually appealing structure, the Velodrome National from the center of the Velopolis campus.
Looking down at the covered Olympic BMX track from the Velodrome on a beautiful, sunny January day. Inset: view from the top of the ramp.
The same track is lit up after the sun goes down while in the foreground a group of athletes performs uphill sprints.
In the FFC offices a mannequin proudly displays the French cycling kit – complete with compression socks and Gilligan’s Island style SKODA hat.
Some of the many trophies that adorn the walls, shelves and desks in the FFC offices inside the Velodrome National
Naturally, the gym was something to behold with some of the beefiest equipment one can get. And rightly so as some of the track athletes move as much weight as accomplished power lifters.
Olympic lifting platforms like this, 4 in total, are used often by French cycling athletes to build strength and power during almost all phases of their training.
Keeping with the theme of ultimate performance, equipment manufacturer MULTIFORM designed this leg press machine specifically for the French Cycling Federation and has independent tracks for right and left legs to assure balanced strength gains and closely mimic the movements specific to cycling.
Pictured above is a specially designed machine to assist with eccentric loading. The bar is on pneumatic shocks that help athletes lift the weight back to the starting position. Users can trigger the assistance at any point during the lift with the remote located on the bar. Note the slight bend to the bar in the image below. And while I didn’t see it in use I am sure it doesn’t always serve as a place to hang one’s hoody.
Later in the afternoon we hit the track for a quick demonstration of a product we’ve been working on over the past year(s) that would give the riders and coaches insight they have never had before. A member of the French Federation was kind enough to be the test subject for our initial runs.
Incidentally, SKODA was at the track setting up for an event the following evening, which gave us intermittent periods of disco lights, complete darkness and even smoke emitting machines. Everything but a normal day at the track.
Our test rider readies himself for the first run of the day as the FFC endurance coach serves as holder and countdown timer.
Convinced he could better his previous effort our test rider asks for another try. Once more, please.
Barely a blur as he screams past the camera on the last test run of the day.
Coaches and test rider hawking over the data from the initial test run. After 4-5 runs it was time to start crunching the numbers and see how each compared to the next.
A busy day on the infield of the velodrome as cranes and setup crews rush to get everything in place prior to the SKODA event the following day. Riders try to ignore the extra curricular activities and ready themselves for today’s track session.
Seeing a rider in a world champion kit is definitely something to remember. At French Cycling one can take a picture of three world champions in a single frame and that isn’t even all of them. There are 6 current world champions on the squad. That’s just how good the French track cycling program is.
This is the apparatus that holds riders for the standing start events. The riders wheel is clamped in with what is essentially a big brake. This apparatus is linked with the timing system to eliminate the "human error" factor.
World team sprint champion, Kévin Sireau demonstrates excellent form for a standing start during the French teams afternoon session. The riders will spend several hours a day perfecting different aspects of game leading up to the upcoming world championships and Olympics.
Multiple world champion and world record holder, François ‘Franck’ Pervis takes an opportunity to demo the prototype during a few of his standing starts in the afternoon session. He puts out an unbelievable amount of torque and power.
One of the French women gives it a go as well and uses the automated start gate. First right leg forward, then left leg forward, then compare.
Kévin Sireau records the times from the various runs he performed during the session. In an event that is determined by hundredths of seconds it is important to know every detail and data point as possible.
Here athletes fill a vial with saliva to measure and record hormone levels. This is done before and after every training session and gives coaches better insight into each athlete’s response to varying training loads.