We all know the perils of overheating and its detrimental effect on performance. The benefits of planned, intentional and careful overheating in training and pre-cooling strategies in competition are less well-known, though, and could be as beneficial to performance as overheating is problematic.
Equally, though, staying cooler for longer in races could be the difference between competing for the win and merely struggling through at best. Extreme temperatures are usually a given at the Tour Down Under, and with every team now acutely aware of the impact of heat on performance, more and more teams and riders are including heat training in preparation for events and various different cooling strategies on race day.
Coinciding with this week’s episode of Performance Process – which delves deep into the topic of heat and how it can be both a powerful, free, and accessible training intervention and a major problem – we take a closer look at what teams are doing to beat the heat on the ground.
In the podcast, we speak to Chris Bloomfield-Brown, a performance engineer for most of his life, in everything motorsport to pro bike racing and with plenty of work in triathlon along the way. Chris is perhaps best known in the WorldTour peloton for his work in recent years with CORE, the company behind those small rectangular white sensors attached to almost every heart rate strap in the peloton.
We talk to Chris about all things heat training, cooling, and better warm-ups and dissect some of the adaption, acclimatisation, strain, and other terminology with regard to heat. But first, a closer look at the pre-cooling strategies on the ground at the Tour Down Under.
Every team does the same, although the ice vests differ from team to team. Arkéa-B&B Hotels uses one of Dutch company Inuteq’s various ice vest offerings.As do Visma-Lease a Bike, although the Dutch team’s offering seems a little more premium and is again customised in team colours.Team DSM Firmenich – PostNL has by far the fanciest ice vest, complete in team jersey replica design from IZIBodyCooling.comUAE Team Emirates use the non-customised Hydrogel-05 ice vest from IZI BodyCooling.Velotoze has a different approach. This mesh vest features pockets for stuffing ice packs inside. I haven’t tried the Velotoze offering nor their ice packs, but similar looking DIY-at home designs have not proved all that useful.More traditional cooling methods still have their place in the modern peloton. Visma-Lease a Bike is using Giro helmets for 2024 and raced the entire tour Down Under on the more ventilated Aries Spherical helmet as opposed to the more aero-focused Eclipse Spherical, presumably for improved cooling the fully vented helmet can offer further aiding thermoregulation.There are other, even less enjoyable, ways to pre-cool. Luke Plapp had his forearms almost elbow deep in a bucket of ice water prior to stage one. The wrists are seemingly a trigger-point-like zone for cooling and chilling. This area can help reduce the rider’s core temperature. It also feels very cold, and reportedly quite painful. Paraphrasing one masters Hour Record holder, I was delighted to get starting the Hour Record just because it meant an end to the pain in the ice bucket.Chris Harper was adding ice cubes under sweat bands on his wrist.While riders from every team stuffed tights and socks full of ice cubes inside their jerseys on to their neck. But as we heard on this week’s podcast, this is not always the best location for cooling.Escape Collective‘s approved pre-cooling strategy.At some point the riders must leave the vans and ice buckets behind. But even then, they are seeking out shade and cooler areas to avoid sitting in the blistering sun and any unnecessary overheating undoing their hard earned pre-cooling.