Outside of training and nutrition, many factors contribute to the success of a team of athletes on a global stage.
That’s according to Dr Carol Austin, CEO of ActiveWorx and director of Health and Performance of Team MTN-Qhubeka who was participating in a panel discussion at the Discovery Vitality Summit held in Sandton today.
Rather than delving into the myriad of stats on the team’s training and nutrition, Austin said that providing riders with access to the right competitions – the kind experienced at a professional continental level – and monitoring early markers of athletes’ overall health were critical factors in MTN-Qhubeka’s ten-year journey to becoming the first African team to participate in the Tour de France.
She said that professional continental events can in no way be compared with local events, because races at that level tend to weigh in at double the distance and intensity of events local cyclists are used to.
Just competing in professional continental races is itself critical to a rider’s development and ongoing success. To this end, Austin showed the audience a three-year summary of Louis Meintjes’ performance progression from racing local races such as the Cape Town Cycle Tour and Amashova Classic, to arriving at an international tour level.
Through access to professional continental races and gradually adjusting his training, in the past year alone, Meintjes’s training now includes double the amount of climbing and intensity. Meintjes is today pushing out more power in training as he does in some races.
Further testimony to the effect professional continental events can have on an athlete’s performance comes in the form of Daniel Teklehaimanot’s story. Despite being involved in an excellent development programme at the start of his career and racing with Orica GreenEDGE, something went wrong and his performance dropped.
The ‘something’ was not getting the required visas to race and remain in Europe for an extended period of time. The lack of competing at a professional continental scale, meant his performance suffered.
Austin said the MTN-Qhubeka team spends a great deal of time to ensure that all of its team members can spend between eight and nine months in Europe and participate in the race season there.
While Austin said that structured training sessions, training loads and nutrition are obviously critical, finding the balance is as important.
“This sport – along with the training load, weather and crashes – is extremely tough on the athletes. So we spend a great deal of time and effort measuring and monitoring athletic load, sleep patterns and identifying and preventing illness, using technology.
“During the tour, we made use of personal monitors for all of our athletes, tracking activity outside of training, as well as sleep patterns and heart rate variability over night,” she said.
Notes to the editor
The Discovery Vitality Summit being hosted in Illovo, Johannesburg, today, 06 August 2015, is an open platform that brings together pioneers and leading thinkers in sports science, high performance, fitness, nutrition, technology, health, wellness and psychology.
It creates shared knowledge around the latest global health and wellness developments, while encouraging debate and interaction amongst industry stakeholders.
DR CAROL AUSTIN
Head of Performance Support and Medical at Team MTN-Qhubeka pb Samsung, Africa’s first professional road cycle team. Under Carol’s leadership the team has progressed African athletes from national to world tour level performances. The team made history in the 2015 Tour de France as the first African team, and earned respect by leading the Climbers Classification, winning a stage, achieving multiple top-10 performances and contending in the team competition.
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