THE SCI­ENCE OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE

Inside Sport - - INSIDER - – JC ––––

BY JAMES WITT S, BLOOM S BURY ,œ.žž

Read­ing this fine book can be a bit dis­heart­en­ing, par­tic­u­larly if you’re par­tial to the ro­mance of sport – some might say there’s too much sci­ence to the Tour de France. This tome ac­tu­ally talks about the tech­ni­cal and me­chan­i­cal as­pects of road cy­cling gen­er­ally, and there’s much to talk about. Func­tion­ally, cy­clists know them­selves with ma­chine-like ac­cu­racy, able to com­pre­hend in num­bers what a ride re­quires. Cu­ri­ously, there’s a sharp dis­tinc­tion be­tween the sci­ence of power me­ters and bike set-ups and the phar­ma­col­ogy of dop­ing – in­deed, the book casts the dop­ing era as akin to alchemy com­pared to today’s sci­en­tific meth­ods. But EPO and its ilk ac­tu­ally held back the progress of sports sci­ence in cy­cling, as the nee­dle pro­vided more ben­e­fit than any other de­vice. In­stead, the mantra on the Tour these days is the “mar­ginal gains” of the sci­ence-driven Team Sky. We can only hope for cy­cling’s sake that this is the kind of sci­ence mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

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