photo by Steve Driscoll of LiFT Creative Studios
Three riders from the Jamis Hagens-Berman UCI-Continental Pro cycling team, Silver Medalist Ironman 70.3 World’s, Heather Jackson, and multi-time national champion triathlete Lukas Verzbicas took part in a two-day testing program in Los Angeles at the Proactive Sports Center and at the VELO Sports Velodrome to optimize nutrition, training and aerodynamics.
As part of an ongoing commitment to its teams and athletes, Herbalife hosted Ben Jacques-Maynes, Rob Squire, Gregory Brenes of Jamis Hagens-Berman, alongside Heather Jackson and Lukas Verbicas, to participate in a series of physiological tests, designed a custom performance nutrition programand conducted aerodynamic testing in real time.
Serving as a true performance partner to its athletes, Herbalife provides nutritional expertise along with the ability to collaborate with leading experts to provide advantageous performance insights.
“We were able to sit down and examine the needs of each athlete in high detail. All these factors athletes are looking at now: fueling, hydration, physical strength, position on the bike, and various bikes (road and TT) are highly individualized. Our goal is to create exacting recommendations for each athlete, as precise as possible,” says John Heiss Ph.D, senior director sports and fitness, Herbalife.
Athletes spent one day doing a physiological evaluation including gas-exchange analysis to determine VO2 max and to correlate training zones with power and heart rate. Athletes also ran through a functional endurance fitness evaluation to identify strengths and weaknesses of various muscle groups. Ryan Capretta, owner of ProActive Sports Performance, who has worked with the Baltimore Ravens and produced many first-round drafted pro-athletes, says “you can’t just blanket approach athletes. The endurance guys are fun because they’ve really adapted to develop highly-specific muscle function. Our goal was to identify a signal of a weak spot or imbalance that might help them just a half-percent or prevent an injury.” A basic core-strength exercise program can help elites as well as the more casual age-grouper.
The second day was held at the Velodrome at the Stub Hub center, led by the expertise of Jim Manton, owner of ERO Sports, who evaluated the fit of each athlete, and then systematically tested variables impacting aerodynamic drag including: athlete position, helmet selection, water bottle position, clothing choices, and other variables.
“The power savings and speed gains can be incredible. A few subtle changes resulted in a big change in coefficient of drag, and produced a predicted time savings of 90 seconds in a 40km TT,” said Manton.
“That’s huge,” adds Heiss. “Athletes will train a full season with hopes to gain 2% on power. We just got a 2.5% effective time gain for our athlete.” We saw some major advantages with helmets like the LG Course and the Specialized Evade. Those are definetly the top picks for road racing. Jim adds “skin is bad, but wrinkles are worse.” Here’s our best advice: save the money on fancy wheels and get your tri suit tailored, or wear it a size too small.
Athletes learned a thing or two, as well. “The performance testing days made possible by Herbalife were awesome. The guys at Proactive showed me new strength and conditioning exercises to help me work on some physical weaknesses that they identified, and Jim of Erofit showed how even the slightest tweak of a bottle position or aero-bar angle can gain you seconds or even minutes over the course of a race,” said Heather Jackson, the popular triathlete and track cyclist. “It’s these little things identified now that can mean the difference between winning and losing come race day.”
With the convergence of technology advancements and consumer-friendly price points, this type of analysis is actually reasonably approachable for the masses. Access to a velodrome for an aero test through ERO sports is under $700, much less than an expensive set of carbon wheels or a new aero frame.
“It’s more about helping our athletes and our goal is clear: be an authentic partner,” says Heiss.