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WIRED magazine looks at the Science Behind Team Sky

Latest issue of tech and science focused mag focuses on what makes Tour de France winning team tick

Chris Froome has followed Professor Stephen Hawking and Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive among others by appearing on the cover of WIRED magazine, the latest issue of which focuses on sport, including a lengthy article entitled The Science Behind Team Sky.

The monthly magazine’s main focus is on science and technology, and that’s evident in its approach to the discovering what has made Sky one of the most successful UCI WorldTour teams and win three of the past four editions of the Tour de France.

Written by WIRED’s science editor, João Medeiros, much of the article’s focus is on Chris Froome, who will next month seek to win the race for the third time, as well as on Tim Kerrison, the Australian sports scientist behind those victories.

> Froome releases performance data - but will it silence critics?

Medeiros spent a day in the car with Kerrison in April as they followed Froome training in the hills above Nice, where Team Sky has a base.

It’s far from a case of Froome simply jumping on the bike and sitting down with Kerrison to crunch the numbers afterwards, as Medeiros explains what the rider’s day comprises:

Two flat efforts on the time trial bike – 15 minutes and 12 minutes – with about five minutes of recovery in between … [then] a 20-minute climbing effort on the time trial bike before switching to a road bike and [a] final effort: 12 minutes of ‘spiked eüorts’ building up to four minutes of threshold. 

But, of course, there are still numbers to be crunched; an awful lot of them.

When we return to Team Sky’s house, Kerrison shows WIRED a five-page checklist that he keeps for each of his riders. It includes items such as power curve analysis, demands of the events, fat-carb metabolism, heat and altitude. There are 74 factors, qualitative and quantitative, that encapsulate Kerrison’s understanding of what it takes to win. It’s the blueprint of what it takes to become a Tour de France winner.

But for all the numbers and the science, bike races can – and are – won on instinct too, which as the article explains is what drove Froome to launch his attack on the first mountain stage of last year’s Tour in the Pyrenees, a surprise not just to his rivals but Team Sky’s management too, who didn’t have it in their race plan.

See the full feature in the July/August issue of WIRED on sale now.

> 12 ways Team Sky develops those marginal gains

WIRED JulyAug16 cover.jpg

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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