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Wattbike and White Dolphin

Caspar visits the British Swimming Intensive Training Centre at Loughborough for some bike and swim analysis courtesy of Wattbike and White Dolphin

As any triathlete will testify, the finger-on-the-watch body position at the swim start and the subsequent vibrating bleeps that fill the transition area and tick off the kilometres on the run are synonymous with the sport. You can therefore conclude that either athletes don’t trust the timekeepers or that we’re obsessed with data.

So, when the chance arose to visit the British Swimming Intensive Training Centre at Loughborough for some bike and swim analysis courtesy of Wattbike and White Dolphin, I and five other triathlon-based companions jumped at the chance.

After a shameful, carbon footprint-enhancing four-car convoy down the M1 from London, we fuelled up with bacon sandwiches and headed to the pool. The group was greeted by Ian Wilson of Wattbike, who outlined the format for the day. We were basically to be guinea pigs for the company who are looking to launch a potential programme of triathlete services.

First up was the Wattbike and professional bike fit. Having adjusted the saddle, seat post and bars to mirror our existing positions we began to pedal under the expert eyes of sport and exercise physiologist, Eddie Fletcher. With the Wattbike recording heart rate, wattage, speed and distance there was much to take in but our main goal was to assess our Wattbike Force Curve. Now, if you have perfect technique, this is represented as a perfect oval with slight kinks in the middle at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke. Obviously though, this changes depending on your aptitude and can resemble figure of eight (if you lose a lot of momentum and power at the bottom of your stroke), a peanut or a snowman (if one leg is much stronger than the other). All this is displayed on what looks like an electronic dartboard, the further the boundaries of your oval, the more power you are transmitting.

Technical? Yes. Useful? Extremely. The coaches gradually adjusted our positions and pedal stroke until we were all pushing a Force Curve which had, power aside, a passing resemblance to one generated by Chris Hoy, albeit in jeans and trainers.

Having scribbled down our new bike measurements and stashed them safely away, we then undertook a core stability session with Bob Smith who’s CV includes multiple Ironman finishes and professional conditioning for numerous international teams across a variety of sports. Bob maintains that following a strong core programme will literally knock minutes of your times and is a discipline often neglected by triathletes. As if to prove him correct, we spent the next 30 minutes falling off stability balls and collapsing onto mats and headed off for the swim change with much food for thought.

Our lack of core strength was soon to be evident again as our swim techniques were recorded by the White Dolphin technology. Essentially, this piece of kit resembles a stair lift, which rolls along the poolside on a portable track producing video from all angles. 75m of freestyle was all the camera operator needed from each athlete but even this proved a daunting task with Stuart Hayes gliding by in the next lane and Michelle Dillon’s performance squad churning out some serious speeds on the other side of the pool.

Despite being asked if I was a duathlete by the coach, I managed to swallow my pride and sit down for the slow-motion analysis. This proved to be incredibly useful for all involved and we went away with a memory stick of our performance and an array of both land and pool based exercises designed to improve our technique.

On the whole, it was a great day and it appears that Wattbike and White Dolphin certainly have a lot to offer the triathlon world.

See www.wattbike.com.

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The 220 Triathlon team is made up of vastly experienced athletes, sports journalists, kit reviewers and coaches. In short, what we don't know about multisport frankly isn't worth knowing! Saying that, we love expanding our sporting knowledge and increasing our expertise in this phenomenal sport.