The current holder of the women’s World Human Powered Speed Record is Barbara Buatois. The French cyclist set it in 2010 and has yet to be dethroned. So, spots on the team needed filling. The ULV Team had to find its female riders for their next attempt in September. British women to take a shot at the title.
They put the word out in 2015 and set the when and the where for those who fancied their chances. Be ready for trials at Liverpool Hope University, February 2016. Five women stepped up and made the trip to the city to see if they had what it took to take ARION 2 to a new record in Nevada.
A pair of sports scientists, Dr Peter Angell and Dr Simon Marwood, from Liverpool Hope, would be their taskmasters. The ULV engineers were also on hand to show support and cast an eye over the candidates. Two of these women would become their teammate.
On the day, the trials took place in the sports lab at the university. The room being used had that hospital feel to it. Typical laboratory white was everywhere. Combined with the air conditioning being pumped through the vents, it made for a cold setting for everybody. The sick bucket in the corner, the finishing clinical touch. Throwing up from exertion had been taken into account.
The warm up bikes were taken to and the girls started working their legs and lungs, combating the chill in the air. Peter ran through the procedures. He could not put enough emphasis on how hard the riders had to push themselves this day.
Power through every stroke. No stopping. All out.
The equipment consisted of a specialized bike, an oxygen mask, heart monitor and weight. A lot of data would be gathered for analyzing- power, speed, cadence, heart rate, O2 efficiency… The tests to find this out- brutal in their nature.
The riders start on the the bike with an output of 25W for three minutes. This increases by 25W/minute. When cadence falls below 50rpm, resistance drops and riders go all out.
This is 30 seconds of pure power. Once the riders cadence hits 90RPM, a weight equivalent to 10% of their bodyweight drops to add resistance and they must pedal as hard as possible. Riders get two test runs of 10 seconds each to prepare for the real thing.
Lastly, the riders had their body composition measured. Dimensions, weight and body fat percentage. Power and stamina are crucial but so too is weight. The power to weight ratio needed to be considered for the sake of speed. A good balance is demanded between all these elements for rider selection.
While the engineering team took to their coffee orders, the trials began. Each rider took their turn to don the mask and listen to the words:
Go until you can’t go any further…and then go some more.
If this instruction sounds open to interpretation, it should. The riders weren’t allowed to know how long was left or how well they were doing during the test. Everything was down to the rider’s own training, self awareness and understanding of their own body’s limits. As well as their mind’s.
Music played in the background and the riders enjoyed it’s effects on their mindset. When it came to the trial, focus was purely on breathing and reps per minute. Each woman was determined to give it all and it showed. Gasping breaths, cries of pain and collapsing on the floor. All this, the scientists and engineers witnessed as these five women put their bodies through the grinder to earn the chance to take the ARION bike to new record territory.
The engineers couldn’t help but marvel at the effort going in and the numbers being produced by these athletes. One engineer, Rory, found out personally, as he brought out his lycra to understand what they were asking of their prospects.
His thoughts on the tests and his performance?
Horrible. And nowhere near those five.
He’s happy to stick to the mechanics.
In the weeks following the trial, the team took to the data and discussed how exactly they were going to make their selection. Ken Buckley, ARION rider and coach, weighed in with his expertise and experience, and the sports scientists at Hope were kept in constant contact throughout. Until a decision was finally reached, yesterday.
Without further ado, 2016’s female ARION riders will be…
Yasmin Tredell and Jordan O’Mara!