When riders readied themselves for the individual time trial event at the UCI Road World Championships yesterday morning, temperatures were already reaching a scorching 40 degrees celsius.
The heat has been the number one talked about topic ever since it was first announced that the week-long pinnacle event of the 2016 road season would be taking place in the Middle Eastern country of Doha. In an effort to combat the challenging conditions, UCI officials decided to delay the event till the second week of October, a month later than the event has usually been held. But despite the delay, the heat is still a major factor and caused several heat strokes during the team time trial on Sunday.
So at the start of the individual time trial yesterday, cooling vests, ice socks and hydration packs were a common sight. Every team, it seemed, was coming up with their own solution to prevent the riders from getting heat stroke.
In the women’s race, Australian Katrin Garfoot got the race commentators talking with her use of a Camelbak hydration pack seated high on her back. But Garfoot’s choice to use an ice-filled Camelbak successfully helped her win the bronze medal.
Martin Barras, high performance director for Australia’s elite women’s team, explained that the hydration pack was just one of many tactics the team employed to help Garfoot keep cool.
“I guess we tried to learn something from the events that have been held over the last couple of days. We have come to Qatar for many years but not at this time of year. Everybody has been talking about the heat in particular,” said Barras. “We had done a fair amount of pre-work before coming here, particularly with heat acclimation, but we came to realise very quickly that you could have done as much heat acclimation as possible but pre-cooling was the name of the game here.”
“We went completely over-board with pre-cooling,” Barras continued, explaining that they tried every trick in the book. “Cooling vests, cool towels, ice socks, ice lodged in the helmet, alcohol lotion sprayed on the skinsuit to help with evaporation, doused the booties in cold water…We are going to do whatever it takes to do a good ride.”
They even went as far as to sent Garfoot to hang out in the dunnys (portable bathrooms) pre-race.
“We figured out the tents or the team areas where all the teams were training are reasonably fresh but the dunnys are a whole lot cooler, so we sent her to run in a dunny. We locked up one of the dunnys – a men’s dunny as that was cooler than the women’s. We made sure we had everything covered with that,” revealed Barras.
Barras hoped that all the pre-cooling work would keep Garfoot’s body temperature within normal levels and allow her to focus on what she came to Qatar to do: to ride her best TT yet.
“She was already pretty nervous to start with because she knew she was in with a chance, and that was one of the things that I told her immediately before the start: ‘Hey, we’ve taken care of everything else. All you need to do is what you normally do. Get on the bike. Ride as you know how to ride,” said Barras.
And that she did.
Coming in just 2.3 seconds behind silver medalist Dutch powerhouse Ellen van Dijk and 8.32 seconds behind American race winner Amber Neben, Garfoot secured herself a bronze medal. In doing so, she proved herself as a podium contender among the fastest riders in the world.
“It was very satisfying the way it worked out for us,” said Barras. “I’m extremely pleased with it. We knew coming into the Championships that she had the potential to win. She didn’t but she showed that ability to be capable of winning, not to take away anything from Neben’s outstanding ride. Katrin has now established herself as a World Championships contender…That was pure joy in the car watching that. A lot of anxiety, too, as we didn’t know until Zabelinskaya arrived if Katrin had pulled it off but the last split was astounding good and done at the very best level at the best bike riders in the world.”