Few sports have been subject to the scepticism and scrutiny that have beset the world of professional cycling in the wake of the high-profile doping scandals which continue to cast a shadow.
In the battle to restore some faith and establish greater transparency, the power of data is fast emerging as the principle tool to harness, both for the riders and the sport’s wider fraternity.
It explains why the much-maligned Chris Frome took the unusual step of releasing his own power data following a stage of the Tour de France to prove his performance was plausible without drugs. However, it is clear that a broader and proactive role exists for data analytics beyond a purely defensive one, focused on silencing the critics.
Indeed, used strategically, insights unearthed around a rider’s power output are the ultimate weapon in helping to optimize performance in a sport where every millisecond counts.
For Sillicon Valley-based female pro cyclists, Team TIBCO-SVB, sponsored by Business Intelligence giant, TIBCO Software, embracing a data-driven approach to their training is a logical progression, particularly when there are Olympic ambitions on the horizon.
Now in its 11th consecutive season, the partnership with TIBCO began when team founder and former Olympian Linda Jackson approached the company’s founder Vivek Ranadivé with a request for sponsorship to support her mission to boost elite-level opportunities for women racers.
Drawing on the parallels of the competitive environments of cycling and technology, and building on TIBCO’s broader commitment to encourage women in the technology sector, the result has driven greater visibility and recognition of women’s elite cycling, spawning a number of established names with riders selected annually for the World Championships.
Originally confined to a traditional sponsorship arrangement, the partnership is now evolving to harness TIBCO’s fast data capabilities, specifically the Spotfire Data Visualization and analytics software to analyze training and race data and uncover the bigger picture in the sport. Significantly, it is a development that, for the first time will bring live data analysis to this arena.
And for a business committed to finding ever more interesting and innovative avenues through which to deploy its technology, the high-octane world of cycling has ignited an exciting challenge. They are now on a mission to help the team be the best it can be by utilizing TIBCO technology, while highlighting the valuable role that data analytics has to play in sport.
In partnership with Australian company Verve Cycling, TIBCO will work closely with the newly-launched InfoCrank, a product which represents the next generation in cycling power metres. Uniquely measuring the power of an individual leg, the technology calculates every millisecond of wattage used to complete a pedal stroke, sampling torque at a rate of 256 HZ.
Indeed, power becomes the most useful metric for training and a conclusive barometer of how hard an athlete is working. Devoid of the variables which can impact temperature, gradient, fatigue and hydration, wattage remains objective and constant so that measurable goals can be set and tracked.
From just one pedal stroke InfoCrank will produce vast swathes of data, but this alone is only part of the process – how it is analyzed becomes critical in the overall effectiveness. Transforming a mass of statistics into meaningful, accessible and actionable data is where TIBCO will work its magic by developing a means to extract and read live data in real time, in essence, bringing everything that has been collated to life. At the heart of the proposition is Spotfire, the original data exploration tool, patented to give users the flexibility to ask anything of their data and crucially, get the answers fast. Leading-edge data visualization then transforms a variety of sources into clear graphics, generating instant insights and ensuring emerging trends are clearly understood.
As the only solution that combines data from multiple sources and brings it all in one place, the result for the user is a deeper understanding of the material which is then summarized so that coaches and riders know what they need to do to maximize their power output through the whole pedal stroke, so they ride faster and more efficiently. Crucially, the specific details around the left and right leg will enable the athletes to know their own bodies better and prove particularly useful during the rehabilitation process.
With fast data set to lead to faster times, the collaboration of sport and technology signals the next cycle in an already exciting journey for Team TIBCO.