What's Cool In Road Cycling

Lotto Belisol: André Greipel’s sprint train

Yesterday André Greipel won the sixth stage in the 100th Tour de France, between Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier. It was a textbook sprint, the preparation was perfect. Time to scrutinize the sprint train of Lotto Belisol: the clothing, the bike, the role of the riders, the training and the numbers. The successes of our sprint train are preceded by much training and study, Bert Ackaert of Energy Lab informed us about the technical side of the matter. On top of that on their mission our riders can dispose of the newest technology of clothing and bikes: sprint suits of Vermarcsport and the Ridley Noah FAST. Let’s take a look at the world of the Lotto Belisol sprint train!

During the Tour de France our riders are wearing the newest sprint suits by Vermarcsport. To increase aerodynamics, the upper part of the suit is made of printable 210 gr/sqm fabric. An antiabrasion stretch 200 gr/mq high compression lycra is used in the internal leg.

The sleeves and bottom hem are in textured lycra that fits the body perfectly. A non-slip silicone in the sleeve cuffs and bottom hem prevents the suit from riding up.

The sprint suit has a full divisible zipper in the front and 2 back pockets (without zipper).

In warm conditions, the mesh inserts in the sleeves and legs guarantees optimal breathability, which can only increase the performance of the riders and comes in handy during this summer period.

Ridley supplies our team bikes. André Greipel and his sprint train can rely on the Noah FAST in their quest for (Tour) glory. This bike is innovative very high-standing with three by Ridley patented technologies, which make the bike very aerodynamic. The Noah FAST makes the riders faster and helps them to save energy. At speeds of 40+ km/h a rider on the Noah FAST saves 20 Watts and his heartbeat is reduced by more than 4% compared to that same rider on a normal road bike. Thanks to this bike André Greipel has a maximum power output of almost 2.000 Watts – 250 Watts more than on any other bike he has previously ridden.

The clothing and bikes are of course of the utmost importance, but talented riders are indispensable. Many training and study precedes the victories and impressive performances of the sprint train. Not every rider can be set in on every position; the duration of the effort determines which type of rider can be set in on what position. And here Energy lab comes on stage. After they have tested the power of the riders, it is decided in what position a rider will pay its way the most. Let’s be in the wheel of the Lotto Belisol sprint train in the last two kilometers.

From the start of the penultimate kilometer men like Lars Bak, Adam Hansen and Marcel Sieberg take control, they produce power at about 7 Watt/kg. Their task is to make sure no riders impede a bunch sprint and they take up the tempo. They hold on until the final kilometer or 750 meters before the finish. From then on you need a puncher in your train, Jürgen Roelandts is the man on the right place at that point. He has to produce about 11 Watt/kg during one minute. 500 to 600 meters from the finish Greg Henderson takes over, he has to gradually raise the tempo and discourage the others. That means he produces about 17,5 – 19 Watt/kg. And then the Gorilla is released with 150 to 250 meters to go! In the final phase the speed can run up to 70 km/hour. In 5 to 10 seconds he can produce about 20 to 22 Watt/kg. And if all pieces fall into place, like yesterday, the German crosses the finish line first.

The successes are preceded by much training. On team camp in December and January the preparation starts already with simulations. Several trains can battle against each other. A few kilometers are marked and represent the final kilometers of a race and the distance to the ‘finish’ is marked as well. The sprint train of Greipel has to deliver him at the 200 meter point. The other guys have to disturb the mechanism of the train or try to attack. Different race situations are simulated and the automatisms of the train can be trained. It’s important that each rider can take a decision on his own, because in a fraction of a second the situation can change. Also in smaller races these things are tested before the big races, the Ster ZLM Toer is an important preparation before the Tour de France.

All this preparation and knowhow has yielded many victories, one of them the brilliant stage win of yesterday in Montpellier!

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