High tech wins cycle races, but strangles panache

Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:58pm EDT
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By Chris Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters Life) - In Italy's Cinque Terre this May, professional cyclist David Millar swooped alone into blind corners and hairpin turns with supreme confidence, all thanks, he said, to a high-tech navigation device on his handlebars.

"The race that day was really technical, more like a mountain stage in a road race than an individual time trial, and nobody had any idea where the turns were or how to ride the course beforehand," said Millar.

"When you are racing that hard, you need every technical advantage you can find."

Millar, whose cycling team is sponsored by the satellite navigation device maker Garmin, arranged in April for a company representative to drive the wild, rolling hillside above Italy's Ligurian coast and map Stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia's 60-km (37.28 miles) course.

"So I could cook it into the corners hot because I knew just from looking down at my Garmin how tight the turn was. To have that GPS map on the bike definitely helped me race faster."


Cycling now uses an array of wireless technology to provide real time data. Athletes can track their heart rate on a wristwatch, their speed, pedal cadence and power output on small handlebar computers, and now their location with GPS devices.

In team cars following the peloton, directors use two-way radios to communicate with riders, track the race with onboard televisions, and take mobile phone calls from other directors to arrange temporary alliances as a day's events unfold.   Continued...

<p>David Millar of Britain cycles to place third in the fourth individual time trial of the Dauphine Libere cycling race in southeastern France, June 10, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Pratta</p>