TU Delft and the professional cycling team Giant-Alpecin (which includes Tom Dumoulin) plan to conduct joint scientific research to enable cyclists to increase their speed by a few precious seconds. The two parties today announced plans for structural collaboration.

Sports Engineering

“We have a great deal of fundamental science knowledge to offer,” says Daan Bregman from TU Delft's Sports Engineering Institute. “We aim to apply this knowledge to sport, across all kinds of disciplines.”
“Professional cycling is just one of these areas. Around 18 months ago, we began talks with the professional cyclists of Team Giant-Alpecin, who are very open to the idea of more scientific contribution to cycling in order to improve their performance even further. Team Giant-Alpecin's Performance Manager Jorn Knops endorses this view: “There is a lot of potential for applying fundamental scientific knowledge in the day-to-day practice of top professional sport, and cycling in particular. It has been hugely motivating to work together with TU Delft and we look forward to intensifying and extending our cooperation in the near future, with a view to improving our performance.”

The collaboration between TU Delft and Team Giant-Alpecin now covers four areas.

Photo: Wouter Roosenboom

Sensor bike

One of these areas involves the stability and handling of the bike. “This addresses such issues as how a cyclist can most effectively negotiate a descent,” says Bregman. “ For example, TU Delft graduating student Niels Lommers recently developed a ‘sensor bike’ that can assess cyclists' steering and braking.” Improved insight into braking and how to approach corners can result in precious time gains. Better understanding of when to brake and the best way to take a corner can provide a crucial edge on the competition. Early tests show that several seconds' gain per kilometre can be achieved for a descent. “This project marks the first step towards a set of sensors that can rapidly transform any bike into a sensor bike,’’ explains Arend Swab, researcher at the TU Delft Cycling Lab. “The focus of future research is on further development and improving feedback,” says Swab.

Photo: Cor Vos - Team Giant-Alpecin

Power distribution

Aerodynamics is another area on which there is collaboration. “How can we further optimise cyclists' posture and clothing and reduce air resistance? For this, TU Delft can use a wind tunnel and advanced measurement technology. 
A third issue, which involves more mathematics/computer science, is optimum power distribution. It concerns the issue of how a cyclist can best apply his or her strengths and how this relates to such issues as the choice of materials.”

Data science

The final area is the application of data science: the scientific analysis and use of large quantities of data. “For example, Team Giant-Alpecin has enormous quantities of medical and other data available from cyclists' training. The application of Big Data techniques has the potential to reveal valuable new insights in this area.” 
“What makes this collaboration so great is its variety,” concludes Bregman. “Not only is the business community working closely with the University – within the University itself, five different disciplines are involved, from mathematics and computer science to aerospace engineering. We are firmly convinced that progress is possible only by working across disciplines.’

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