To race successfully in the heat, you need to train in the heat. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka knows this, and thanks to an innovative training regimen, one of their own, Ben King, won stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana on a scorching hot day in southern Spain.
“I was really fired up during the final of today’s stage. I could feel cramps coming on, and with all the liquid you have to drink throughout the stage, my stomach was a mess, but I knew I still had it in me for one last big effort to the finish line,” explained King.
There’s plenty of science backing up all that sweat and suffering: multiple studies show that warm environments impair endurance performance. Training in the heat is the best strategy to offset this performance detriment as the body rapidly undergoes many physiological adjustments to better cope in this environment, even in as few as 5 days.
“Whilst Ben’s specific heat training was completed outside using the natural environment at his home base in Lucca, we also used this opportunity to test his physiological responses to the heat in an artificial environment in the team’s service course in Lucca,” said Dave Nichols, Coach & Sport Scientist, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka.
To create an environment that simulated the expected conditions at the start of the Vuelta, Team Dimension Data coaches set up an enclosed space outfitted with electric fan heaters and cranked the heat to 35°C // 95°F.
Next up, setting Ben up on his Elite Direto trainer paired to a pre-set Zwift workout on his iPad Pro.
Ben followed the Zwift workout for 60 minutes.
“From this test protocol, we were able to identify his heart rate response to the heat over time, and obtain measures of his sweat rate, and percentage of weight loss due to dehydration, along with his perceptual tolerance to the heat. Using this data we were able to make individualized recommendations to counteract in race dehydration and optimize his post-race re-hydration strategy,” said Nichols.
And the proof is in the top step of the podium.
“I have been working really hard at home in Lucca, where it’s been really hot all July, so I have confidence in my preparation for the Vuelta and today it showed,” said King.