In the fascinating world of top sport, less and less is left to chance. The athletes are surrounded by many specialists, such as Team Jumbo-Visma, where is worked on progression, innovation and top performances with the riders conscientiously.
In that large team of toppers like Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk, Primož Roglič, Wout van Aert, Robert Gesink and Dylan Groenewegen - Mathieu Heijboer is head of performance. The title says it all: “I am responsible for everything that has to do with the preparation for the performance. We work constantly on training, innovation, nutrition, aerodynamics and everything else that ensures top performance during the races. So I am particularly present at training camps. And because my heart and specialty, as a former rider lies there, I am often involved in time trials. Especially on time trials you can prepare very well of course and the athletes are usually less dependent on external factors. ‘
'The warm-up has two goals: to activate the heart and lung system and to warm up the muscles. The risk in the latter is that you drive up the core temperature of the rider in warm conditions for sure and that leads to a loss of performance. Thanks to these special cooling vests, we can keep the core temperature close to the desired 37.5 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). The scientific studies show that it works and the riders themselves also say they like it. Cooling is really a very important part. '
This special 6.5C precooling vest works for about thirty minutes, so then you simply need another. You would be amazed at how much heat a body produces during exercise and therefore during preparation. In addition, the Touring calendar is becoming more and more international and we are increasingly riding in hot climate conditions. In winter we are in Australia, where it is summer at that time and therefore of course very hot sometimes. '
"Right. Not the 6.5C precool vest that you literally pull out of the freezer before the race, but a so-called Bodycool Xtreme vest that is so small, you can take it anywhere. After the finish it is hectic and you do not run around with freezers of course, so such a small package is very practical. This allows the body to cool down more quickly, which promotes the recovery processes in the body. That recovery is at its best at normal core temperature. This body extreme vest is made out of the same materials as we included in the goodie bag, the cooling towel, which you can put as extra cooling, for instance, on your neck. You just check the internet, you will see Steven Kruijswijk after such a difficult stage wearing such a shirt. Recovery is very important during the Tours. ‘
The innovations are getting faster, what do you see happening in the future?
'Being in cycling, it's all about total body control. Science goes fast, everything is getting better and more efficient. Also because of the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, where it will be very hot, we have to prepare ourselves well for that. That is why I am really happy with INUTEQ, who continuously develop and design new products that absolutely help us with that. There is almost no sport where athletes have to perform in the heat for as long as a cyclist does. One rider can deal with heat better than the other by nature, there is nothing to do about that, but hey, performance in hot conditions is certainly trainable and cooling obviously helps. '
'Certainly. In the first week of the Vuelta we have used a very intensive cooling protocol as a team. With the cooling vests, with cold water bottles, ice cubes. The riders all said: "We have really been able to make a difference to our competitors." We had really prepared that whole picture very well. That was very nice, to get that positive feedback, also because we actually performed so well back then. '