Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team takes extra care to ensure every moment of a rider's day at the Tour de France is well organized. This ensures optimal performance for the team. We want our supports to know more about what is done to help riders recover best during the Tour, so we spoke with team doctor Helge Riepenhof about exactly what steps are taken.
Can you take us through the first part of the recovery process, including the pool they use at the finish line of every race?
This is not a new approach, but the riders of Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team love what we are doing. They are very happy. The riders first perform active recovery on the rollers for at least 12 minutes, depending on the stage. From there, they go straight away to the pool, which is set at 12 degrees (Celsius). We change it a little during the Tour, slightly different protocol depending on the stage. They stay in the pool for something around eight minutes. Together with some protein drinks and supplements the first part of recovery is then finished.
What are the benefits of the pool immersion for the riders?
It's an effect. When you ride a bike, and you perform for a long time and at high intensity, you always destroy some muscle. The muscle is damaged, and this brings mostly enzymes into the blood you don't want to have there. The first thing we want to do with the muscle damage is to stop the bleeding. When you put someone in cold water, the vessels, capillaries, become very tight. This reduces the blood flow of the superficial vessels after some time. Then, after a few more minutes the vessels open again. It enhances the process of metabolizing all the "rubbish" from the muscles, due to destroying them.
There are also many positive effects on ligaments and tendons, and the core temperature itself, which is high after a stage, is lowered to normal levels easier, which uses less energy of the rider. There are hundreds of reasons why the pool immersion is beneficial, and the OPQS riders are noticing the benefits.
What are the next steps?
The riders then go back to the bus and put on some 2XU compression stockings. While they are using them, at the same time they are using our Compex machines which provide electrostimulation of the muscles to continue with this active recovery process. So, part one of recovery immediately after the race was the bike active recovery, part two was the pool, and part three is the compression and the muscles being stimulated to contract again.
This seems like a very specific organization of recovery events for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team.
The protocol is always a little bit different depending on the time they arrive and what kind of stage, but luckily at the Tour, we make sure every moment is planned. At the Tour de France for me, it is not the strongest rider who wins, but it is who recovers best and can perform best the next day as a result of all the things we are providing.