It's been a busy few weeks for new Wattbike Ambassador Joanna Rowsell as she's back on the Track World Cup circuit. After a blistering performance in Manchester where Great Britain's Women's Team Pursuit squad set a new World Record it was a long flight to Mexico for the next round which would take place at altitude.
With the track sitting at over 1,800m we were pretty sure that some of the longest standing World Records would go...and the newest of them all too, the Women's Team Pursuit.
Thanks to Joanna for taking the time to put this blog together, a nice insight into how the body reacts to suddenly finding yourself going from 40m above sea-level in Manchester to over 1,800m and a very different time-zone.
By Joanna Rowsell
I have just returned from Mexico where I competed at the 2nd round of the UCI Track World Cup series at the superfast Aguascalienties velodrome. Aguascalienties is a city sitting at an altitude of over 1800m which was the main contributor to the many fast times and World Records set over the weekend as the air pressure is so much lower. Combined with high temperatures during the day we saw some phenomenal performances including more than 2 seconds being taken off the men’s Kilo World Record which had stood for over 12 years!
This was my first experience of competing or even riding at altitude and I wasn’t sure how my body would react. We arrived with 5 full days before racing began and on the very first road ride we did of just 1 hour I could already feel the effects of being at altitude. Just riding up a short rise felt like very hard work and I was breathing a lot heavier than usual.
Our first track session was also a shock to the system. We did some underpaced rolling 4km efforts as a team on a small gear, just to get used to the track and wake our bodies up after the travelling. But I found myself breathing really hard after about 8 or 9 laps and I was thinking when we move up to race pace this could be very tough!
Over the next couple of days I still felt rough both on and off the bike and was suffering with headaches. A side affect of being at altitude can be dehydration due to the higher rate of water vapour lost from the lungs when you breathe so that was something to consider, but I soon came round and by race day I felt fine. I think it takes the body a few days to adapt to being at altitude but once you are used to it the gains from the low air pressure outweigh the negative effects when it comes to timed events.
This theory was proved nicely on race day when we broke the World Record we had set in Manchester at the World Cup 4 weeks ago in both qualifying and the final of the Team Pursuit. In the qualifying ride we set a time of 4:19.1, which was 0.5s quicker than the previous WR, but the Canadian team were very close to us, also recording a 4:19. In the final we made a few changes to our strategy and rode well as a team to knock nearly 3 more seconds off that time as we recorded 4:16.5 and had the Canadian team in our sights to take the gold medal.
Now we have set a time at altitude it may be a while before we see a World Record again but I think that is definitely a good thing. When we are training back in Manchester we now have a fast time to aim for which is important as we keep striving to be the best we can be as I’m sure the rest of the World will be working hard to catch us up.
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