Henderson helped U.S.Olympic hopefuls
They're all coached by Neal Henderson of Boulder.
The sports science director at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine has used several strategies to keep the athletes healthy and give them an edge in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. All of the athletes compete for the United States except Duffy, who is a University of Colorado at Boulder student who competed for Bermuda in the triathalon event.
After months of preparation, the U.S. women's track cycling team is a medal hopeful in the team pursuit event on Friday, Aug. 3, and Saturday, Aug. 4, Henderson said. The three-kilometer race is on a covered indoor velodrome track. As assistant coach to the team, Henderson has been working with the four team members in Mallorca, Spain — mostly on an Olympic-caliber indoor track.
"All of the folks I coach here are really healthy, and 'on' and ready," Henderson said from Spain, a day before the Olympics opened in London. "They're physically prepared and mentally ready."
The team trained in Spain for the last several months to dial in its timing patterns at the lower altitude, Henderson said. The coach said he focused on making team members do repetitive patterns of getting on and off the track, since those few seconds could make or break the entire team's race time. While the race features three team members, the U.S. women's track cycling team has four – meaning one will serve as an alternate.
"The repetitive patterns that we have had them develop here would be completely different (at high altitude venues)," Henderson said. "So the whole timing of the 250-meter track, the timing of when they would pull off and get back on, would be altered."
The women's track cycling team also has been able to limit its travel and enjoy the good weather on the Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea, which also has kept stress levels low, which keeps them healthy, Henderson said.
Well-known men's cyclist Phinney just missed out on a medal finishing fourth in the men's cycling road race, and was scheduled to challenge for a medal in the individual time trials that were to be held Aug. 1. Stevens and Duffy also could be medal contenders, he said.
To keep the Olympic athletes healthy and injury-free, Henderson said he focused on "pre-habilitation." Henderson said he believes in testing athletes at the beginning of the season to head off potential problems. While both recreational and high-performance athletes will complain that they don't want to be tested until they feel really fit, it's important not to wait until potential problems crop up, Henderson said.
"If they have good mechanics dialed in, we know how much work they're doing, and if it's too much for them," Henderson said. "I want to make sure they're not over doing it."
Physiological testing includes testing for blood lactate level, a chemical byproduct of the body breaking down carbohydrates without oxygen, a measure of how hard the body is working. Athletes also wear heart rate monitors to measure the level at which their bodies are working. They have "power meters" attached to their bikes, which also calculate levels of work.
Finally, Boulder's 5,400-feet-above-sea-level altitude is probably the region's most well-known training advantage and also one of its most important, Henderson said. He gave athletes supplemental oxygen while they rode stationary bikes at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, to help them feel what it will be like to race at sea level.
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