Anatomy of a Cyclist: The Incredible Stamina of Jolanda Neff
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Anatomy of a Cyclist: The Incredible Stamina of Jolanda Neff

November 18, 2019

We’ve taken six
of the world’s top athletes to find out what it takes
to make a true Olympian. Now we’re working, come on! – Testing, analysing…
– Dig deep, come on! ..getting under the skin
of an elite athlete… we push
their bodies to the max. (ANATOMY OF A CYCLIST) Cross-country mountain biking,
because it’s off-road, the variability in terrain
makes a really big difference, so you get what’s called
“stochastic” power output. And to be able to sustain that
over a long periods of time, for the entire race, is really
a very difficult thing. Add on top of that,
operating under pressure with large numbers of riders
around you at the same time – they’re very unique traits
that mountain bikers have in comparison
to other forms of cycling. Jolanda Neff puts herself right
on the front of the field. Jolanda Neff is one of Switzerland’s brightest
sports stars. At 23, she’s already
a two-time World Cup and European
Games Gold medallist. If you’re an athlete,
you’re always trying to go for the maximum, you always
want your body to be as strong as possible. Jolanda Neff –
she’s one of those riders that just has fabulous
technical skills in descending – no fear! That’s really the big
challenge about any sport, is to find that balance,
how much can I push my body, but not push it too much? We’ve brought Jolanda
to a state of the art Human Performance lab to really put her anatomy
under the microscope. She’s one of only
two riders who competed in both the road racing and
mountain bike events at the Olympic Games Rio 2016,
with a top ten finish in both. But when it comes
to physical firepower has she got what it takes? If you take a look at all
cyclists, to some extent, but particularly mountain
bikers, is that they will tend to be very light,
very lean, but very strong and very powerful. (DYNO) The dynamometer test
is going to show us one of two things –
one is strength and the other
is strength endurance. Particularly focused on the quadriceps
and the hamstrings – the two key muscle
groups which dictate cycling performance
for Jolanda. For a cross-country
cyclist like Jolanda, the ability
to deliver maximal power from the core muscle
groups in the legs, especially
the hamstrings and quadriceps, defines her race performance. OK, you’re ready? We’re going
to go for our 20 reps. – Yeah.
– OK? After three. One, two, three! But can Jolanda maintain
this maximal effort for repetition after
repetition? Good! Push! Well done! Four! The dyno test will show us
just how much torque she can produce… Good, well done! Push! ..and keep on producing,
effort after effort. The Olympic Mountain Bike
race demands technique and strength in equal measure. Jolanda is carrying less weight
than many of her competitors but has she got the power to deliver that
medal-winning performance? ..18, 19, 20, OK, and you’re
finished! Well done! – How did that feel?
– Yeah, it was hard. Pretty tough, eh?
OK, well done! Jolanda’s peak torque
production from both her quadriceps and hamstrings
is unusually well balanced for a cyclist, with her more
developed hamstrings a powerful protector
from injury. But it’s her muscular endurance that’s the real show-stopper, maintaining close
to peak power delivery all the way from
the 1st to the 20th rep. The results for me
are spectacular. We measure how much strength
she loses, in other words, torque, across 20 efforts, and what we see is
that is less than 10% in both quadriceps
and hamstrings. Not only is she strong, but she’s also
incredibly endurable. OK, so if you
just want to lay down on your bed with
your head at this side. Jolanda’s Dyno has shown us she packs a real punch when
it comes to power-production but how much of her
body mass is actually power-producing muscle? The Dexa scan will tell us
how Jolanda really measures up. An elite level female
triathlete has an average body fat percentage
of 13.9, a sprinter 13.7, but Jolanda’s 12.4% is in
a class of its own. The composition test confirms
that 42kg of her 50kg body mass is pure, lean muscle. To some extent what
you have to think about is that fat is stored
fundamentally in two places – one is subcutaneously,
just beneath the skin, the other is viscerally, so
it resides around the organs. And what we’re doing
with skin fold measures, is we’re measuring that
subcutaneous fat to look at the distribution
of fat around the body. Anything under 40mm – is very lean…
– OK. 36mm or 36.3mm
is where you are at the moment, we wouldn’t recommend
that you should ever go any lower than that, – that’s pretty much optimum…
– OK. ..for where you are
at the moment. For cyclists, skin fold
measures give them a quick and easy way of analysing
their body composition. As a naturally lean athlete,
Jolanda’s figures put her into a category
alongside the most efficient endurance athletes in the world
and her total sum measurement of 36.3mm is truly remarkable. My body learns really fast – if I do something
my muscles adapt immediately. My lungs, my legs,
everything, when I give an impact, then there
is a reaction. (UP CLOSE) It’s not like I thought,
if I should do mountain biking, it’s just that when I was very
little we went mountain biking with the whole family because
my dad was very much into the sport,
he was a road racer. All day in school I was
longing to go out on my bike, together with my friends,
so for me riding the bike was always
something very social. I didn’t even realise
I was riding my bike, I was just talking to my
friends and it was just a great time. Come on, Jolanda! Go on!
Come on! Dedication is
one of the key words if you want to be
a good athlete. If you want to be successful, you need determination
and dedication. I didn’t imagine that I could
go that quick in the end. But if you love what you do,
it’s not a sacrifice – it’s passion. (HYDRATION) The human body depends
on hydration to regulate temperature and
maintain vital organ function. For elite endurance
athletes like Jolanda, controlling hydration
effectively will mean the difference between
medalling or failing to finish. We’ve put Jolanda
in the sealed “enviro chamber” where we’ve dialled in Rio
conditions during Games time. With temperatures well
above 30 degrees Celsius, humidity at 80% and a series
of punishing uphill climbs, it’s the athlete who
can minimise both fluid and essential mineral
loss who will be left standing on the podium. 50 seconds! Come on,
keep it there, come on! Come on, Jolanda, come on! So the information
we get from here will be around your fluid
replacement strategy. These patches
that we’ve got here, they’re collecting the sweat
which is dripping off your face so we’ve got a lot of it! And from there we can work out
the amount of sodium and the amount of potassium,
and these are something called electrolytes, so we can
calculate your replacements. – So I know how to replace it.
– Exactly that. In the Rio conditions of 31
degrees and 80% humidity, Jolanda experienced a sweat
rate of 1.4 litres per hour, but crucially experienced
a massive 2.7% reduction in her body weight
through fluid loss. That’s incredible
when you think about that, that’s in Rio conditions – the body simply
cannot withstand that. We can withstand
somewhere in the region of a 2%-3%
reduction in body fluid, so it’s interesting to see that
she’s going to have to consume quite a lot of fluid
on the bike in order to maintain
that performance. (PEAK POWER) The peak power test will
analyse how well Jolanda’s body can respond to her
sports’ sudden demands for massive power output
in those brutal uphill sections and if she can keep delivering
that power, lap after lap. What we’re looking for
is how much power Jolanda can produce
and then looking at how she can sustain
that power output, something we call
“the fatigue index” – how quickly does she fatigue. OK, ready in five, four, three,
two, one! Let’s go! Come on! Come on! Come on!
Come on! 15 seconds! Come on! Come on! In a series of timed-efforts
over increasing durations, our team of sports scientists are pushing Jolanda
to the limit. Three, two, one! – And we’re done.
– Excellent! They’re analysing how much
power she can produce and continue to produce as the length of effort
increases… Keep it there, come on,
keep the cadence up! Come on! ..all the way up to four minutes
of flat-out racing. Keep the cadence there!
Three, two, one. And stop and stop and stop. As the laps build around
the Olympic course and the brutally
long climb comes round again and again,
it’s as much a psychological as a physical effort for
the athletes – has Jolanda got the mental strength to ignore
the burning muscles? Keep it up there. The duration of
the effort is increased to a full 240 seconds
of high tempo-power output Come on, final effort! Final sprint now. Come on, dig
deep! Really push! There’s no hiding place now. Come on! Five seconds!
You got this! Massive effort, come on!
Last one and we’re done! – Well done, well done!
– Top work! Top work! Well done. Real good work, that.
Well done. Do you feel light-headed? Do you feel all right? No, it was all right,
it was intense! Yeah, it’s hard, isn’t it? Looking at Jolanda’s figures,
we can see she achieved an average power output
of well over 500 watts and maximum power
outputs of over 700 watts, ideal to attack the short
inclines and gradual hills which make up
a mountain bike course, with her best power-to-weight
figures of 12.5 watts per kilo over the shorter
15 second interval. For mountain biking, particularly when
you are going uphill, the more powerful you can be in relation to your weight,
the better. And for her,
it’s part of this test, 12.5 watts per kilogram, that’s what makes
her one of the truly elite athletes in the world. For a first-time Olympian,
Jolanda’s performances on the roads and hills of Rio made for a truly
impressive debut. But it’s how she responded
to the toughest of tests in our lab that sets
her apart – strength, speed, power and endurance
in the leanest of forms. Tokyo 2020
could well be her time. Jolanda is the complete
package, all the way from what she looks like,
her aesthetic, all the way through
to her performance. I’ve seen an awful lot
of cyclists and for me her strength endurance
is absolutely outstanding. You know there is this saying,
“Train hard, win easy” – in some way,
I love the hard work. It’s just an amazing feeling and, you know,
once you’re in that zone, you don’t want
to be anywhere else, it’s just amazing.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. All the bones are only 2 kilos?And what about other organs?No way she has 42 kilos of muscle mass.

  2. Male Tech: So we have collected a lot of your sweat for analysis… and I'm going to keep some for myself…

    Yolanda: What?

    Male Tech: What? nervous laughter

  3. So all her bones, skin, organs and blood have a mass of 1.8 kg? What?

    42 kg muscle + 6.2 kg fat = 48.2 kg out of her total body mass.

  4. Also if she shaves her hair she could lose another 3 pounds which at the end will increase her performance

  5. For me I have to use my glutes and hamstrings to achieve the most efficient pedal stroke.12.5 watts per kilo is pretty incredible!

  6. "Stochastic power output" Sorry, mr Whyte, I don't think that word means what you think it means. Haha, what a lot of bollocks. I stopped watching right there.

  7. Wait a second
    Bodymass = 50Kg
    Fat = 50Kg * 0,124 = 6,2 kg
    Muscle = 42Kg
    Bones, nerves, long hair and food in her stomach + guts = 50Kg – (42Kg + 6,2Kg) = 1,8Kg

    Do you want to tell me that her bones, nerval system and stuff in her digestive organs only weights 1,8Kg?

  8. Hey you guys are guessing there is another muscle group for cyclist besides quadraceps and hamstrings. and is that the way they say they are the most advanced lab for performance. i think not

  9. she seems well built but too lean to be a road cyclist. many moutain bike maneouvers allow riders a few seconds rest. constant pedalling is the most grueling thing. it is rare for a mountain biker to become a road racer.

  10. truly waste of time video. by the way lean muscle is a waste on a road bike. you have to have much more muscle than that to endure constant pedalling. mountain bikers dont pedal constantly

  11. I'm glad to see a female mountain biker, as there aren't many of those. I'll be rooting for her at the next Olympics. Thanks.

  12. Many cyclists, myself included ride road and XC MTB. They certainly require different types of effort. That common knowledge.
    While it hard to compare XC performance to pros, it's easy to do so on the road. For the amateur, trying to do a 10 mile TT at over 30 mph instantly gives you supreme respect for the power and endurance of pro riders. We can only assume XC riders are that much superior to us lowly amateurs as well.

  13. Has it actually been established whether having one or more extraneous nurds shouting in your ear helps with power-output and endurance? To me it looks like a form of abuse more attuned to helping the nurd feel happy to be participating in his parasitic way.

  14. its funny how they make it seem like this "facility" is something foreign to athletes…. their in always in these "facilities" they know all this data and do these tests already hahaha. these tests and exercises are the majority of her life….

  15. Don't get leaner at 12 percent fat? What genius thinks that will make you win. Ripped women have lower body fat specially if small breasted She could go below 10 percent, normally leaner you dissipate heat better and up your power too weight ratio. Just love experts who can't see over their own opinions.

  16. Waiting for curling athletes. – so they checked Pmax and FRC – they should do comparison to other athletes at different level (eg her five second power is like an elite attacker and she has a very strong recovery and amazing bike handling skills). Did also acid lactic test during intervals – wasn't shared. Power duration profile, Vo2max, Body composition, aerobic capacity and recovery ability would have shown a bit more. Still! and Amazing Athlete – keep it up Jolanda!

  17. I really don't believe she's onl 5'6" that's not that tall, yet she looks really tall in almost all her photos

  18. Her body fat is 13%, meaning fat free mass is 50Kg*(1-13&)=43.5Kg. Fat free mass includes skin, bones, muscles, internal organs, brains, extracellular fluid and everything else. The only way she has 43kg of muscle mass is if she had no brain, no heart, no bone, no liver, no kidney, etc…her average power for 240s is over 500 watt, but mountain biking is much longer than that. You can see that after 30s her power output is drastically reduced, because the anaerobic systems are tapping out, the aerobic system starts to become the major contributor for ATP. She will not be able to sustain this level of force for more than 2 minutes.

  19. Jolanda inspires me like no other athlete can! I'm a huge fan of her, and I'd be very interested in seeing more videos like this one.

  20. Stop saying endurance. There is a difference between threshhold and endurance. Endurance is riding for 6 hours and she does one hour racing.

  21. Hello @Olympic i'm a skater and I would be very pleased to see an edition on speed skating.
    best regards from France.


  22. This series is a bust, or maybe said better, badly titled All that it does is focus on physiological adaptations to sport specific training. It says little if anything about ANATOMY , those genetic traits that fit someone for a sport: torso to femur length, joint range of motion in various directions, height, width, etc.

  23. Her watt output was IN. SANE. I would need to train endlessly to achieve anywhere near her watts per kilo. Good lord.

  24. sorry but measuring performance via dynamometer tests is outdated. coordination of collaborative muscles, cycling efficiency, coordination and anticipation of changing circumstances are decisive. if maximum force or strength endurance would be decisive then Jolanda would probably ride behind.

  25. sorry but measuring performance via dynamometer tests is outdated. coordination of collaborative muscles, cycling efficiency, coordination and anticipation of changing circumstances are decisive. if maximum force or strength endurance would be decisive then Jolanda would probably ride behind.

  26. Surprised that mountain biking is even an Olympics sport … unless the circuit is identical in every Olympics how can times and records be compared?

  27. 놀랍고 멋집니다 ?
    가끔 그녀가 나오는 영상을 보곤했는데 최고라는 말로도 부족한 선수였어요
    먼곳이지만 늘 응원합니다 ^^

  28. El novio de jolanda tiene que quedar con la lengua afuera después de una noche de pasión ???… Ya que es un maquina de mujer…

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