Hunt for the X-Factor: Is Science Going to Make Pavel Kelemen the Winner?
Olympic track-cycling is the world where hundredths of seconds separate the worst from the best.
Olympic track-cycling is the world where hundredths of seconds separate the worst from the best. Living under the pressure from knowing that one bad movement can decide about the whole race is something you will eventually learn to live with. But having such mindset forces you to seek perfection, and to constantly try to improve one tiny step by step. That‘s why the Czech Olympic cyclist Pavel Kelemen tried the same technology that is usually reserved only for development of new top secret car models. This is a story of how you make an aerodynamic analysis of a cyclist.
On one hand there is this exceptionally talented young man who is known for being blessed with perfect muscle structure and great passion for cycling. It seems like he has everything he needs. But on the other hand, he has to face the fact that track-cycling is not one of the promoted sports in his homeland. So he does need all the help he can get to stay ahead of his opponents.
Now using advanced CFD simulations and wind-tunnel aerodynamic to improve cyclist‘s posture, seat position, and bike setting is not unheard of but it is very rare. So naturally, a certain question came up. Could the technologies provided by ŠKODA AUTO be the X-Factor this young man needs? Well that remains to be seen. But it was certainly worth a try.
First, a 3-dimensional digital model of Pavel had to be made in order to feed the data to the computer. But that is easier set then done. 115 perfectly coordinated cameras had to be set to take Pavel’s pictures from every possible angle and that is indeed very hard. Reflections off his helmet, moving legs, and lots of shiny materials – none of these things were making the job easier but at the end of the day everything was finally finished.
Before the math could even start all the photos had to be converted to a basic 3D model and then to a much more complicated and tweaked one. From this point the guys from aerodynamics department took over and started to work the magic. The time for which they were torturing the computers and trying several possible postures seemed to be endless because everyone was so excited and curious about the results. When they finally called back it was decided to present Pavel with everything in person. So, the whole team was off to Vienna. Why Vienna you ask? Because there is no proper track in the Czech Republic, so Pavel and his team mates have to train in Austria...
It was great to spend a day with coach Petr Klimeš on Ferry-Dusika-Hallenstadion in Vienna. It had everything – spirit, passion and enthusiasm, and that feeling of respect you have when you meet someone who had truly accomplished something significant. But what about the results, right? The CFD simulation showed that there is a possibility of improvement on many levels, including Pavel’s helmet, and the posture of shins, hips, arms, and calves. The bike seemed to be set perfectly but there were some tips for Pavel on how to treat his wheels for lower aerodynamic drag that came out of the experiment.
For Petr Klimeš it was the first opportunity to actually see how the air flow looks and behaves. Although in theory, he seemed to know everything about it. It was great to see him constantly discussing all the possibilities over and over, with a gleam in his eye while ticking between the computer screen and the experts.
Now you have to know that this is not a one-off thing. It’s just not enough to tell someone how to control air flow separation and then never talk to him again. There is much more work to be done, many variables to be taken into account, and a new friendship to be maintained. And hopefully, all this will help one young man to stand on the Olympic podium.