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Elite mountain biker finds new challenge in university's ACE Climatic Wind Tunnel

Derek Zandstra trains inside unique testing chamber

Canadian professional mountain biker Derek Zandstra (Trenton, Ontario) challenges simulated hot and humid conditions inside one of ACE's climate chambers at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
Canadian professional mountain biker Derek Zandstra (Trenton, Ontario) challenges simulated hot and humid conditions inside one of ACE's climate chambers at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

Elite athletes live in a competitive world, where seconds or even fractions of seconds can make the difference between being on the podium or not. There is a perpetual challenge to always improve. Whether athletes are trying to become faster or stronger, or just looking to perfect their technique, even the slightest upgrade can dramatically improve performance and results.

Athletes competing internationally face different atmospheric conditions – challenges that one may not be able to prepare for in their regular training surroundings. There are always new mountains to climb, and it helps if that ‘mountain’ can be simulated, close to home.

Professional mountain biker Derek Zandstra of SCOTT-3Rox Racing was wondering how he could simulate hot temperatures and high humidity – similar to the conditions he competes in when racing in events near the equator. Zandstra was struggling with capturing his training data in such conditions. His home town is Trenton, Ontario, where the winter and spring months are anything but hot and humid.

“Many of my races are in climates that we don’t regularly get in Ontario, especially during the key training months,” says Zandstra. “I needed a way to see how my body would respond in extreme circumstances.”

It turns out the answers he needed to find were not all that far from home. ACE, located at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, is a research and testing facility that offers the perfect technologies in made-to-order weather conditions for athletes such as Zandstra.

To help him acclimatize and beat the heat, ACE was able to simulate exactly what he was looking for in its advanced climate simulation chambers.

“I have been struggling in high temperatures above 30 Celsius, and when humidity is around 80 per cent,” says Zandstra. “My body was overheating and I was not able to perform. In fact, my athletic performance was decreasing significantly.”

In the ACE climate chambers, Zandstra was able ride a stationary bike in tropical racing conditions. The university’s Kinesiology researchers monitored his training to pinpoint where he was suffering performance loss. They tested a range of factors including:

  • metabolic demand (oxygen consumption)
  • core temperature (how efficiently the body dissipates heat)
  • skin temperature
  • hydration levels
  • electrolyte concentration in sweat
  • electromyography (muscle performance)
  • whole body kinematics (efficiency of body position and movement to maximize power)

Zandstra is now armed with a ton of new knowledge to help him succeed in his upcoming competitions. The combined team of ACE and the university’s Kinesiology program aims to continue to help athletes at the top of their disciplines train in any environment or temperature they need.

About SCOTT-3 Rox Racing
SCOTT-3 Rox Racing is a North American mixed, male-female, cross country Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Elite Status Mountain Bike Race Team with headquarters in Toronto, Ontario and has been putting tread to trail for over 15 years. For 2016, the team continues its North American representative along with staying true to its Canadian roots. Composed of four athletes, the riders will be found striving for the top step of the podiums throughout North America and the World.

About ACE
ACE is a research and testing facility that offers chambers and technology for climatic, structural durability and life-cycle testing. Facilities include one of the largest and most sophisticated climatic wind tunnels on the planet. In this test chamber, wind speeds can reach 300 kilometres per hour with temperatures that range from -40 to +60°C. With our solar arrays and storm generators we can create any weather conditions imaginable from sweltering jungle downpours to the paralyzing cold of an arctic storm. We use these chambers to test automotive and aerospace products, to improve the performance of elite athletes and to provide services to many other markets including the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle industry, film and television, and motorsport.