06 August 2012

Tuesday Preview #3: Women's Sprint Cycling

This is the third of three "Tuesday Preview" posts (click here for my first post on men's discus and here for my second post on men's high jump).  This third post, and final of this evening because my fingers are about to fall off from typing, concerns women's sprint cycling, which has its final on Tuesday.

My pre-Olympics pick for women's sprint cycling was Victoria Pendleton of Great Britain.  During the 200-m (656-feet) time trial qualification this past Sunday, Pendleton broke her own Olympic record with a time of 10.724 s.  That works out to an average speed of 18.650 m/s (67.139 km/hr or 41.718 mph).  Using the same physics in my Tour de France model, I estimate that Pendleton had a power output of about 0.77 kW, which is just about 1 hp.  If I further estimate that her body is 25% efficient in its energy conversion, I find that she burns about 8 Calories during her nearly 11-s ride.

What represents 8 Calories?  The chemical energy content in two cans of Diet Coke.  Where have I used Diet Coke before?  When I wrote about archery (click here for that post).  The 72 arrows fired by competitors during the ranking round requires about 4 Calories of internal energy burn, which is one Diet Coke.  Pendleton thus doubles the internal energy burn in about 11 s what archers burn over the time it takes for them to fire 72 arrows.

When you watch a world-class athlete cycle hard across 200 m, know that you are witnessing about 1 hp of output.  Impressive!  I'm sticking with Victoria Pendleton for Tuesday's final, but watch out for Australia's Anna Meares.  She can fly, too!  Meares took silver to Pendleton's gold in the last Olympics in women's sprint cycling.  The bronze medalist in Beijing four years ago?  Guo Shuang of China, who did not win gold on her own soil.  Will Victoria Pendleton have to listen to someone else's national anthem on her home soil, just as Guo Shuang had to do four years ago?  It should be exciting!

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