After her experience with Team Policumbent started towards the end of 2008, Vittoria Spada has run for the last time on TaurusX at the European Speed Battle 2021. Because of work and sporting commitments, indeed, Vittoria has decided to finish her journey with the Team after having reached important International milestones and having earned the title of “second fastest woman on recumbent bicycle in the World”, darting at 123 km/h on the Nevada straights in September 2019.
The female section of Policumbent found itself in search of a new rider with which to attempt the record of the World at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge 2022. In the past months several applications were collected: many girls were interested in trying a new adventure in search of records.
The first meeting with them was primarily to evaluate if height and body size of the bikers could fit in TaurusX prototype, and allowed them to discover if staying close in a cramped environment could represent an insurmountable problem for their self-application. In fact, competing in such a particular vehicle requires not only a certain physical prowess and training, but also an aptitude for pedaling in extreme conditions, with scarcity of air and limited visibility.
Three girls were eligible to move on to the next phase, who at the end of December underwent a power test to assess their physical condition and potential in view of the record attempt.
“Torella”’s new friends
- Iride Bertone
Iride Bertone is a vet living in Bra (CN) that has in her heart the passion for cycling, discovered at the age of 29.
“Initially I was what's called ‘Sunday biker’”, she says, “than I discovered the world of amateur competitors and I couldn’t do without anymore. The agonistic spirit is what motivates me to get on the saddle and give it my all.”
To achieve her competitive goals she relies on the skills of professionals from the two-wheeled world, such as Massimo Rosa, her trainer, Andrea Colla, her personal trainer, and Erica Lombardi, her dietician.
Her 2021 was rich of satisfactions, more than once she was on the category podium and on the second step of the absolute one at the GF BraBra, the one she defines “the home race”.
Iride is also interested in new challenges, and talking about her new journey with Team Policumbent these are her worlds: “The idea to be able to whiz over the 100 km/h with the only strength of my legs thrilled me. [...] I hope with all my heart to be part of the team for a long time. When I met Davide and all the other members of the staff I felt a strong team spirit, and I understood how much this project is important to them. I immediately felt myself motivate to give the best of me to work to a common goal.”
- Martina Stirano
Martina Stirano is a girl from Aosta Valley who has been dealing with the cycling world for about 10 years, always focused on one discipline: the Olympic cross country. As a child, she took some satisfaction, but growing up some of her injuries have repeatedly forced her to start from scratch. Nonetheless, in the past two years, Martina has hit the top ten for the Italians under 23.
What certainly distinguishes her is her tenacity and the desire to always improve, ready to face new challenges: “I had been following the project for some time, and I have always liked it. I never expected to be able to propose myself because I did not feel suitable, but thinking about it I realized that it could be a way to grow both on a sporting and human level.”
- Matilde Vitillo
Matilde Vitillo, born in 2001, is a chemistry student at Università di Torino. She started cycling at the age of 9, in the G3 team of Asti.
Her first result arrived in 2015, including her first victory and first placement at the Italian Championships. In 2018, in the junior category, she moved to the National team, winning bronze at the Italian Championships in the time trial race, and in 2019 she participated in the European track races in Belgium winning the gold medal both in the team pursuit and in the points. It is also in 2019, in Germany, that she wins the gold medal in the team pursuit at the World Championships.
“Now I run among the elites and obviously it's not easy, the leap is huge, but I hope to raise the bar more and more, year after year. This season hasn't been easy, but towards the end I started to get in gear. I hope to keep improving.”
Hoping to be able to reconcile sports and school commitments, Matilde didn’t miss even the opportunity to whiz around on a record-breaking recumbent bicycle: “When I was then contacted to participate in the Policumbent project, I was immediately interested a lot. It’s very particular and I’m fascinated by everything behind it. I obviously applied and I am sure I will have a wonderful journey with them.”
The power test
In order to better evaluate the potential of each candidate, the Policumbent Team decided to carry out a first power test that could give indicative results on the possibility of beating the record currently held by Ilona Peltier (126 km/h). Although December is a period in which the cyclists are not at their best, it was important for the Team to evaluate the abilities of the girls also to be able to compare them in the best possible way and understand the potential of each one.
For the occasion, a recumbent vehicle was taken and a cyclomine mounted on the rear hub: this requires the bicycle to be fixed on a stand equipped with a sprocket pack to which a wheel is connected inside which blades that simulate friction are placed produced by the road. Alternatively, the cyclomulin can be electromagnetic resistance, as in our case. The advantage is more precise imposed wattage control. By connecting it to an application on the phone, it is possible to program various training sessions and adjust the resistances. The goal was to detect the training areas of each cyclist, thus obtaining the maximum wattage that could be held by each cyclist in the threshold regime, remaining in the anaerobic work area.
The test involved three different phases:
- 3-minute warm-up at 90W to get comfortable with the position
- a "classic" incremental test phase, which starts at 120W and rises by 10W every minute until the athlete is exhausted
- final cool-down
Riding on a recumbent vehicle for the first time and the new position certainly increased the difficulty level of the test, and all three girls said that breathing was much more difficult and that the muscles worked differently. Despite this, the results obtained were more than encouraging and left the team full of hope for the future of the women's section.
The three athletes will then begin a journey that will bring them closer to the world of recumbent and, in Spring, they will do their first real tests on TaurusX. Being all three girls with great potential, the Team also wants to evaluate their performance on the actual vehicle, as well as their attitude to drive it. One of them will compete in Nevada to break the French record and carry out to the best of what Vittoria started in style.