Sunday, 6 January 2013

Meeting more experts - The journalists

As part of our project involves writing a sports article, as well and preparing a presentation, we had two local journalists come in and teach us how to write these pieces of work like the professionals.

A full article will appear here soon.

Taking to the Veledrome

A full article explaining our first track cycling session will appear here very soon.  It built upon the excellent work the our British Cycling coach Dave Jowett had been doing with us. 

Full article will appear soon!

The British Cycling Expert Session

Details will soon be uploaded here about our excellent expert session at the Calshot Veledrome with British Cycling's Mark Adams. Mark covered a number of PE related topics through his explanation of Team GB and Team Sky's set up.

Full details will follow soon.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Getting in an expert - David Harmon Skype Session

The Skype session we had with David Harmon was great; it gave us a good view of cycling as a whole and his job in particular.  David Harmon works for Eurosport as a commentator on cycling, which makes him pretty much an expert.  In the session we covered various subjects such as where the funding for cycling comes from, technology in cycling and its future as a popular sport.  His knowledge in these areas will prove extremely valuable in our presentations at the end of the unit.

We began by focusing on technology/science and other things that makes the team stand out from the rest.  Recently in cycling there has been a huge emphasis on marginal gains, this is based on the idea that being slightly better in all areas than everyone else will lead to a measurable overall improvement.  These gains can be from seemingly unimportant things such as sleeping with your own pillow at night to get more sleep and washing your hands correctly to reduce the amount you get ill, these changes can be the difference between being average, or a champion.  Many technological advances such as all in one suits, the aerodynamic helmets and the use of wind tunnels all help with these marginal gains and make that 1% difference.  For an excellent article, click here.

David Harmon also focused on ICT and how teams record data and assess an athlete’s performance; he mentioned the way that teams calculate how much power an athlete is using and in road racing if this is past their threshold.  In road cycling athletes have to keep a fast pace throughout a long race and still have the energy for a sprint at the end, if the athlete is working too hard the teams can calculate it using data and tell the cyclist to slow down and save energy.  This can make the difference between Mark Cavendish winning or losing a sprint at the end of a race.  For an explanation/article on this please click here.

During the session he also explained where cycling gets its funding from and why sponsorship is so important.  As regards to funding cycling is very unique, it is different from the way traditional sports such as football is funded, focusing solely on sponsorship.  Without sponsors, there would be no road cycling or Tour de France.  Teams are not made up of certain nationalities or named after locations, in road cycling they are made up of teams of people being funded by a sponsor.  This sponsor runs the team employing coaches, analysts and cyclists alike, they also provide the equipment necessary for running a team.  All of this costs the sponsor a lot of money but they do this to get their company in the public eye, for them it is an investment in advertisement.  Unfortunately, this means when the sponsor deems the arrangement to no longer be profitable they end the team, this makes anyone involved in the team jobless and with no income.  To see a list of Team Sky'd sponsors and details of how they contribute, click here.

Finally, we discussed the future in cycling and why it is suddenly so popular.  Obviously this is being caused by the tremendous success of Team GB and Team Sky and the role models that it is creating.  Cycling has become one of the most successful areas of British sport dominating the medals in the Olympics and Team Sky having great success throughout the year.  This success has been rewarded by media attention and sponsorship; however it begs the question of what happens when we stop winning?  Honestly, this can only be answered when that time comes, hopefully it will be a while yet.

So, here is a summary of the Skype session with David Harmon:

Background of cycling in UK

  • Culture.  Other countries have cycling as one of their top sports.
  • UK doesn’t have cycling at the top of their culture.  Other sports such as Football are part of our society.
  • Cycling used to be huge in the industrial/older times.  Used to be a high class activity/pursuit.  Lower classes weren’t allowed to road race until after WW2.  Because of this, we missed out on Tour de France.  Missed out on 100 years of culture.  Used to be the working man’s transport.


  • 25 years ago – electronic pulse meter measured pulse rate.  28bpm.  Used as a measure of performance.  Unreliable.
  • Last 5-10 years.  Power meters one of the most important pieces of ICT data analysis equipment.  Measure the amount of power you produce in watts.  Allows you to see physiologically how good you are (are you stronger in left leg/right leg).  Gets them to see their power threshold to ride at that level over a race.
  • Sensors on bike, feedback to race car, they can feedback to you and tell you to increase pace, chat etc.
  • Cyclists train to data.  4 million processes per second being analysed in training or in competition.  Can see how well a rider is performing and work on it in training.  Can analyse this data and adapt it a race or competition.  If they aren’t racing at their physiological threshold, the team can speak to you via radio and tell you to work harder.


  • Mountain biking led the way in technology.
  • Brought in ideas from industry (disc brakes from motor cross to mountain biking).
  • UCI have rules of what you can and can’t do in races for safety reasons.
  • UCI also wanted bikes to be relevant for normal people.  You can get something similar in a shop.  If you can’t, you can’t build/use it.
  • Teams take the rules to produce lightest, stiffest and aerodynamics bikes possible.  Help the riders.
  • Most bikes made from carbon fibre.  Two types.  Carbon fibre is bound to resin.  Got to get balance right.
  • Ride, weight, aerodynamics all important.
  • No disc brakes on road bikes.  No hydraulic brakes.
  • Clothing - skin suite.  Initially used in track cycling but now on road as well.  Designed to smooth the airflow over your body.  Weave aerofoils into the suite to make it more aerodynamic.  These foils are seen as lots of seams.  They break up the air and help save energy and ride faster.  Also designed to cope with air from all angles.
  • Helmets – closed vents.  Increase air flow.  Faster with less effort.  More aerodynamic.


  • Road cycling is not a premium sport.  Very difficult to get money because it rides around cities and spectators don’t pay.  It’s a street sport.  No stadiums like other sports (except track cycling).
  • Teams entirely funded by sponsors.  Very little money from anywhere else.  Lose sponsorship; you’re out of a job.
  • Benefits to sponsors.  Why sponsor?  No real reason.  Maybe get some exposure in some countries.  Some European companies where cycling is in their culture may sponsor a team (for example, in Belgium where cycling is part of their culture, a Belgium company may sponsor a team).
  • 8,000,000 Sky sponsor Team Sky.  This covers over 30 riders to ride their bikes.  Many just give products (hotel rooms, tyres, nutrition).
  • Most riders paid a salary.  Salary sorted by team manager.  Because this is funded through sponsors, riders must do events.
  • Bike companies pay riders to ride their bikes.


  • Coverage in the media is higher than other minority sports (badminton, lacrosse….).  But not as high as the obvious sports like Football (even though Cycling is more successful).
  • Mainly a cultural problem in the UK.  Not part of the culture like Cricket, Rugby and Football.
  • Very long sport – not a 90 minutes or 80 minutes duration like other sports.  Also means hard to put 4-6hrs aside in a TV schedule for a cycling race.
  • Used to be primarily covered in newspapers where time isn’t an issue.  Not so much in other media though.
  • Belgium have cycling on all the time as it’s part of their culture.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Developing literacy through cycling part 1

When this project was designed, the main aim was to help students develop a deep understanding of the 5 topics we had to cover, but in an example rich way.  The sport of cycling linked to the topics in so many ways with an abundance of resources to go with it.  At a time when cycling in Great Britain is at the top, there are numerous documentaries, highlights and news interviews from the recent Tour de France and Olympics.  Although not as accessible in newspapers, there are also a number of websites and articles found on the Internet.  As a way to develop literacy in our subject and improve our topic specific terminology, a number of these online articles were chosen to be read and analysed in the first two weeks.  These articles had specific links to the topics we would be covering, as well as helping students gain a background knowledge of cycling, a sport that they would be arguing greater recognition for in the media.  What follows are a list of resources that were used in the opening phases of the project and are rich with cycling examples which tie in perfectly to the GCSE PE specification.


A very informative article that gives an excellent background insight into cycling and a term known as 'The aggregation of Marginal Gains'.  To read it, please click here.

An excellent article looking specifically at Science in sport.  It gives some excellent examples of how science is playing such a vital role in cycling's success.  To read it, please click here.

An article from Team Sky's website explaining some of the science and technological developments behind the team.  Gives a great example of equipment used (and links to the GCSE spec).  To read it, please click here.

Another article from Team Sky's website.  Again it gives some excellent examples of equipment used in the Team's success and links perfectly to the science and technology section of the GCSE spec.  To read it, click here.

An article looking at the huge influence that sponsors have within cycling, and the fragility of it when the sport comes into disrepute.  To read the article click here.

This article explains how even the most successful cycling stars have been inspired by role models.  Role models have such a huge influence!  To read the article click here.

This article explains the effect that role models have when endorsing products as part of their sponsorship deals.  To read the article click here.

An article looking at science and technology developments in cycling through their use of materials and equipment with their unique muscle warming 'Hot Pants'.  To read the article click here.

A bit of a difficult one to read but talks through some of the ICT and data storage use by Team Sky and their riders.  Really interesting to see how they use the data.  To read the article click here.

A BBC article looking at the science and technological developments in cycling.  Gives details and specific examples of the equipment, materials and facilities that they use.  To read the article click here.

Another BBC article but this time looking at ICT in cycling, in particluar the performance analysis software that they use (and in other sports).  To read the full article click here.

A series of articles on the Team Sky website explaining who the sponsors of the team are and what things they provide (types of sponsorship).  To read the full series of articles click here.

These are just a number of articles we have used, were found by students or were found by myself to be used to support the work in class.  If you have or know of any other cycling related articles that link to the AQA GCSE PE specification and the topics science/technology in cycling, role models, sponsorship, media and ICT in cycling, please leave a comment or link below.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Our first cycling session

In today’s lesson we were introduced to the practical side of the topic, it was the first lesson of cycling. The practical side of the project was there so that as a class we have an understanding of the bikes and the riding of them, hopefuly improving our knowledge and eventually making a more successful final presentation.
The practical coach - Dave Jowett, is the south region cycling coach representing team GB in the local schools. This made the class more motivated to try hard and do well, considering who he is in terms of the cycling world. He had lots of knowledge about the subject and we were all excited for him to share some of it with us.

As it was our first lesson the cycling coach began with the basics, this is due to him needing to see the range of abilities of the students, as he would have no idea how we would perform.  It started with a talk about the bike before we mounted them so that we understood how they worked. He went through the different chains, gears and the frame. Personally this was very helpful as I had a new understanding before we’d even begun.
When on the bikes we were split into separate halves and were asked to cycle around an oval shaped set of cones preparing us for the veledrome. We then needed to keep a constant speed so that everyone was balanced. As we were all more experienced than we he had first thought he moved straight on and began explaining the gears. We learnt about using the both sets of gears and why we would change them – helping to understand when different gears numbers used.

To end the lesson we took part in a race, just so we could personally see what gear number is best, the speed in which to go, and of course for the fun.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Project Launch

On Tuesday 23rd October 2012, Mr Fawcett launched the 'GCSE PE Cycling Project'.  He showed us a video outlining the perception of cycling world wide and the general attitudes towards the sport and what all of our class were going to be participating in throughout the project.  The video was very good and got us all interested in the project.  To see the video click here.

Next, he showed us a timetable of key dates and this gave us an idea of what we would be doing over the coming weeks.  This timetable included weekly cycling lessons within school with British Cycling.  The practical lessons would be taken by Dave Jowett who is a British Cycling South Region Coach.  After we had been professionally trained on the bikes, we would go and visit Calshot Velodrome to have a seminar from Mark Adams who is the Regional Development Manager.  Mark would give a talk on cycling and relate all of our GCSE PE topics to the sport.  During this trip we would also get to ride on track race bikes around the velodrome in a 90 minute session.  Also on the timetable was a chance for us to have a Skype Q&A session with Dave Harmon (a Eurosport commentator) to learn more about how the topics we are covering link to cycling.  Our theory lessons would be researching many different aspects of British Cycling and its components and using these as rich examples for the GCSE PE theory content. At the end of all this, we will be producing a presentation and an article about how we can give cycling more media coverage.  The topics we will be researching have very strong arguments to support this question and should help us develop our GCSE PE knowledge further.  All of this was a very exciting prospect for our class.  These presentations will be shown at an exhibition evening which will include members of the local press, PE teachers, parents, British Cycling representatives and hopefully a Team GB cyclist.

From seeing the timetable and watching the video, this was a really exciting prospect for the class and the reactions were fantastic as very few had experienced track cycling before with some students having little experience with a bike at all!

Although the practical of this project stood out and would be fantastic, we were also given the opportunity to learn the theory of our course through examples from British cycling which will help contribute to our final exam for our PE GCSE.  We put ourselves into the pairs that we would do our presentations in.  We were given cycling articles to read over half term so that we could study it and learn more about the project.  There were also a number of cycling videos that Sir either tweeted out or uploaded to Edmodo/Google Drive which we watched to get a deeper understanding of the sport, and a base of examples to use already.

What an experience it will be!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

One great big huge giant GCSE PE project.

So the Summer Olympics, hosted in the city of London, seemed to have got the nation in a state of euphoria about sport and the legacy that it would bring.  It had moments of magic, tales of courage and stories of hard work and determination that could inspire a generation.  It also showcased the best of sport, highlighting all of the ideals that we as PE teachers want to promote with our students. From a GCSE PE teachers perspective, it was brimmed with an enormous wealth of examples, technical terminology and in depth insights into a number of the subjects that we cover in our course.  There were times that I could literally be redundant in my lessons if I simply streamed the BBC coverage into my classroom.  The endless interviews talking about diet, training programmes, training methods and motivation.  The mini documentaries that looked at the physiology, the history or the psychological effects of sport on athletes.  The keynote interviews with athletes or team managers, giving you the background lowdown on how important a role sport plays in society.  Every one of them was gripping and inspiring.  One in particular got my attention though.  Maybe it was because subconsciously knew that I had topics such as technology, science and ICT in sport to cover when I came back in September.  This one interview was the BBC interview with Dave Brailsford. 

This got me thinking that the work that cycling does could be the driver or resource that I base these three topics on.  The aim is that my class would learn all of the GCSE PE content through the sport, and in return get a huge amount of examples which they could use in their exams.  But then came this video.  This video simply summed up the emotion of the Olympics and got me thinking "If GB cycling is so successful, why don't we hear more about it outside of the Olympics".  We all know of Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendelton but how often do we see them race except for every 4 years.

Maybe because I knew that sponsorship, media and role models was after the other topics that I thought that these videos could be the basis for an amazing learning opportunity for my class.  I then decided to write up a project where the class would learn all of the topics, specific terminology, extended knowledge and real life examples, through Team GB and Team Sky's amazing cycling success.  Filled with Skype sessions with Eurosport commentators, masterclasses with local journalists, practical cycling lessons with British Cycling, a Velodrome visit, a seminar with GB regional officer and the end product of an amazing presentation evening, the next half term is shaping up to be an amazing learning experience!  Please sit back over the next few weeks and enjoy the blog posts from my class as we take on this big challenge.