Optimising Motorcycle Circuit Racing Rider's Performance
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Performance in motorcycle circuit racing is typically considered as the summation of interactions between rider, motorcycle, tyres, and environment. The distinct contributions of these parts to performance remain unmeasurable, and the influence of the human component in the final outcome is quantitatively unknown, however nonetheless important. Compared to the technological developments of the motorcycles and the investments dedicated to the engineering and mechanical components of performance, the scientific research studying the human factors involved in this sport is minimal, and relative strategies aiming at racer's development are mostly unpublished. This thesis aimed at advancing knowledge and professional practice regarding the human factors in circuit race motorcycling. The ultimate goal of this doctoral research was to provide a scientific basis for refining rider-training programs specifically designed to support and improve riders' performance. A multidisciplinary approach was used to answer the research question “which physical and cognitive factors are important in optimising the rider's performance in motorcycle circuit racing competitions?” Therefore, profiling the physiological requirements, the mechanical stresses, and the psychological strategies with the aggregate purpose to improve the understanding of the rider as an athlete has been at the core of this project. The foundational knowledge about the performance was established by reviewing the current literature and analysing the characteristics of top-level performance; the mechanical stress was investigated by profiling the physical load of top-level competitions and measuring the inertial stresses of riders during national and international races; the thermal stress of racing in hot environments and potential pre-cooling strategies were studied to deepen the understanding about the physiological requirements of racing; the psychological skills and strategies used by riders in competition and practice settings were measured; and, the preparation practices adopted by licensed riders were investigated to complete a well-rounded comprehension of the sport and its demands. Findings revealed that human performance in motorcycle circuit racing is a complex interaction of specific skills and abilities and high performance riders are exposed to: a) substantial volume of high intensity actions due to the negative/positive accelerations and technical movements experienced during racing (i.e. 175 brakes and 372 leans to corner per race, with peak inertial stresses over 1000 N); b) thermal stress experienced during competitions in hot environment (i.e. gastrointestinal temperature reaching 40.1°C); and, c) potential injuries due to crashes (i.e. 13% of starters suffered a crash each race) or localised muscular overload i.e. forearm chronic exertional compartmental syndrome. Moreover, riders are required to possess coping strategies in relation to the magnitude of the psychological stress of racing (i.e. emotional control); and preparation practices at national level revealed that there is a tendency to lack professional guidance in riders' training programs. Aspiring high performance motorcycle circuit racers are recommended to engage in specific multidisciplinary training programs to minimize the effects of muscular and metabolic fatigue during competition, to optimize body composition, to prevent risks of injuries and overloads, to minimize the impact of heat on performance, to improve their technical and mental skill-set and capacities, and to manage successfully their investments towards their racing career.