In Olympic cycling the smallest of tweaks to the bike and the rider's position can make the difference between glory and failure. Discover how marginal gains have helped Great Britain's track cyclists repeatedly top the medal table.
Click here to subscribe to The Economist on YouTube: https://econ.st/2xvTKdy
Sponsored by DXC Technology.
Few sports test the limits of professional athletes like cycling but it's not just human endurance on the track that delivers the winning formula. It's human ingenuity off it. In elite sport, the difference between success and failure is often the finest of margins.
This is base camp for one of the most successful teams in global sport - Great Britain's track cyclists have topped the medals tables at the past three Olympic Games. And it's a team that keeps churning out winners.
In a sport where races are decided by as little as one thousandth of a second, Emily and her teammates are obsessed with one thing - marginal gains. And one of the best places to find those tiny margins is on the bike. The teams key man for this is an aerodynamics expert and ex-Formula one motor racing engineer.
Cambridge University professor of engineering, Tony Purnell, designed the world-renowned T5GB bike with manufacturer Cervélo. By dramatically reducing air resistance it helped the British team enjoy its most successful Olympics ever.
All-important milliseconds were shaved off performance times by making the tiniest of design changes - even down to the chain.
It's not just the bike where aerodynamic perfection is relentlessly pursued - it's also the person on it. The precise position of the rider can make all the difference. In 1996 Olympic gold medalist Chris Boardman broke the one-hour world record. By pioneering his legendary Superman position. Today this legacy lives on at the state-of-the-art Boardman Performance Center in Evesham England. Today Jamie is helping professional cyclist Dan Bigham decipher his optimum body posture for an upcoming Team Pursuit race in the wind tunnel. Dan is battling winds of over 60 kilometres per hour to simulate the drag conditions he'll face on the track. His performance and ultimately success could depend on a series of almost imperceptible tweaks to his position on the bike. By moving his hand slightly forward and adjusting the gap between them by just millimeters Dan speeds up by nearly half a second per kilometer.
Come race day, subtle changes like this could add up to a big advantage for Dan's team.
Cycling's reputation has been damaged by doping but its pursuit of legitimate marginal gains still sets the pace for many other disciplines. Britain's world-beating cyclists face ever more intense competition from rivals who are quickly learning how to innovate. The pursuit of marginal gains is about to get even more marginal
In elite sport the difference between winning and losing often hangs on the smallest of margins. As coaches, teams and athletes press ever harder in pursuit of victory, this series reveals the latest innovative approaches they hope will keep them ahead. From data to design, science to psychology, discover what it takes to find the winning edge.
For more from Economist Films visit: http://films.economist.com/
Check out The Economist’s full video catalogue: http://econ.st/20IehQk
Like The Economist on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheEconomist/
Follow The Economist on Twitter: https://twitter.com/theeconomist
Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theeconomist/
Follow us on Medium: https://medium.com/@the_economist
Cycling'S Speed Secrets | The Economist