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Comate with one of the 5 innovative projects of Flanders!

4 February 2016

"Thanks to Leuven, Kittel becomes world champion"

Comate & Bakala receive funding as one of 5 innovative projects

Comate in Leuven recently received a grant from Flemish Brabant, that will allow them to begin developing a system to test and optimize cyclists’ performance using their own bikes. This will be a world-first system that will majorly benefit the riders from pro-cycling team Etixx - Quick-Step.

It all started at the Bakala Academy in Leuven. While the promising team members from Etixx - Quick-Step were having breakfast at a simulated altitude of 2,500 meters, Professor Peter Hespel gave a tour of their facility to Sander van den Dries, the business director of Comate, a Leuven company that combines design and technology in new applications.

Van den Dries was surprised by what he saw. "At one point we came upon a dilapidated and complex bike setup that was coupled with a motor and a computer. However, Peter told us that the bike setup was the best device in the world to analyze the specific performance of each rider. They could essentially mount their own bike on that construction - everything except the wheels. This way it is possible to get accurate results of what happens to that specific rider while he rides his own bike, a bike that is perfectly adjusted to his body. Based on those results, the optimal training regimen for that rider can be determined."

Passion for Cycling

The Bakala Academy had been using that device for fifteen years. "Peter gave me the feeling that he had ideas for how we could make that design a lot better, but when asked directly, he said Bakala didn't have the budget for that. And neither did Comate. I suggested that we knock on the door of the province for financial support. It occurred to me that this would be an ideal project to collaborate with other companies in the region to accomplish. We would develop the design and technology, and the surrounding manufacturing companies could be brought in to fabricate the pieces."

It turned out to be a great idea by Comate’s Van den Dries, who has a passion for cycling himself. The project was retained as one of five innovation projects supported by Flemish Brabant over the next two years and given a grant of almost 68,000 euros.

Best Riders

In two years, the new system should be ready. Since the Bakala Academy works exclusively with Etixx - Quick-Step, the team of Zdenek Stybar and Tom Boonen, if he still rides by then, will be the first and only to reap the benefits.

When asked about the future of the innovation, Van den Dries laughed, "Thanks to Leuven, Marxel Kittel will be the world champion! We still have to discuss with Bakala what will happen with the design. Will the best riders in the world come to Leuven to have their performance tested? Will we build equipment for other test centers? Will other teams eventually have access to our technology? Bakala will have the last word on these decisions."

Flemish Brabant province has awarded subsidies totaling some 460,000 euros to five innovative projects. In addition to Comate's, the province is also sponsoring the Leuven SportsTechLab, a Tiens research project about new opportunities for sugar, a new Leuven GPS for goods transport by rail, among others.