Spring is nearing, and as a result, we’re starting to see sports tech things warming up. And, also, as is applicable today – racing spring events using sports tech things. Overall, I think this is gonna be one of the strongest sports tech springs we’ve seen in a while. Plenty of goodness coming from many companies in many categories.
With that, let’s dive into some tidbits.
Supersapiens DQ for Pro Athlete:
The UCI has disqualified a pro cyclist for using a Supersapiens sensor during the Strade Bianche two weeks ago. She finished 3rd. For those not familiar, Supersapiens is a continuous glucose monitor system, which lets athletes see their glucose levels in almost real-time (there’s some slight delay because it’s measuring interstitial fluid). While glucose monitoring has been common for many years for diabetics, Supersapiens is trying to bridge the gap to athletes for nutrition monitoring. The idea being you can see the bonk before it happens, and/or figure out fueling during training.
Nonetheless, the UCI (cycling’s governing body), as always, doesn’t tend to like things it doesn’t understand. As such, two years ago they banned Supersapiens devices in races, just as the company was coming onto the scene. Most other sports don’t ban the devices, cause, ya know…that’d be silly. Of course, this ban is extremely well understood by pro athletes. There’s no question whatsoever these devices are banned in racing. Given the fact that a Supersapiens patch theoretically lasts 14 days affixed to your body, it’s not something you just take off for your couple hour race. Once you remove it, you trash it. And they aren’t cheap either, with a subscription costing hundreds of dollars per month.
In any event, as to this story, if rider Kristen Faulkner believed that if the device wasn’t actively transmitting data to her bike computer (presumably a Garmin or Wahoo device, since that’s what is supported natively), she’d be OK in terms of the rule. As such, she wouldn’t have the data. She noted this in her statement on Twitter:
“I have never used glucose data in competition, which I provided ample evidence of to the UCI. I complied with all the UCI requests and sent them an honest, detailed explanation with evidence that no race data was ever transmitted during or after the race.
I was under the impression that I could race with my device if it did not record any data, because there was no performance advantage whatsoever. The UCI holds the position that wearing a non-connected patch itself – even if there is no transmission of data and no performance advantage – is enough to disqualify me.”
Ultimately, this wasn’t OK, and the UCI disqualified her after the race. Also, it’s worth noting that she’d actually still have the data post-ride, which is almost as valuable as having it during the ride. The Supersapiens sensor will cache 8 hours of data to transmit to the smartphone app. It’s not quite as detailed as the data in real-time, but it’s more than sufficient for nutrition learnings.
Supersapiens also released a statement as well, though the rider isn’t sponsored by them:
“Supersapiens fully supports the importance of following rules in UCI-sanctioned events. However, this is an opportunity to better understand why athletes are choosing to use continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and the impact this rule has on athletes who use this technology to support their health.
We request that the UCI start to see CGMs and Supersapiens as a tool for athletes to protect their bodies, not as some sort of performance enhancement device. This isn’t about going faster. This is about health.
We understand nutrition has a much bigger impact on an athlete than just results. As such, Supersapiens has been funding, supporting, and driving female-specific research into the association between menstrual cycle phases and glucose levels in elite female endurance athletes.
Supersapiens invites the UCI to work together around a research collaboration to collectively establish data sets and continued scientific learnings with the goal of designing science-based best practices for optimizing nutrition and recovery and mitigating eating disorders.
The goal of this campaign would be to build out educational tools together with the UCI that would include but not be limited to webinars, conferences, and other ideal nutrition strategies that the UCI would be able to use to educate coaches, riders, staff, etc across all levels of the organization.
Supersapiens will continue to serve all athletes to better understand and quantify nutrition strategies for health as well as performance.”
At the end of the day, this is one of those unfortunate situations. Unfortunate that the UCI doesn’t seem to get it, but also unfortunate that the pro athlete decided to race with it – despite nearly two years of teams being extremally well aware of the rule.
Wahoo/Zwift Court Case Update:
The Wahoo/Zwift case continues to chug along, albeit most of it hidden behind redacted bits. I’m pretty sure one or both sides got tired of me digging through all the court filings. But fear not, every morning I log in to see what’s been happening as the volleys of lawyer-driven things go back and forth. Some of it is redacted, but not all.
Previously, the judge had set a date in April 2023 to determine whether or not Wahoo’s request for an injunction against Zwift selling their Zwift Hub would be approved. This week that date was re-confirmed along with the exact time and courtroom (April 11, 2023, at 9:30 a.m., in Courtroom 6A of the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building and Courthouse in Wilmington, DE). However, more notable than an iCal appointment is that Wahoo has filed their rather detailed brief as to why they think Zwift did bad.
The brief gives us a bit of a glimpse into the arguments that have been happening behind the scenes, specifically around how Zwift is responding to the patent allegations. In short, as expected, Zwift is basically saying Wahoo’s patents shouldn’t have been issued to begin with, as well as saying that they were “obvious” (a very specific legal term in this case), given prior art. For example, we see Wahoo’s stating their side of the argument here (this goes on for many pages):
“Zwift claims its prior art is “substantial,” but does not cite any anticipatory references or invalidating obviousness combinations, even though it had months to search for prior art after Wahoo’s motion and more than two years since it first became aware of the asserted patents. Machlin Tr. 105:1-106:14. Zwift should not be allowed to continue to sell the infringing Hub while this case is pending when it has failed to find invalidating references after such an extended time.
Zwift proposes eight main invalidity combinations, based on four “primary” references – CompuTrainer, LeMond, Shu-Ching, and Miyata. Each primary references is combined with two secondary references – Nakao or Cheng.2 D.I. 51 at 21. Rather than prepare a limitation-by-limitation analysis of specific combinations, Zwift over-generalizes the asserted claims (D.I. 53, Litster Decl. at ¶60), which leaves motion-determinative holes in Zwift’s analysis”
We don’t have Zwift’s side yet, though I’m sure it’ll come soon.
In any case, Wahoo also touches on non-technical bits as well, specifically that the Zwift Hub is eroding Wahoo’s sales:
“Wahoo Has Suffered and Will Suffer Irreparable Harm from Zwift’s Infringement
Consistent with its [redacted], Wahoo’s patented KICKR and KICKR CORE trainers have historically sold for $1,299 and $899. D.I. 14, Kidder Decl. ¶¶ 60, 69-70. These prices are unsustainable in the face of competition with the $499 Hub and price erosion caused by the Hub will irreparably harm Wahoo’s business. Id. at ¶¶ 78-83.
Zwift argues that price erosion will not occur because Wahoo has not yet been forced to lower its prices for the KICKR or KICKR CORE outside of routine holiday sales. D.I. 51 at 23. But the Hub had only been on sale for just over one month when Wahoo filed its motion and the Hub was in limited supply or out of stock for much of that period.4 As such, the effect of the $499 Zwift Hub on the marketplace was just beginning…”
Let’s be clear, there’s zero question that the Zwift Hub is eroding the Wahoo KICKR CORE sales. Absolutely it is. But it’d be hard to argue it’s causing sales drops for the KICKR (higher priced unit). After all, there’s been countless other units well below the $900 level for many years. The fact that those units are getting better and better each year is what’s causing that erosion (or the fact that the gap between high-end and mid-tier is almost negligible).
Now, in the middle of what is another multi-page thing on pricing, I notice a citation numerical at the bottom that says as follows:
“Wahoo is not making Zwift a “scapegoat” for post-pandemic economic conditions. But the existence of poor economic conditions does not make the irreparable harm caused by the Hub less demonstrable. Zwift’s copy of one of the most popular trainers is being marketed with Zwift’s strong brand name at sub-$500 price to [redacted]. D.I. 54, Min Decl. ¶9. [redacted] have a downward impact on Wahoo’s soon-to-be renegotiated credit terms.
That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s this very last couple of words that caught my eye “soon-to-be renegotiated credit terms.”
As we know, Wahoo’s in what most would describe as deep financial trouble right now, primarily due to debt. But it’s notable that they feel optimistic they’ve got some renegotiated credit terms coming soon.
In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens on April 11th.
COROS 1-on-1 Coaching Service:
COROS has launched what they’re describing as a “full-service 1-on-1 solution”, allowing in-house COROS coaches to respond to athlete questions directly, across a variety of topics. And the most notable part? It’s free. For realz.
Now, I will have to tease COROS a little bit here. As how they initially headlined the service is a wee bit different than reality. It’s still cool though, as I’ll explain after I finish poking fun at them.
COROS: “We’re launching a full-service 1-on-1 solution”
Also COROS: “We will not provide workouts or training plans”
Basically, COROS is rolling out what could best be described as a hotline to answer questions about training/racing, rather than a full coaching service that creates training plans. Theoretically, you’re either using your own training plan, a canned plan from somewhere else, or one from COROS. From there, COROS has three full-time coaches on-staff to answer your questions. See, look, these three people:
In the above pictures they’re smiling. They even look a bit refreshed and ready to take on the world, perhaps optimistic about this new opportunity. In a few months they’ll realize the gravity of their mistake, opening their inboxes up to anyone on the internet with a keyboard who wants to know whether or not they should do multi-hour long runs fueled on just Stroopwafels and Diet Coke. Or, not fueled at all.
Specifically, COROS offers some handy example guidance on the questions these three fine people would be excited to answer:
- “What should my fatigue be at prior to race day?”
- “If I was sick last week, what should I do this week?”
- “What intensity should I train at, given my goals?”
- “How do I increase my fitness?”
They also list what types of things they can help you with:
- Coaching support for all COROS users
- Receive personal feedback based on your COROS data
- 1-on-1 focus regarding your training/racing needs
- Credentialed Coaches with over 25 years of combined experience
Equally as important, COROS also provides a paragraph on their website for the types of things these coaches won’t do.
“While we are here to help you improve as an athlete, we are not in fact your private coach. We will not input workouts or training plans on your calendar. We may recommend several official COROS workouts or training plans from our already established library, but we will not write programs on your calendar.”
In other words, they don’t do typical coach training plan/workout things, but rather are instead about answering all the questions your other coach doesn’t actually want to answer on a Friday evening at 11:15PM. To be fair, seems like a pretty good deal for all the other coaches out there.
You can start your inquisition via the e-mail [email protected] – which will also trigger a prompt to authenticate to the COROS Training Hub (their online site), so that the coaches can use your data to answer any questions. COROS says you must be a COROS user in order to use the service.
Overall, I think this is super cool. I’m not aware of any other watch company in the space that does this for free (or heck, even paid). Kudos to COROS here. And for Derek, David, and Tristan? Godspeed, my friends…
Finally, one tiny tidbit here is that COROS has also announced the integration with Nike Run Club, HealthFit, SmashRun, Selfloops, and Footpath.ai. I’m not entirely sure exactly when all these went live, but it’s part of a surprisingly long list these days. The big one for me is HealthFit, as it makes my exporting of data far easier, since it just spits out the .FIT file and sticks it on Dropbox. It’s what I use for all my Apple Watch exports as well.
With that – thanks for reading!