Professor Louis Passfield is starting a £70,000 study to measure the effectiveness of elite cyclists' training.

A University of Kent professor is leading a pioneering project aimed at improving the performance of elite cyclists in major competitions such as the Olympics.

Professor Louis Passfield, the University's Director for the Centre for Sports Studies, based at the Medway campus, has been awarded £70,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the one-year study, which seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of cyclists' training programmes.

Professor Passfield's research is part of a joint initiative between EPSRC and UK Sport - the country's chief organisation for the development of sporting success - to improve Britain's athletes' chances of winning gold medals in the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

The University of Kent has teamed up with scientists from the top-ranked, five-star research unit at Liverpool John Moores University, and with staff from the universities of Salford and Winchester, for the project.

Over a period of months, the scientists will make a detailed assessment of professional cyclists' training programmes. Data will first be collected by cyclists themselves, directly from instruments attached to their bikes, and then passed to the scientists for computer-based analysis of training patterns.

Ultimately, the scientists hope to produce a mathematical 'model' which can show how effective a particular piece of training is - and how directly it is linked to actual performance on the track.

'The cumulative effect of training has been calculated to be the single most important factor influencing cycling performance, so it's surprising there's been relatively little research directed at improving this process,' Professor Passfield said.

'The current practice of training cyclists has relied on the coaches' intuition and experience, but we hope now to provide a much more scientific basis for training. The successful findings of this research will, we hope, benefit British Cycling's riders and coaches, in the form of improved performance and number of medals won.

'The findings will provide a greater understanding of the nature of training and the athletes' response. The results may also be of interest to all people looking to make the most of the beneficial effects of exercise.'

Professor Passfield has worked as a consultant in sports science and sports nutrition for more than 15 years. As a senior member of British Cycling - the national governing body for cycle racing in Great Britain - he has worked with a host of Olympic, World and Commonwealth gold medal cyclists, and is currently helping top UK rider Oli Beckingsale prepare for the 2008 Beijing Games.

The University of Kent also plans to provide professional training facilities at the Medway campus, which will help elite athletes prepare for the London 2012 Games using its range of sports therapy suites.