, Volume 31, Issue 7, pp 479-487
Date: 13 Nov 2012

Physiological and Performance Characteristics of Male Professional Road Cyclists

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Abstract

Male professional road cycling competitions last between 1 hour (e.g. the time trial in the World Championships) and 100 hours (e.g. the Tour de France). Although the final overall standings of a race are individual, it is undoubtedly a team sport. Professional road cyclists present with variable anthropometric values, but display impressive aerobic capacities [maximal power output 370 to 570W, maximal oxygen uptake 4.4 to 6.4 L/min and power output at the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) 300 to 500W]. Because of the variable anthropometric characteristics, ‘especialists’ have evolved within teams whose job is to perform in different terrain and racing conditions. In this respect, power outputs relative to mass exponents of 0.32 and 1 seem to be the best predictors of level ground and uphill cycling ability, respectively. However, time trial specialists have been shown to meet requirements to be top competitors in all terrain (level and uphill) and cycling conditions (individually and in a group). Based on competition heart rate measurements, time trials are raced under steady-state conditions, the shorter time trials being raced at average intensities close to OBLA (≈400 to 420W), with the longer ones close to the individual lactate threshold (LT, ≈370 to 390W). Mass-start stages, on the other hand, are raced at low mean intensities (≈210W for the flat stages, ≈270W for the high mountain stages), but are characterised by their intermittent nature, with cyclists spending on average 30 to 100 minutes at, and above LT, and 5 to 20 minutes at, and above OBLA.