European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 102, Issue 1, pp 45–55 | Cite as

The effect of acute simulated moderate altitude on power, performance and pacing strategies in well-trained cyclists

  • Sally A. ClarkEmail author
  • P. C. Bourdon
  • W. Schmidt
  • B. Singh
  • G. Cable
  • K. J. Onus
  • S. M. Woolford
  • T. Stanef
  • C. J. Gore
  • R. J. Aughey
Original Article


Athletes regularly compete at 2,000–3,000 m altitude where peak oxygen consumption \((\dot{V}\hbox{\rm O}_{2{\rm peak}})\) declines ∼10–20%. Factors other than \(\dot{V}\hbox{\rm O}_{2{\rm peak}}\) including gross efficiency (GE), power output, and pacing are all important for cycling performance. It is therefore imperative to understand how all these factors and not just \(\dot{V}\hbox{\rm O}_{2{\rm peak}}\) are affected by acute hypobaric hypoxia to select athletes who can compete successfully at these altitudes. Ten well-trained, non-altitude-acclimatised male cyclists and triathletes completed cycling tests at four simulated altitudes (200, 1,200, 2,200, 3,200 m) in a randomised, counter-balanced order. The exercise protocol comprised 5 × 5-min submaximal efforts (50, 100, 150, 200 and 250 W) to determine submaximal \(\dot{V}\hbox{\rm O}_{2}\) and GE and, after 10-min rest, a 5-min maximal time-trial (5-minTT) to determine \(\dot{V}\hbox{\rm O}_{2{\rm peak}}\) and mean power output (5-minTTpower). \(\dot{V}\hbox{\rm O}_{2{\rm peak}}\) declined 8.2 ± 2.0, 13.9 ± 2.9 and 22.5 ± 3.8% at 1,200, 2,200 and 3,200 m compared with 200 m, respectively, P < 0.05. The corresponding decreases in 5-minTTpower were 5.8 ± 2.9, 10.3 ± 4.3 and 19.8 ± 3.5% (P < 0.05). GE during the 5-minTT was not different across the four altitudes. There was no change in submaximal \(\dot{V}\hbox{\rm O}_{2}\) at any of the simulated altitudes, however, submaximal efficiency decreased at 3,200 m compared with both 200 and 1,200 m. Despite substantially reduced power at simulated altitude, there was no difference in pacing at the four altitudes for athletes whose first trial was at 200 or 1,200 m; whereas athletes whose first trial was at 2,200 or 3,200 m tended to mis-pace that effort. In conclusion, during the 5-minTT there was a dose–response effect of hypoxia on both \(\dot{V}\hbox{\rm O}_{2{\rm peak}}\) and 5-minTTpower but no effect on GE.


Hypobaric hypoxia Time-trial Athletes Gross mechanical efficiency 



We thank our participants for their time and enthusiasm in this arduous study. We thank the Royal Australian Air Force for access to RAAF Base Edinburgh and the Aviation Medicine facility. We also gratefully acknowledge the outstanding work of RAAF technicians, Flight Seargent Mark Gegenhuber, Seargent William Jackson, Seargent Michael Johnson, Corporal Billy Hangan and Corporal Troy Starr for their unfailing humour and great skill in operating the hypobaric chamber. Statistical advice was provided by Dr Ken Sharpe, The University of Melbourne. The administrative and logistical support of Julie Hill was also most appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally A. Clark
    • 1
    Email author
  • P. C. Bourdon
    • 2
  • W. Schmidt
    • 3
  • B. Singh
    • 4
  • G. Cable
    • 4
  • K. J. Onus
    • 5
  • S. M. Woolford
    • 2
  • T. Stanef
    • 2
  • C. J. Gore
    • 1
    • 6
  • R. J. Aughey
    • 5
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyAustralian Institute of SportCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Sports ScienceSouth Australian Sports InstituteAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Sports Medicine and Sports PhysiologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Aviation MedicineRoyal Australian Air ForceAdelaideAustralia
  5. 5.Research Area in Preventative Health and Well-being, Centre for Sports Studies, School of Health Sciences, Division of Health Design and ScienceUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  6. 6.Exercise Physiology Laboratory, School of EducationFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  7. 7.Muscle, Ions and Exercise Group, School of Human Movement, Recreation and PerformanceVictoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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