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Physiological and biomechanical factors associated with elite endurance cycling performance

COYLE E. F.; FELTNER, M. E.; KAUTZ, S. A.; HAMILTON, M. T.; MONTAIN, S. J.; BAYLOR, A. M.; ABRAHAM, L. D.; PETREK, G. W.
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 1991
APPLIED SCIENCE: BIODYNAMIC: PDF Only

ABSTRACT

In this study we evaluated the physiological and biomechanical responses of “elite-national class” (i.e., group 1; N = 9) and “good-state class” (i.e., group 2; N = 6) cyclists while they simulated a 40 km time-trial in the laboratory by cycling on an ergometer for 1 h at their highest power output. Actual road racing 40 km time-trial performance was highly correlated with average absolute power during the 1 h laboratory performance test (r = −0.88; P < 0.001). In turn, 1 h power output was related to each cyclists' JOURNAL/mespex/04.02/00005768-199101000-00015/ENTITY_OV0312/v/2017-07-20T222242Z/r/image-pngO2 at the blood lactate threshold (r = 0.93; P < 0.001). Group 1 was not different from group 2 regarding JOURNAL/mespex/04.02/00005768-199101000-00015/ENTITY_OV0312/v/2017-07-20T222242Z/r/image-pngO2max (approximately 70 ml·kg−1·min−1 and 5.01 l·min −1) or lean body weight. However, group 1 bicycled 40 km on the road 10% faster than group 2 (P < 0.05; 54 vs 60 min). Additionally, group 1 was able to generate 11 % more power during the 1 h performance test than group 2 (P < 0.05), and they averaged 90 ± 1% JOURNAL/mespex/04.02/00005768-199101000-00015/ENTITY_OV0312/v/2017-07-20T222242Z/r/image-pngO2max compared with 86 ± 2% JOURNAL/mespex/04.02/00005768-199101000-00015/ENTITY_OV0312/v/2017-07-20T222242Z/r/image-pngO2ma, in group 2 (P = 0.06). The higher performance power output of group 1 was produced primarily by generating higher peak torques about the center of the crank by applying larger vertical forces to the crank arm during the cycling downstroke. Compared with group 2, group 1 also produced higher peak torques and vertical forces during the downstroke even when cycling at the same absolute work rate as group 2. Factors possibly contributing to the ability of group 1 to produce higher “downstroke power” are a greater percentage of Type I muscle fibers (P < 0.05) and a 23% greater (P < 0.05) muscle capillary density compared with group 2. We have also observed a strong relationship between years of endurance training and percent Type I muscle fibers (r = 0.75; P < 0.001). It appears that “elite-national class” cyclists have the ability to generate higher “downstroke power“, possibly as a result of muscular adaptations stimulated by more years of endurance training.

©1991The American College of Sports Medicine