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Finding the optimal balance between high training loads and recovery is a constant challenge for cyclists and their coaches. Monitoring improvements in performance and levels of fatigue is recommended to correctly adjust training to ensure optimal adaptation. However, many performance tests require a maximal or exhaustive effort, which reduces their real-world application. The purpose of this review was to investigate the development and use of submaximal cycling tests that can be used to predict and monitor cycling performance and training status. Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria, and 3 separate submaximal cycling tests were identified from within those 12. Submaximal variables including gross mechanical efficiency, oxygen uptake (VO2), heart rate, lactate, predicted time to exhaustion (pTE), rating of perceived exertion (RPE), power output, and heart-rate recovery (HRR) were the components of the 3 tests. pTE, submaximal power output, RPE, and HRR appear to have the most value for monitoring improvements in performance and indicate a state of fatigue. This literature review shows that several submaximal cycle tests have been developed over the last decade with the aim to predict, monitor, and optimize cycling performance. To be able to conduct a submaximal test on a regular basis, the test needs to be short in duration and as noninvasive as possible. In addition, a test should capture multiple variables and use multivariate analyses to interpret the submaximal outcomes correctly and alter training prescription if needed.
The authors are with the Div for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town, Newlands, South Africa. Lamberts is also with the Div of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Inst of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.