Decrement in Professional Cyclists’ Performance After a Grand Tour

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To analyze professional cyclists’ performance declines after, and the exercise demands during, a Grand Tour. Methods: Seven professional cyclists performed 2 incremental exercise tests, 1 wk before and the day after the Vuelta España. During the race the exercise demands were analyzed on the basis of heart rate (HR). Three intensity zones were established according to reference HR values corresponding to the ventilatory- (VT) and respiratory-compensation (RCT) thresholds determined during the prerace test. In addition, exercise demands for the last weeks of the Vuelta were recalculated using the reference HR determined during the postrace test for the 3rd week and averaging the change observed in the VT and RCT per stage for the 2nd week. The reference HR for the beginning of the 2nd week was estimated. Results: A significant (P-value range, .044–.000) decrement in oxygen uptake, power output, and HR at maximal exercise, VT, and RCT was found after the race. Based on the prerace test, the mean time spent daily above the RCT was 13.8 ± 10.2 min. This time decreased −1.2 min·day−1 across the race. When the exercise intensity was corrected according to the postrace test, the time above RCT (34.1 ± 9.9 min) increased 1.0 min·day−1. Conclusion: These data indicate that completing a Grand Tour may result in a significant decrement in maximal and submaximal endurance performance capacity. This may modify reference values used to analyze exercise demands. As a consequence, the high-intensity exercise performed by cyclists may be underestimated.

Rodríguez-Marroyo, Villa, and Pernía are with the Dept of Physical Education and Sports, Inst of Biomedicine (IBIOMED), University of León, León, Spain. Foster is with the Dept of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI.

Rodríguez-Marroyo (j.marroyo@unileon.es) is corresponding author.
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