The Effect of Maximal Speed Ability, Pacing Strategy, and Technique on the Finish Sprint of a Sprint Cross-Country Skiing Competition

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To investigate the contribution from maximal speed (Vmax) and %Vmax to the finish sprint speed obtained in a cross-country sprint in the classical and skating style, as well as the coinciding changes in kinematic patterns and the effect of pacing strategy on the %Vmax. Methods: Twelve elite male cross-country skiers performed two 80-m Vmax tests on flat terrain using the classical double-poling and skating G3 techniques, followed by 4 simulated 1.4-km sprint time trials, performed with conservative (controlled start) and positive (hard start) pacing strategies in both styles with a randomized order. In all cases, these time trials were finalized by sprinting maximally over the last 80 m (the Vmax section). Results: Approximately 85% of Vmax was obtained in the finish sprint of the 1.4-km competitions, with Vmax and %Vmax contributing similarly (R2 = 51–78%) to explain the overall variance in finish sprint speed in all 4 cases (P < .05). The changes in kinematic pattern from the Vmax to the finish sprint included 11–22% reduced cycle rate in both styles (P < .01), without any changes in cycle length. A 3.6% faster finish sprint speed, explained by higher cycle rate, was found by conservative pacing in classic style (P < .001), whereas no difference was seen in skating. Conclusions: Vmax ability and %Vmax contributed similarly to explain the finish sprint speed, both in the classic and skating styles, and independent of pacing strategy. Therefore, sprint cross-country skiers should concurrently develop both these capacities and employ technical strategies where a high cycle rate can be sustained when fatigue occurs.

Haugnes, Ettema, Kocbach, and Sandbakk are with the Dept of Neuromedicine and Movement Science, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Center for Elite Sports Research, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. Torvik is with the Dept of Sports Sciences and Physical Education, Nord University, Meråker, Norway.

Sandbakk (oyvind.sandbakk@ntnu.no) is corresponding author.
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