Training Characteristics of Male and Female Professional Road Cyclists: A 4-Year Retrospective Analysis

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD  $107.00

1 year subscription

USD  $142.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD  $203.00

2 year subscription

USD  $265.00

Purpose: To describe the training intensity and load characteristics of professional cyclists using a 4-year retrospective analysis. Particularly, this study aimed to describe the differences in training characteristics between men and women professional cyclists. Method: For 4 consecutive years, training data were collected from 20 male and 10 female professional cyclists. From those training sessions, heart rate, rating of perceived exertion, and power output (PO) were analyzed. Training intensity distribution as time spent in different heart rate and PO zones was quantified. Training load was calculated using different metrics such as Training Stress Score, training impulse, and session rating of perceived exertion. Standardized effect size is reported as Cohen’s d. Results: Small to large higher values were observed for distance, duration, kilojoules spent, and (relative) mean PO in men’s training (d = 0.44–1.98). Furthermore, men spent more time in low-intensity zones (ie, zones 1 and 2) compared with women. Trivial differences in training load (ie, Training Stress Score and training impulse) were observed between men’s and women’s training (d = 0.07–0.12). However, load values expressed per kilometer were moderately (d = 0.67–0.76) higher in women compared with men’s training. Conclusions: Substantial differences in training characteristics exist between male and female professional cyclists. Particularly, it seems that female professional cyclists compensate their lower training volume, with a higher training intensity, in comparison with male professional cyclists.

van Erp and de Koning are with the Dept of Human Movement Sciences, Amsterdam Movement Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Sanders is with the Dept of Human Movement Science, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

van Erp (teunvanerp@hotmail.com) is corresponding author.
  • 1.

    Abbiss CR, Menaspa P, Villerius V, Martin DT. Distribution of power output when establishing a breakaway in cycling. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013;8:452–455. PubMed ID: 23539668 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Menaspa P, Sias M, Bates G, La Torre A. Demands of World Cup competitions in elite women’s road cycling. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12:1293–1296. PubMed ID: 28253040 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Sanders D, van Erp T, de Koning JJ. Intensity and load characteristics of professional road cycling: differences between men’s and women’s races. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018;14:296–302. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Lucia A, Hoyos J, Santalla A, Earnest C, Chicharro JL. Tour de France versus Vuelta a Espana: which is harder? Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003;35:872–878. PubMed ID: 12750600 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Metcalfe AJ, Menaspa P, Villerius V, et al. Within-season distribution of external training and racing workload in professional male road cyclists. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12:S2142–S2146. PubMed ID: 27918669 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Sanders D, Heijboer M, Hesselink MKC, Myers T, Akubat I. Analysing a cycling grand tour: can we monitor fatigue with intensity or load ratios? J Sports Sci. 2018;36:1385–1391. PubMed ID: 29016241 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Sanders D, Heijboer M. Physical demands and power profile of different stage types within a cycling grand tour. Eur J Sport Sci. 2019;19(6):736–744. PubMed ID: 30589390 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Vogt S, Schumacher YO, Roecker K, et al. Power output during the Tour de France. Int J Sports Med. 2007;28:756–761. PubMed ID: 17497569 doi:

  • 9.

    Sanders D, Abt G, Hesselink MK, Myers T, Akubat I. Methods of monitoring training load and their relationships to changes in fitness and performance in competitive road cyclists. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12(5):668–675. PubMed ID: 28095061 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Sanders D, Myers T, Akubat I. Training-intensity distribution in road cyclists: objective versus subjective measures. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12:1232–1237. PubMed ID: 28253026 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Pinot J, Grappe F. A six-year monitoring case study of a top-10 cycling Grand Tour finisher. J Sports Sci. 2015;33:907–914. PubMed ID: 25357188 doi:

  • 12.

    Hunter A, Coggan A. Training and Racing With a Power Meter. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: VeloPress; 2010.

  • 13.

    Edwards S. The Heart Rate Monitor Book. New York, NY: Polar Electro Oy; 1993.

  • 14.

    Foster C, Hector LL, Welsh R, Schrager M, Green MA, Snyder AC. Effects of specific versus cross-training on running performance. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1995;70:367–372. PubMed ID: 7649149 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Foster C, Daines E, Hector L, Snyder AC, Welsh R. Athletic performance in relation to training load. Wis Med J. 1996;95:370–374. PubMed ID: 8693756

  • 16.

    Borg G. Perceived exertion as an indicator of somatic stress. Scand J Rehabil Med. 1970;2:92–98. PubMed ID: 5523831

  • 17.

    Christen J, Foster C, Porcari JP, Mikat RP. Temporal robustness of the session rating of perceived exertion. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016;11:1088–1093. PubMed ID: 26999454 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    Rodriguez-Marroyo JA, Villa G, Garcia-Lopez J, Foster C. Comparison of heart rate and session rating of perceived exertion methods of defining exercise load in cyclists. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26:2249–2257. PubMed ID: 21997452 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    Hopkins WG, Marshall SW, Batterham AM, Hanin J. Progressive statistics for studies in sports medicine and exercise science. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41:3–13. PubMed ID: 19092709 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20.

    Lamberts RP, Davidowitz KJ. Allometric scaling and predicting cycling performance in (well-) trained female cyclists. Int J Sports Med. 2014;35:217–222. PubMed ID: 23900902

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    Ospina Betancurt J, Zakynthinaki MS, Martines-Patino MJ, Cordente Martinez C, Rodriguez Fernandez C. Sex-differences in elite-performance track and field competition from 1983 to 2015. J Sports Sci. 2018;36:1262–1268. PubMed ID: 28862921 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Bouchard C, Daw EW, Rice T, et al. Familial resemblance for VO2max in the sedentary state: the HERITAGE family study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998;30:252–258. PubMed ID: 9502354 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23.

    Padilla S, Mujika I, Santisteban J, Impellizzeri FM, Goiriena JJ. Exercise intensity and load during uphill cycling in professional 3-week races. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008;102:431–438. PubMed ID: 17978835 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24.

    Lamberts RP. Predicting cycling performance in trained to elite male and female cyclists. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2014;9:610–614. PubMed ID: 24088710 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25.

    Impellizzeri FM, Ebert T, Sassi A, Menaspa P, Rampinini E, Martin DT. Level ground and uphill cycling ability in elite female mountain bikers and road cyclists. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008;102:335–341. PubMed ID: 17943306 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26.

    Mujika I. Quantification of training and competition loads in endurance sports: methods and applications. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12:S29–S217. PubMed ID: 27918666 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27.

    Lucia A, Hoyos J, Chicharro JL. Physiology of professional road cycling. Sports Med. 2001;31:325–337. PubMed ID: 11347684 doi:

  • 28.

    van Erp T, Foster C, de Koning J. Relationship between various training load measures in elite cyclists during training, road races and time trials. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2019;14:493–500. PubMed ID: 30300025 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 29.

    van Erp T, Hoozemans M, Foster C, de Koning J. The influence of exercise intensity on the association between kJ spent and various training loads in professional cycling [published online ahead of print April 8, 2019]. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 1–20. PubMed ID: 30958053 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 653 653 653
Full Text Views 24 24 24
PDF Downloads 24 24 24