Demands of the Tour de France: A Case Study of a World-Class Sprinter (Part I)

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To describe the intensity, load, and performance characteristics of a world-class sprinter competing in the Tour de France (TdF). Method: Power output (PO) data were collected from 4 editions of the TdF (2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017) and analyzed. Load, intensity distribution in 5 PO zones, and the maximal mean PO for multiple durations were quantified. Stages were divided in accordance with the 4 different editions of the TdF, as well as the 4 different stage types, that is, flat (FLAT), semimountainous (SMT), mountain (MT), and (team) time trials. In addition, based on their location within the stage, mountain passes were further classified as BEGINNING, MIDDLE, or END of the stage. Results: No differences in load, intensity, and performance characteristics were found when the 4 editions of the TdF were compared. Time trials were associated with higher intensities but a lower load compared to the other stage types. MT showed higher load and intensity values compared to FLAT and SMT stages. FLAT stages were higher in short maximal mean PO (≤1 min), whereas MT stages showed higher longer endurance maximal mean PO values (≥20 min). In addition, mountain passes situated at the BEGINNING of the stage were completed with a higher PO, cadence, and speed compared with mountain passes situated at the END. Conclusions: A world-class sprinter sustains a higher load and spends more time in the high-intensity zones when competing in the TdF than previously reported values suggested. To finish the MT stages as efficiently as possible, sprinters adopt a reverse pacing strategy.

van Erp and Lamberts are with the Div of Orthopedic Surgery and the Dept of Sport Science, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Kittel is a retired professional road cyclist.

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