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The Influence of Elliptical Chainrings on 10 km Cycling Time Trial Performance

Jeremiah J. Peiffer and Chris R. Abbiss

The use of elliptical chainrings (also called chainwheels or sprockets) has gained considerable interest in the amateur and professional cycling community. Nevertheless, we are unaware of any scientific studies that have examined the performance benefits of using elliptical chainrings during an actual performance trial. Therefore, this study examined the influence of elliptical chainring use on physiological and performance parameters during a 10 km cycling time trial. Nine male cyclists completed, in a counterbalanced order, three 10 km cycling time trials using either a standard chainring or an elliptical chainring at two distinct settings. An attempt was made to blind the cyclists to the type of chainring used until the completion of the study. During the 10 km time trial, power output and heart rate were recorded at a frequency of 1 Hz and RPE was measured at 3, 6, and 8.5 km. Total power output was not different (P = .40) between the circular (340 ± 30 W) or either elliptical chainring condition (342 ± 29 W and 341 ± 31 W). Similarly, no differences (P = .73) in 2 km mean power output were observed between conditions. Further, no differences in RPE were observed between conditions measured at 3, 6, and 8.5 km. Heart rate was significantly greater (P = .02) using the less aggressive elliptical setting (174 ± 10 bpm) compared with the circular setting (171 ± 9 bpm). Elliptical chainrings do not appear to provide a performance benefit over traditional circular chainrings during a mid-distance time trial.

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Influence of Environmental Temperature on 40 km Cycling Time-Trial Performance

Jeremiah J. Peiffer and Chris R. Abbiss

The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of environmental temperature on variability in power output, self-selected pacing strategies, and performance during a prolonged cycling time trial. Nine trained male cyclists randomly completed four 40 km cycling time trials in an environmental chamber at 17°C, 22°C, 27°C, and 32°C (40% RH). During the time trials, heart rate, core body temperature, and power output were recorded. The variability in power output was assessed with the use of exposure variation analysis. Mean 40 km power output was significantly lower during 32°C (309 ± 35 W) compared with 17°C (329 ± 31 W), 22°C (324 ± 34 W), and 27°C (322 ± 32 W). In addition, greater variability in power production was observed at 32°C compared with 17°C, as evidenced by a lower (P = .03) standard deviation of the exposure variation matrix (2.9 ± 0.5 vs 3.5 ± 0.4 units, respectively). Core temperature was greater (P < .05) at 32°C compared with 17°C and 22°C from 30 to 40 km, and the rate of rise in core temperature throughout the 40 km time trial was greater (P < .05) at 32°C (0.06 ± 0.04°C·km–1) compared with 17°C (0.05 ± 0.05°C·km–1). This study showed that time-trial performance is reduced under hot environmental conditions, and is associated with a shift in the composition of power output. These finding provide insight into the control of pacing strategies during exercise in the heat.

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Rating of Perceived Exertion During Concentric and Eccentric Cycling: Are We Measuring Effort or Exertion?

Luis Peñailillo, Karen Mackay, and Chris R. Abbiss

Despite the terms’ often being used interchangeably, it has been suggested that perceptions of effort and perceptions of exertion may differ. Eccentric (ECC) cycling may provide a model of exercise by which differences between these perceptions can be examined. Purpose: To examine and compare perceptions of effort and exertion during ECC and concentric (CONC) cycling at 4 intensities. Methods: Ten healthy male participants (mean [SD]: age = 29.8 [2.3] y) performed an incremental cycling test for the determination of maximal aerobic power output, followed in a randomized and crossover design, by four 5-min bouts (30%, 60%, 80%, and maximal) of either ECC or CONC cycling. Through each bout, participants were asked to report their perceived effort, exertion, and muscle pain. Heart rate and oxygen consumption were continuously recorded throughout each bout. Results: Perceived exertion was greater for CONC at 30% (8.5 [1.5] vs 7.1 [1.8]; P = .01), 60% (12.4 [1.4] vs 10.3 [2.0]; P = .01), 80% (15.8 [1.7] vs 12.4 [2.5]; P < .01), and maximal (17.2 [1.3] vs 15.6 [1.8]; P = .03) in comparison with ECC. Perceptions of effort and pain were similar between CONC and ECC. Heart rate and oxygen consumption were greater during CONC than ECC. Conclusions: Perceived exertion was greater during CONC compared with ECC cycling, yet effort was similar between conditions despite different physiological stress. Such findings have implications for understanding the development of such perceptions during exercise.

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Weight Loss Strategies in Combat Sports and Concerning Habits in Mixed Martial Arts

Oliver R. Barley, Dale W. Chapman, and Chris R. Abbiss

Context: Combat sports are typically divided into weight classes, and body-mass manipulation to reach a weight class is commonplace. Previous research suggests that weight loss practices in mixed martial arts (MMA) may be more extreme than in other combat sports. Purpose : To investigate the magnitude of weight loss and the prevalence of weight loss strategies in different combat sports. Methods: Competitors (N = 637) from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, judo, MMA, Muay Thai/kickboxing, taekwondo, and wrestling completed an online questionnaire seeking information regarding their weight loss practices. Results: Body-mass manipulation was commonly undertaken by all combat-sport athletes, with a particularly high incidence of gradual dieting, increased exercise, and fluid restriction. Skipping meals was higher in taekwondo and wrestling (84%) compared with the other combat sports (∼58%), whereas training in heated rooms and forced oral fluid loss (spitting) was higher in wrestling (83% and 47%, respectively) compared with other combat sports (∼45% and ∼19%, respectively). MMA athletes reported the highest usage of sauna (76%) and water loading (67%) while also reporting the second-highest use of training in rubber/plastic suits (63%). Conclusions: Body-mass manipulation was present in all combat sports, with the prevalence and magnitude of acute weight loss greater in MMA. The incidence of and practices reported will help support staff be fully aware of the variety of methods these athletes and coaches may use to achieve weight loss. Additionally, the results could aid regulatory bodies in the further development of policies on weight cutting.

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Distribution of Power Output When Establishing a Breakaway in Cycling

Chris R. Abbiss, Paolo Menaspà, Vincent Villerius, and David T. Martin

A number of laboratory-based performance tests have been designed to mimic the dynamic and stochastic nature of road cycling. However, the distribution of power output and thus physical demands of high-intensity surges performed to establish a breakaway during actual competitive road cycling are unclear. Review of data from professional road-cycling events has indicated that numerous short-duration (5–15 s), high-intensity (~9.5–14 W/kg) surges are typically observed in the 5–10 min before athletes’ establishing a breakaway (ie, riding away from a group of cyclists). After this initial high-intensity effort, power output declined but remained high (~450–500 W) for a further 30 s to 5 min, depending on race dynamics (ie, the response of the chase group). Due to the significant influence competitors have on pacing strategies, it is difficult for laboratory-based performance tests to precisely replicate this aspect of mass-start competitive road cycling. Further research examining the distribution of power output during competitive road racing is needed to refine laboratory-based simulated stochastic performance trials and better understand the factors important to the success of a breakaway.

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Reliability of Physiological Attributes and Their Association With Stochastic Cycling Performance

Gregory T. Levin, Paul B. Laursen, and Chris R. Abbiss

Purpose:

To assess the reliability of a 5-min-stage graded exercise test (GXT) and determine the association between physiological attributes and performance over stochastic cycling trials of varying distance.

Methods:

Twenty-eight well-trained male cyclists performed 2 GXTs and either a 30-km (n = 17) or a 100-km stochastic cycling time trial (n = 9). Stochastic cycling trials included periods of high-intensity efforts for durations of 250 m, 1 km, or 4 km depending on the test being performing.

Results:

Maximal physiological attributes were found to be extremely reliable (maximal oxygen uptake [VO2max]: coefficient of variation [CV] 3.0%, intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] .911; peak power output [PPO]: CV 3.0%, ICC .913), but a greater variability was found in ventilatory thresholds and economy. All physiological variables measured during the GXT, except economy at 200 W, were correlated with 30-km cycling performance. Power output during the 250-m and 1-km efforts of the 30-km trial were correlated with VO2max, PPO, and the power output at the second ventilatory threshold (r = .58–.82). PPO was the only physiological attributed measured during the GXT to be correlated with performance during the 100-km cycling trial (r = .64).

Conclusions:

Many physiological variables from a reliable GXT were associated with performance over shorter (30-km) but not longer (100-km) stochastic cycling trials.

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Performance Analysis of a World-Class Sprinter During Cycling Grand Tours

Paolo Menaspà, Chris R. Abbiss, and David T. Martin

This investigation describes the sprint performances of the highest internationally ranked professional male road sprint cyclist during the 2008–2011 Grand Tours. Sprint stages were classified as won, lost, or dropped from the front bunch before the sprint. Thirty-one stages were video-analyzed for average speed of the last km, sprint duration, position in the bunch, and number of teammates at 60, 30, and 15 s remaining. Race distance, total elevation gain (TEG), and average speed of 45 stages were determined. Head-to-head performances against the 2nd–5th most successful professional sprint cyclists were also reviewed. In the 52 Grand Tour sprint stages the subject started, he won 30 (58%), lost 15 (29%), was dropped in 6 (12%), and had 1 crash. Position in the bunch was closer to the front and the number of team members was significantly higher in won than in lost at 60, 30, and 15 s remaining (P < .05). The sprint duration was not different between won and lost (11.3 ± 1.7 and 10.4 ± 3.2 s). TEG was significantly higher in dropped (1089 ± 465 m) than in won and lost (574 ± 394 and 601 ± 423 m, P < .05). The ability to finish the race with the front bunch was lower (77%) than that of other successful sprinters (89%). However, the subject was highly successful, winning over 60% of contested stages, while his competitors won less than 15%. This investigation explores methodology that can be used to describe important aspects of road sprint cycling and supports the concept that tactical aspects of sprinting can relate to performance outcomes.

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Sprinting for the Win: Distribution of Power Output in Women’s Professional Cycling

Jeremiah J. Peiffer, Chris R. Abbiss, Eric C. Haakonssen, and Paolo Menaspà

Purpose: To examine the power-output distribution and sprint characteristics of professional female road cyclists. Methods: A total of 31 race files, representing top 5 finishes, were collected from 7 professional female cyclists. Files were analyzed for sprint characteristics, including mean and peak power output, velocity, and duration. The final 20 min before the sprint was analyzed to determine the mean maximal power output (MMP) consistent with durations of 5, 15, 30, 60, 240, and 600 s. Throughout the race, the number of efforts for each duration exceeding 80% of its corresponding final 20-min MMP (MMP80) was determined. The number of 15-s efforts exceeding 80% of the mean final sprint power output (MSP80) was determined. Results: Sprint finishes lasted 21.8 (6.7) s with mean and peak power outputs of 679 (101) and 886 (91) W, respectively. Throughout the race, additional 5-, 15-, and 30-s efforts above MMP80 were completed in the 5th compared with the 1st–4th quintiles of the race. The 60-s efforts were greater during the 5th quintile compared with the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quintiles, and during the 3rd compared with the 4th quintile. More 240-s efforts were recorded during the 5th compared with the 1st and 4th quintiles. About 82% of the 15-s efforts above MSP80 were completed in the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th quintiles of the race. Conclusions: These data demonstrate the variable nature of women’s professional cycling and the physical demands necessary for success, thus providing information that could enhance in-race decision making and the development of race-specific training programs.

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Power Output and Pacing During International Cross-Country Mountain Bike Cycling

Cyril Granier, Chris R. Abbiss, Anaël Aubry, Yvon Vauchez, Sylvain Dorel, Christophe Hausswirth, and Yann Le Meur

Purpose: To characterize the physiological profiles of elite cross-country mountain-bike (XCO-MTB) cyclists and to examine their pacing and power-output (PO) distribution during international races. Methods: Over 2 competitive seasons, 8 male XCO-MTB cyclists (VO2max 79.9 [5.2] mL·min−1·kg−1, maximal aerobic power [MAP] 411 [18] W and 6.3 [0.4] W·kg−1) regularly undertook incremental tests to assess their PO and heart rate (HR) at first and second ventilatory thresholds (VT1 and VT2) and at VO2max. During the same period, their PO, HR, speed, and cadence were recorded over 13 international races (total of 30 recorded files). Results: Mean PO, speed, cadence, and HR during the races were 283 (22) W (4.31 [0.32] W·kg−1, 68% [5%] MAP), 19.7 (2.1) km·h−1, 68 (8) rpm, and 172 (11) beats·min−1 (91% [2%] HRmax), respectively. The average times spent below 10% of MAP, between 10% of MAP and VT1, between VT1 and VT2, between VT2 and MAP, and above MAP were 25% (5%), 21% (4%), 13% (3%), 16% (3%), and 26% (5%), respectively. Both speed and PO decreased from the start loop to lap 1 before stabilizing until the end of the race. Conclusions: Elite off-road cyclists demonstrated typical values of world-class endurance cyclists with an excellent power-to-mass ratio. This study demonstrated that XCO-MTB races are performed at higher intensities than reported in previous research and are characterized by a fast start followed by an even pace.

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Influence of Pacing Manipulation on Performance of Juniors in Simulated 400-m Swim Competition

Sabrina Skorski, Oliver Faude, Chris R. Abbiss, Seraina Caviezel, Nina Wengert, and Tim Meyer

Purpose:

To date, there has been limited research examining the influence of pacing pattern (PP) on middle-distance swimming performance. As such, the purpose of the current study was to examine the influence of PP manipulation on 400-m freestyle swimming performance.

Methods:

15 front-crawl swimmers (5 female, 10 male; age 18 ± 2 y) performed 3 simulated 400-m swimming events. The initial trial was self-selected pacing (PPSS). The following 2 trials were performed in a counterbalanced order and required participants to complete the first 100 m more slowly (PPSLOW: 4.5% ± 2.2%) or quickly (PPFAST: 2.4% ± 1.6%) than the PPSS trial. 50-m split times were recorded during each trial.

Results:

Overall performance time was faster in PPSS (275.0 ± 15.9 s) than in PPFAST (278.5 ± 16.4 s, P = .05) but not significantly different from PPSLOW (277.5 ± 16.2 s, P = .22). However, analysis for practical relevance revealed that pacing manipulation resulted in a “likely” (>88.2%) decrease in performance compared with PPSS.

Conclusion:

Moderate manipulation of the starting speed during simulated 400-m freestyle races seems to affect overall performance. The observed results indicate that PPSS is optimal in most individuals, yet it seems to fail in some swimmers. Future research should focus on the identification of athletes possibly profiting from manipulations.