Purpose: To investigate variability, predictability, and smallest worthwhile performance enhancement in elite biathlon sprint events. In addition, the effects of race factors on performance were assessed. Methods: Data from 2005 to 2015 including >10,000 and >1000 observations for each sex for all athletes and annual top-10 athletes, respectively, were included. Generalized linear mixed models were constructed based on total race time, skiing time, shooting time, and proportions of targets hit. Within-athlete race-to-race variability was expressed as coefficient of variation of performance times and standard deviation (SD) in proportion units (%) of targets hit. The models were adjusted for random and fixed effects of subject identity, season, event identity, and race factors. Results: The within-athlete variability was independent of sex and performance standard of athletes: 2.5–3.2% for total race time, 1.5–1.8% for skiing time, and 11–15% for shooting times. The SD of the proportion of hits was ∼10% in both shootings combined (meaning ±1 hit in 10 shots). The predictability in total race time was very high to extremely high for all athletes (ICC .78–.84) but trivial for top-10 athletes (ICC .05). Race times during World Championships and Olympics were ∼2–3% faster than in World Cups. Moreover, race time increased by ∼2% per 1000 m of altitude, by ∼5% per 1% of gradient, by 1–2% per 1 m/s of wind speed, and by ∼2–4% on soft vs hard tracks. Conclusions: Researchers and practitioners should focus on strategies that improve biathletes’ performance by at least 0.8–0.9%, corresponding to the smallest worthwhile enhancement (0.3 × within-athlete variability).
Øyvind Skattebo and Thomas Losnegard
Øyvind Skattebo, Thomas Losnegard and Hans Kristian Stadheim
Purpose: Long-distance cross-country skiers specialize to compete in races >50 km predominantly using double poling (DP). This emphasizes the need for highly developed upper-body endurance capacities and an efficient DP technique. The aim of this study was to investigate potential effects of specialization by comparing physiological capacities and kinematics in DP between long-distance skiers and skiers competing using both techniques (skating/classic) in several competition formats (“all-round skiers”). Methods: Seven male long-distance (32  y, 183  cm, 76  kg) and 6 all-round (25  y, 181  cm, 75  kg) skiers at high international levels conducted submaximal workloads and an incremental test to exhaustion for determination of peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) and time to exhaustion (TTE) in DP and running. Results: In DP and running maximal tests, TTE showed no difference between groups. However, long-distance skiers had 5–6% lower VO2peak in running (81  vs 85  mL·kg−1·min−1; P = .07) and DP (73  vs 78  mL·kg−1·min−1; P < .01) than all-round skiers. In DP, long-distance skiers displayed lower submaximal O2 cost than all-round skiers (3.8 ± 3.6%; P < .05) without any major differences in cycle times or cyclic patterns of joint angles and center of mass. Lactate concentration over a wide range of speeds (45–85% of VO2peak) did not differ between groups, even though each workload corresponded to a slightly higher percentage of VO2peak for long-distance skiers (effect size: 0.30–0.68). Conclusions: The long-distance skiers displayed lower VO2peak but compensated with lower O2 cost to perform equally with the all-round skiers on a short TTE test in DP. Furthermore, similar submaximal lactate concentration and reduced O2 cost could be beneficial in sustaining high skiing speeds in long-duration competitions.
Thomas Losnegard, Håvard Myklebust, Øyvind Skattebo, Hans Kristian Stadheim, Øyvind Sandbakk and Jostein Hallén
In the double-poling (DP) cross-country-skiing technique, propulsive forces are transferred solely through the poles. The aim of the current study was to investigate how pole length influences DP performance, O2 cost, and kinematics during treadmill roller skiing.
Nine male competitive cross-country skiers (24 ± 3 y, 180 ± 5 cm, 72 ± 5 kg, VO2max running 76 ± 6 mL · kg–1 · min–1) completed 2 identical test protocols using self-selected (84% ± 1% of body height) and long poles (self-selected + 7.5 cm; 88% ± 1% of body height) in a counterbalanced fashion. Each test protocol included a 5-min warm-up (2.5 m/s; 2.5°) and three 5-min submaximal sessions (3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 m/s; 2.5°) for assessment of O2 cost, followed by a selfpaced 1000-m time trial (~3 min, >5.0 m/s; 2.5°). Temporal patterns and kinematics were assessed using accelerometers and 2D video.
Long poles reduced 1000-m time (mean ± 90% confidence interval; –1.0% ± 0.7%, P = .054) and submaximal O2 cost (–2.7% ± 1.0%, P = .002) compared with self-selected poles. The center-of-mass (CoM) vertical range of displacement tended to be smaller for long than for self-selected poles (23.3 ± 3.0 vs 24.3 ± 3.0 cm, P = .07). Cycle and reposition time did not differ between pole lengths at any speeds tested, whereas poling time tended to be shorter for self-selected than for long poles at the lower speeds (≤3.5 m/s, P ≤ .10) but not at the higher speeds (≥4.0 m/s, P ≥ .23).
DP 1000-m time, submaximal O2 cost, and CoM vertical range of displacement were reduced in competitive cross-country skiers using poles 7.5 cm longer than self-selected ones.