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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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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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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


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.


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.


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).


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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Validity of the Velocomp PowerPod Compared With the Verve Cycling InfoCrank Power Meter

Paul F.J. Merkes, Paolo Menaspà, and Chris R. Abbiss

Purpose: To determine the validity of the Velocomp PowerPod power meter in comparison with the Verve Cycling InfoCrank power meter. Methods: This research involved 2 separate studies. In study 1, 12 recreational male road cyclists completed 7 maximal cycling efforts of a known duration (2 times 5 s and 15, 30, 60, 240, and 600 s). In study 2, 4 elite male road cyclists completed 13 outdoor cycling sessions. In both studies, power output of cyclists was continuously measured using both the PowerPod and InfoCrank power meters. Maximal mean power output was calculated for durations of 1, 5, 15, 30, 60, 240, and 600 seconds plus the average power output in study 2. Results: Power output determined by the PowerPod was almost perfectly correlated with the InfoCrank (r > .996; P < .001) in both studies. Using a rolling resistance previously reported, power output was similar between power meters in study 1 (P = .989), but not in study 2 (P = .045). Rolling resistance estimated by the PowerPod was higher than what has been previously reported; this might have occurred because of errors in the subjective device setup. This overestimation of rolling resistance increased the power output readings. Conclusion: Accuracy of rolling resistance seems to be very important in determining power output using the PowerPod. When using a rolling resistance based on previous literature, the PowerPod showed high validity when compared with the InfoCrank in a controlled field test (study 1) but less so in a dynamic environment (study 2).

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Reducing Aerodynamic Drag by Adopting a Novel Road-Cycling Sprint Position

Paul F.J. Merkes, Paolo Menaspà, and Chris R. Abbiss

Purpose: To assess the influence of seated, standing, and forward-standing cycling sprint positions on aerodynamic drag (CdA) and the reproducibility of a field test of CdA calculated in these different positions. Methods: A total of 11 recreational male road cyclists rode 250 m in 2 directions at around 25, 32, and 40 km·h−1 and in each of the 3 positions, resulting in a total of 18 efforts per participant. Riding velocity, power output, wind direction and velocity, road gradient, temperature, relative humidity, and barometric pressure were measured and used to calculate CdA using regression analysis. Results: A main effect of position showed that the average CdA of the 2 d was lower for the forward-standing position (0.295 [0.059]) compared with both the seated (0.363 [0.071], P = .018) and standing positions (0.372 [0.077], P = .037). Seated and standing positions did not differ from each other. Although no significant difference was observed in CdA between the 2 test days, a poor between-days reliability was observed. Conclusion: A novel forward-standing cycling sprint position resulted in 23% and 26% reductions in CdA compared with a seated and standing position, respectively. This decrease in CdA could potentially result in an important increase in cycling sprint velocity of 3.9–4.9 km·h−1, although these results should be interpreted with caution because poor reliability of CdA was observed between days.

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Effect of Environmental Temperature on High-Intensity Intervals in Well-Trained Cyclists

Jason R. Boynton, Fabian Danner, Paolo Menaspà, Jeremiah J. Peiffer, and Chris R. Abbiss

Purpose: To examine the effect of environmental temperature (T A) on performance and physiological responses (eg, body temperature, cardiopulmonary measures) during a high-intensity aerobic interval session. It was hypothesized that power output would be highest in the 13°C condition and lower in the 5°C, 22°C, and 35°C conditions. Methods: Eleven well-trained cyclists randomly completed 4 interval sessions at 5°C, 13°C, 22°C, and 35°C (55% [13%] relative humidity), each involving five 4-min intervals interspersed with 5 min of recovery. During the intervals, power output, core temperature (T C), skin temperature, VO2, and heart rate were recorded. Results: Mean session power output for 13°C (366 [32] W) was not higher than 5°C (363 [32] W; P = 1.00, effect size = 0.085), 22°C (364 [36] W; P = 1.00, effect size = 0.061), or 35°C (352 [31] W; P = .129, effect size = 0.441). The 5th interval of the 35°C condition had a lower power output compared with all other T A. T C was higher in 22°C compared with both 5°C and 13°C (P = .001). VO2 was not significantly different across T A (P = .187). Heart rate was higher in the 4th and 5th intervals of 35°C compared with 5°C and 13°C. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that while mean power outputs for intervals are similar across T A, hot T A (≥35°C) reduces interval power output later in a training session. Well-trained cyclists performing maximal high-intensity aerobic intervals can achieve near-optimal power output over a broader range of T A than previous literature would indicate.