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Louis Passfield and James G. Hopker

This paper explores the notion that the availability and analysis of large data sets have the capacity to improve practice and change the nature of science in the sport and exercise setting. The increasing use of data and information technology in sport is giving rise to this change. Web sites hold large data repositories, and the development of wearable technology, mobile phone applications, and related instruments for monitoring physical activity, training, and competition provide large data sets of extensive and detailed measurements. Innovative approaches conceived to more fully exploit these large data sets could provide a basis for more objective evaluation of coaching strategies and new approaches to how science is conducted. An emerging discipline, sports analytics, could help overcome some of the challenges involved in obtaining knowledge and wisdom from these large data sets. Examples of where large data sets have been analyzed, to evaluate the career development of elite cyclists and to characterize and optimize the training load of well-trained runners, are discussed. Careful verification of large data sets is time consuming and imperative before useful conclusions can be drawn. Consequently, it is recommended that prospective studies be preferred over retrospective analyses of data. It is concluded that rigorous analysis of large data sets could enhance our knowledge in the sport and exercise sciences, inform competitive strategies, and allow innovative new research and findings.

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James S. Hogg, James G. Hopker and Alexis R. Mauger

Purpose:

The novel self-paced maximal-oxygen-uptake (VO2max) test (SPV) may be a more suitable alternative to traditional maximal tests for elite athletes due to the ability to self-regulate pace. This study aimed to examine whether the SPV can be administered on a motorized treadmill.

Methods:

Fourteen highly trained male distance runners performed a standard graded exercise test (GXT), an incline-based SPV (SPVincline), and a speed-based SPV (SPVspeed). The GXT included a plateau-verification stage. Both SPV protocols included 5 × 2-min stages (and a plateau-verification stage) and allowed for self-pacing based on fixed increments of rating of perceived exertion: 11, 13, 15, 17, and 20. The participants varied their speed and incline on the treadmill by moving between different marked zones in which the tester would then adjust the intensity.

Results:

There was no significant difference (P = .319, ES = 0.21) in the VO2max achieved in the SPVspeed (67.6 ± 3.6 mL · kg−1 · min−1, 95%CI = 65.6–69.7 mL · kg−1 · min−1) compared with that achieved in the GXT (68.6 ± 6.0 mL · kg−1 · min−1, 95%CI = 65.1–72.1 mL · kg−1 · min−1). Participants achieved a significantly higher VO2max in the SPVincline (70.6 ± 4.3 mL · kg−1 · min−1, 95%CI = 68.1–73.0 mL · kg−1 · min−1) than in either the GXT (P = .027, ES = 0.39) or SPVspeed (P = .001, ES = 0.76).

Conclusions:

The SPVspeed protocol produces VO2max values similar to those obtained in the GXT and may represent a more appropriate and athlete-friendly test that is more oriented toward the variable speed found in competitive sport.

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Arthur H. Bossi, Wouter P. Timmerman and James G. Hopker

Purpose: There are several published equations to calculate energy expenditure (EE) from gas exchanges. The authors assessed whether using different EE equations would affect gross efficiency (GE) estimates and their reliability. Methods: Eleven male and 3 female cyclists (age 33 [10] y; height: 178 [11] cm; body mass: 76.0 [15.1] kg; maximal oxygen uptake: 51.4 [5.1] mL·kg−1·min−1; peak power output: 4.69 [0.45] W·kg−1) completed 5 visits to the laboratory on separate occasions. In the first visit, participants completed a maximal ramp test to characterize their physiological profile. In visits 2 to 5, participants performed 4 identical submaximal exercise trials to assess GE and its reliability. Each trial included three 7-minute bouts at 60%, 70%, and 80% of the gas exchange threshold. EE was calculated with 4 equations by Péronnet and Massicotte, Lusk, Brouwer, and Garby and Astrup. Results: All 4 EE equations produced GE estimates that differed from each other (all P < .001). Reliability parameters were only affected when the typical error was expressed in absolute GE units, suggesting a negligible effect—related to the magnitude of GE produced by each EE equation. The mean coefficient of variation for GE across different exercise intensities and calculation methods was 4.2%. Conclusions: Although changing the EE equation does not affect GE reliability, exercise scientists and coaches should be aware that different EE equations produce different GE estimates. Researchers are advised to share their raw data to allow for GE recalculation, enabling comparison between previous and future studies.

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Arthur H. Bossi, Ciaran O’Grady, Richard Ebreo, Louis Passfield and James G. Hopker

Purpose : To describe pacing strategy and competitive behavior in elite-level cyclo-cross races. Methods: Data from 329 men and women competing in 5 editions (2012–2016) of Union Cycliste Internationale Cyclo-Cross World Championships were compiled. Individual mean racing speeds from each lap were normalized to the mean speeds of the whole race. Lap and overall rankings were also explored. Pacing strategy was compared between sexes and between top- and bottom-placed cyclists. Results: A significant main effect of laps was found in 8 out of 10 races (4 positive, 3 variable, 2 even, and 1 negative pacing strategies), and an interaction effect of ranking-based groups was found in 2 (2016, male and female races). Kendall tau-b correlations revealed an increasingly positive relationship between intermediate and overall rankings throughout the races. The number of overtakes during races decreased from start to finish, as suggested by significant Friedman tests. In the first lap, normalized cycling speeds were different in 3 out of 5 editions—men were faster in 1 and slower in 2 editions. In the last lap, however, normalized cycling speeds of men were lower than those of women in 4 editions. Conclusions : Elite cyclo-cross competitors adopt slightly distinct pacing strategies in each race, but positive pacing strategies are highly probable in most events, with more changes in rankings during the first laps. Sporadically, top- and bottom-placed groups might adopt different pacing strategies during either men’s or women’s races. Men and women seem to distribute their efforts differently, but this effect is of small magnitude.

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Arthur H. Bossi, Guilherme G. Matta, Guillaume Y. Millet, Pedro Lima, Leonardo C. Pertence, Jorge P. de Lima and James G. Hopker

Purpose:

To describe pacing strategy in a 24-h running race and its interaction with sex, age group, athletes’ performance group, and race edition.

Methods:

Data from 398 male and 103 female participants of 5 editions were obtained based on a minimum 19.2-h effective-running cutoff. Mean running speed from each hour was normalized to the 24-h mean speed for analyses.

Results:

Mean overall performance was 135.6 ± 33.0 km with a mean effective-running time of 22.4 ± 1.3 h. Overall data showed a reverse J-shaped pacing strategy, with a significant reduction in speed from the second-to-last to the last hour. Two-way mixed ANOVAs showed significant interactions between racing time and both athlete performance group (F = 7.01, P < .001, ηp 2 = .04) and race edition (F = 3.01, P < .001, ηp 2 = .02) but not between racing time and either sex (F = 1.57, P = .058, ηp 2 < .01) or age group (F = 1.25, P = .053, ηp 2 = .01). Pearson product–moment correlations showed an inverse moderate association between performance and normalized mean running speed in the first 2 h (r = –.58, P < .001) but not in the last 2 h (r = .03, P = .480).

Conclusions:

While the general behavior represents a rough reverse J-shaped pattern, the fastest runners start at lower relative intensities and display a more even pacing strategy than slower runners. The “herd behavior” seems to interfere with pacing strategy across editions, but not sex or age group of runners.