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Mikel Zabala, Jaime Morente-Sánchez, Manuel Mateo-March, and Daniel Sanabria

This study addresses performance-enhancement drug (PED) consumption in amateur sport by investigating the relationship between psychosocial factors and PED use in amateur cyclists. Participants were asked whether they had ever taken PED. They were also asked whether they had any experience in competitive cycling, and the degree to which they participated in the event with a competitive aim. In addition, they completed the Performance Enhancement Attitude Scale, the Rosenberg self-esteem scale, and a bespoke self-efficacy questionnaire, and they rated the percentage of cyclists they believed took PED. Between-groups comparisons and two multiple regression analyses were performed. Overall, the results of our study point to adult amateur cyclists in general, and amateur cyclists with experience in competition in particular, as groups at risk for PED use. This study highlights the value of measuring psychosocial variables as a tool to assess PED use, a current issue at both sport performance and health levels.

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Xabier Muriel, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Manuel Mateo-March, Jesús G. Pallarés, Alejandro Lucia, and David Barranco-Gil

Purpose: To compare the physical demands and performance indicators of male professional cyclists of 2 different categories (Union Cycliste Internationale WorldTour [WT] and ProTeam [PT]) during a cycling grand tour. Methods: A WT team (n = 8, 31.4 [5.4] y) and a PT team (n = 7, 26.9 [3.3] y) that completed “La Vuelta 2020” volunteered to participate. Participants’ power output (PO) was registered, and measures of physical demand and physiological performance (kilojoules spent, training stress score, time spent at different PO bands/zones, and mean maximal PO [MMP] for different exertion durations) were computed. Results: WT achieved a higher final individual position than PT (31 [interquartile range = 33] vs 71 [59], P = .004). WT cyclists showed higher mean PO and kilojoule values than their PT peers and spent more time at high-intensity PO values (>5.25 W·kg−1) and zones (91%–120% of individualized functional threshold power) (Ps < .05). Although no differences were found for MMP values in the overall analysis (P > .05), subanalyses revealed that the between-groups gap increased through the race, with WT cyclists reaching higher MMP values for ≥5-minute efforts in the second and third weeks (Ps < .05). Conclusions: Despite the multifactorial nature of cycling performance, WT cyclists spend more time at high intensities and show higher kilojoules and mean PO than their PT referents during a grand tour. Although the highest MMP values attained during the whole race might not differentiate between WT and PT cyclists, the former achieve higher MMP values as the race progresses.

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Pedro L. Valenzuela, Manuel Mateo-March, Mikel Zabala, Xabier Muriel, Alejandro Lucia, David Barranco-Gil, and Jesús G. Pallarés

Purpose: Ambient temperature affects endurance exercise performance. However, most research has been conducted in a laboratory-based setting, and whether there are sex-specific trends remains unclear. The present study aimed to analyze the influence of ambient temperature on cycling performance in male and female professional cyclists using field-based data collected during both training and racing. Methods: A total of 74 cyclists (48 male and 26 female; age 29 [5] y, 8 [5] y of experience in the professional category) were included in the analyses. We registered the participants’ record power profile using data from both training and competitions over 8 years (2013–2020; 8 [5] seasons per cyclist). We analyzed their mean maximal power (MMP) values attained for efforts lasting 5 seconds, 30 seconds, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes at ambient temperatures ranging from <5°C to >35°C. Results: A significant influence of ambient temperature on MMP values was found in male and female cyclists (P < .001 for both), with no significant differences between sexes (P = .512). Cyclists attained the highest MMP values at temperate conditions (10–30°C in males and 5–25°C in females), whereas an impairment in performance was found at colder and hotter temperatures, particularly for the more extreme conditions (performance impairment at <5°C and >35°C of −18% to −9% and −16% to −9%, respectively). Conclusions: Ambient temperature influences field-based cycling performance, following a reverse U-shaped relationship, with the highest MMP values attained in the range of ∼10°C to 25°C and with no major differences between sexes.

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Gabriele Gallo, Peter Leo, Manuel Mateo-March, Andrea Giorgi, Emanuela Faelli, Piero Ruggeri, Iñigo Mujika, and Luca Filipas

Purpose: To compare the race demands of junior (JUN), under 23 (U23), and professional (PRO) road cyclists. Methods: Thirty male cyclists, divided into 3 age-related categories (JUN, n = 10; U23, n = 10; and PRO, n = 10), participated in this study. Race data collected during the 2019 competitive season were retrospectively analyzed for race characteristics, external, and internal competition load. Results: Higher annual and per race duration, distance, elevation gain, Edward’s training impulse, total work, and work per hour were observed in PRO versus U23 and JUN, and U23 versus JUN (P < .01). PRO and U23 recorded higher mean maximal power (RPOs) between 5 and 180 minutes compared with JUN (P < .01). Edward’s training impulse per hour was higher in JUN than PRO and U23 (P < .01). Accordingly, JUN spent a higher percentage of racing time in high internal intensity zones compared with U23 and PRO, while these 2 categories spent more time at low internal intensity zones (P < .01). Conclusions: JUN races were shorter and included less elevation gain per distance unit compared to U23 and PRO races, but more internally demanding. JUN produced less power output in the moderate-, heavy-, and severe-intensity exercise domains compared with U23 and PRO (RPOs: 5–180 min). U23 and PRO races presented similar work demands per hour and RPOs, but PRO races were longer than U23.

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Jesús G. Pallares, Alejandro Hernández-Belmonte, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Xabier Muriel, Manuel Mateo-March, David Barranco-Gil, and Alejandro Lucia

Purpose: To determine the validity of field-derived mean maximum power (MMP) values for monitoring maximal cycling endurance performance. Methods: Twenty-seven male professional cyclists performed 3 timed trials (TTs) of 1-, 5-, and 20-minute duration that were used as the gold standard reference. Field-based power output data (3336 files; 124 [25] per cyclist) were registered during the preparatory (60 d pre-TT, including training data only) and specific period of the season (60 d post-TT, including both training and competitions). Comparisons were made between TT performance (mean power output) and MMP values obtained for efforts of the same duration as TT (MMP of 1-, 5-, and 20-min duration). The authors also compared TT- and MMP-derived values of critical power (CP) and anaerobic work capacity. Results: A large correlation (P < .001, r > .65) was found between MMP and TT performance regardless of the effort duration or season period. However, considerable differences (P < .05, standard error of measurement [SEM]  > 5%) were found between MMP and TT values for all effort durations in the preparatory period, as well as for the derived CP and anaerobic work capacity. Significant differences were also found between MMP and TT of 1 minute in the specific period, as well as for anaerobic work capacity, yet with no differences for MMP of 5- and 20-minute duration or the derived CP (P > .05, SEM < 5%). Conclusion: MMP values (for efforts ≥5 min) and the associated CP obtained from both training sessions and competitions can be considered overall accurate indicators of the cyclist’s maximal capabilities, but specific tests might be necessary for shorter efforts or when considering training sessions only.

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Gabriele Gallo, Manuel Mateo-March, Peter Leo, Antonio Campos-Donaire, Alexis Gandia-Soriano, Andrea Giorgi, Emanuela Faelli, Piero Ruggeri, Roberto Codella, Iñigo Mujika, and Luca Filipas

Purpose: To investigate the relationship of field-derived power and physical performance parameters with competition success in road cycling climbing specialists of age-related categories and to explore cross-sectional differences between high-ranked (HIGHR) climbing specialists of each category. Methods: Fifty-three male climbers participated in this study (junior [JUN], n = 15; under 23 [U23], n = 21; professional [PRO], n = 17). Training and racing data collected during the 2016–19 competitive seasons were retrospectively analyzed for record power outputs (RPOs) and RPOs after prior accumulated work. Results: In JUN, body mass, absolute RPOs, and relative RPOs were higher in HIGHR compared with low ranked (d = 0.97–2.20, large; P = .097–.001); in U23 and PRO, the percentage decrease in RPOs after 20, 30, 40, and 50 kJ·kg−1 was less in HIGHR compared with low ranked (d = 0.77–1.74, moderate–large; P = .096–.004). JUN HIGHR presented lower absolute and relative RPO-20 min (ηp2=.34.38, large; P = .099–.001) and higher percentage decrease in RPOs after prior accumulated work compared with U23 and PRO HIGHR (ηp2=.28.68, large; P = .060–.001); percentage decrease in RPOs after prior accumulated work was the only parameter differentiating U23 and PRO HIGHR, with PRO declining less in relative RPO-1 min, RPO-5 min, and RPO-20 min after 20 to 50 kJ·kg−1 (ηp2=.28.68, large; P = .090–.001). Conclusions: Superior absolute and relative RPOs characterize HIGHR JUN climbing specialists. Superior fatigue resistance differentiates HIGHR U23 and PRO climbers compared with low ranked, as well as PRO versus U23 climbers.

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Manuel Mateo-March, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Xabier Muriel, Alexis Gandia-Soriano, Mikel Zabala, Alejandro Lucia, Jesús G. Pallares, and David Barranco-Gil

Purpose: The present study aimed to determine the influence of fatigue on the record power profile of professional male cyclists. We also assessed whether fatigue could differently affect cyclists of 2 competition categories. Methods: We analyzed the record power profile in 112 professional cyclists (n = 46 and n = 66 in the ProTeam [PT] and WorldTour [WT] category, respectively; age 29 [6] y, 8 [5] y experience in the professional category) during 2013–2021 (8 [5] seasons/cyclist). We analyzed their mean maximal power (MMP) values for efforts lasting 10 seconds to 120 minutes with no fatigue (after 0 kJ·kg−1) and with increasing levels of fatigue (after 15, 25, 35, and 45 kJ·kg−1). Results: A significant (P < .001) and progressive deterioration of all MMP values was observed from the lowest levels of fatigue assessed (ie, −1.6% to −3.0% decline after 15 kJ·kg−1, and −6.0% to −9.7% after 45 kJ·kg−1). Compared with WT, PT cyclists showed a greater decay of MMP values under fatigue conditions (P < .001), and these differences increased with accumulating levels of fatigue (decay of −1.8 to −2.9% [WT] with reference to 0 kJ·kg−1 vs −1.1% to −4.4% [PT] after 15 kJ·kg−1 and of −4.7% to −8.8% [WT] vs −7.6% to −11.6% [PT] after 45 kJ·kg−1). No consistent differences were found between WT and PT cyclists in MMP values assessed in nonfatigue conditions (after 0 kJ·kg−1), but WT cyclists attained significantly higher MMP values with accumulating levels of fatigue, particularly for long-duration efforts (≥5 min). Conclusions: Our findings highlight the importance of considering fatigue when assessing the record power profile of endurance athletes and support the ability to attenuate fatigue-induced decline in MMP values as a determinant of endurance performance.

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Pedro L. Valenzuela, Xabier Muriel, Teun van Erp, Manuel Mateo-March, Alexis Gandia-Soriano, Mikel Zabala, Robert P. Lamberts, Alejandro Lucia, David Barranco-Gil, and Jesús G. Pallarés

Purpose: To present normative data for the record power profile of male professional cyclists attending to team categories and riding typologies. Methods: Power output data registered from 4 professional teams during 8 years (N = 144 cyclists, 129,262 files, and 1062 total seasons [7 (5) per cyclist] corresponding to both training and competition sessions) were analyzed. Cyclists were categorized as ProTeam (n = 46) or WorldTour (n = 98) and as all-rounders (n = 65), time trialists (n = 11), climbers (n = 50), sprinters (n = 11), or general classification contenders (n = 7). The record power profile was computed as the highest maximum mean power (MMP) value attained for different durations (1 s to 240 min) in both relative (W·kg−1) and absolute units (W). Results: Significant differences between ProTeam and WorldTour were found for both relative (P = .002) and absolute MMP values (P = .006), with WT showing lower relative, but not absolute, MMP values at shorter durations (30–60 s). However, higher relative and absolute MMP values were recorded for very short- (1 s) and long-duration efforts (60 and 240 min for relative MMP values and ≥5 min for absolute ones). Differences were also found regarding cyclists’ typologies for both relative and absolute MMP values (P < .001 for both), with sprinters presenting the highest relative and absolute MMP values for short-duration efforts (5–30 s) and general classification contenders presenting the highest relative MMP values for longer efforts (1–240 min). Conclusions: The present results––obtained from the largest cohort of professional cyclists assessed to date—could be used to assess cyclists’ capabilities and indicate that the record power profile can differ between cyclists’ categories and typologies.

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Manuel Mateo-March, Teun van Erp, Xabier Muriel, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Mikel Zabala, Robert P. Lamberts, Alejandro Lucia, David Barranco-Gil, and Jesús G. Pallarés

Purpose: To describe the record power profile of professional female cyclists and to assess potential differences based on the type of rider. Methods: Power output data (32,028 files containing both training and competition sessions recorded) in 44 female professional cyclists during 1–6 years were analyzed. Cyclists were categorized as all-rounders, time trialists, climbers, or sprinters. The record power profile was calculated using the mean maximal power output (MMP) values attained by each cyclist for different-effort durations (5 s to 60 min) expressed in relative (W·kg−1), as well as absolute, power output (W). Results: Participants’ MMP averaged 15.3 (1.8) W·kg−1 for 5 seconds, 8.4 (0.8) W·kg−1 for 1 minute, 5.2 (0.5) W·kg−1 for 10 minutes, and 4.2 (0.4) W·kg−1 for 60 minutes. For short-duration efforts (5–30 s), sprinters attained the highest MMP results, with significantly higher relative (Hedges g = 1.40–2.31) or absolute (g = 4.48–8.06) values than the remainder of categories or climbers only, respectively. Time trialists attained the highest MMP for longer efforts, with higher relative values than both all-rounders and climbers when comparing efforts lasting 10 to 60 minutes (P < .05, g = 1.21–1.54). Conclusions: In professional female cyclists, the record power profile substantially differs based on the specific category of the rider. These findings provide unique insights into the physical capacities of female professional cyclists, as well as a benchmark for coaches and scientists aiming to identify talent in female cycling.