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Int J Sports Med. 2009 Apr;30(4):240-4. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1105948. Epub 2009 Feb 6.

Time trial exertion traits of cycling's Grand Tours.

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  • 1Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Exercise Biology Laboratory, Baton Rouge, 70808, USA.


We examined 26 professional riders during time trial (TT) competitions of the Grand Tours of cycling (Tour de France and Vuelta Espana; 1997-2003) for the exertional characteristics of contending vs. non-contending (i.e., support) riders. We categorized HR time during TT into training impulse (TRIMP) defined from seasonal VO2max testing [Phase I (<ventilatory threshold (VT approximately 64% VO2max); Phase II (VT-respiratory compensation threshold, approximately 83% VO2max); Phase III >RCP]. Races were: Short TT (<15 km; 8.9+/-2.9 km); Individual TT (>15 km; 48.12+/-8.7 km); Uphill TT (20.0+/-8.7 km) and Team TT (44.1+/-20.9 km). We observed statistically significant event-by-contender interactions for all TT (all, P<0.0001) except the short TT. During uphill TT, contenders exerted fewer total TRIMP (P<0.01), more Zone 3 TRIMP (P<0.05), and fewer Zone 2 TRIMP (P<0.01) vs. non-contenders. For individual TT, contenders accumulated more Total and Zone 3 TRIMP vs. non-contenders (all, P<0.05). Interestingly, during the team TT, contenders accumulated more Zone 3, and fewer Zone 2 TRIMP (all, P<0.05), despite having the opportunity to draft behind other riders while in paceline race formation. During TT events, contending riders compete at a level of exertion corresponding to a higher metabolic demand during the uphill TT, individual TT and team TT.

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