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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 Jun;98(6):2191-6. Epub 2005 Mar 17.

Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures.

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Human Performance Laboratory, Dept. of Kinesiology and Health Education, Bellmont Hall 222, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


This case describes the physiological maturation from ages 21 to 28 yr of the bicyclist who has now become the six-time consecutive Grand Champion of the Tour de France, at ages 27-32 yr. Maximal oxygen uptake (Vo(2 max)) in the trained state remained at approximately 6 l/min, lean body weight remained at approximately 70 kg, and maximal heart rate declined from 207 to 200 beats/min. Blood lactate threshold was typical of competitive cyclists in that it occurred at 76-85% Vo(2 max), yet maximal blood lactate concentration was remarkably low in the trained state. It appears that an 8% improvement in muscular efficiency and thus power production when cycling at a given oxygen uptake (Vo(2)) is the characteristic that improved most as this athlete matured from ages 21 to 28 yr. It is noteworthy that at age 25 yr, this champion developed advanced cancer, requiring surgeries and chemotherapy. During the months leading up to each of his Tour de France victories, he reduced body weight and body fat by 4-7 kg (i.e., approximately 7%). Therefore, over the 7-yr period, an improvement in muscular efficiency and reduced body fat contributed equally to a remarkable 18% improvement in his steady-state power per kilogram body weight when cycling at a given Vo(2) (e.g., 5 l/min). It is hypothesized that the improved muscular efficiency probably reflects changes in muscle myosin type stimulated from years of training intensely for 3-6 h on most days.

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