Fitness questions and answers for March 1, 2004

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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at fitness@cyclingnews.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.

Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com) is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com) is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com) is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com) is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com) is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com) has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com) is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com) is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Steve Owens (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

Brett Aitken (www.cycle2max.com) is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his www.cycle2max.com website.

Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Michael Smartt (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com) has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns MyEnduranceCoach.com, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Most efficient cadence
High protein diet craze revisited
Leg cramps
Power to be competitive and altitude
Good training books
VO2 max and lactate threshold
Weight training
Turbo time with respect to road time

Most efficient cadence

This must be one of the oldest questions in cycling: for a given speed on the road, what is the most efficient leg cadence?

The answer obviously varies from person to person, time for which the effort is maintained and, apparently, gradient. But let's say we're talking about a flat road with no wind and a constant effort to be maintained for 30 minutes. Are there any pointers an individual can use to select the most efficient cadence, other than totally random trial and error?

Personally, I try to stay very close to 105 rpm - my muscles seem to tire too quickly and my legs feel heavy at lower cadences. Pros seem to use a wide variety of cadences. There has been much comment about Armstrong's relatively high cadence compared to his peers. What's going on here? Do all the pros pay close attention to this issue, or are some of them cycling inefficiently?

And why does it seem to be generally accepted that cadences should drop significantly when climbing? I do this too, and it "feels" right, but wouldn't it be more efficient to ride up even steep hills at the same cadences used on the flat?

Matthew Bramley
Gatineau, Québec

Ric Stern replies:

The most efficient cadence for a cyclist is the one that requires the least amount of energy to be expended, as efficiency is (actual mechanical work done / input of energy) x 100

Many studies have looked at this both in untrained, trained, and elite athletes, using non-athletes, cyclists and people from different sporting backgrounds.

In all research the cadence that is most efficient, i.e., requires the smallest VO2 at a given workload is usually a lower versus higher cadence. Most research (depending on the actual power output tested) shows a most efficient cadence of around 60 revs/min.

In unweighted cycling (i.e., no load against the rear wheel, just the friction within the drive train), there is a cost of just turning the legs over, this increases at higher cadences. Thus, within normal cycling, the overall energy expenditure is less at low cadences. Perhaps (?) paradoxically, as the actual power increases efficiency increases too along with the most efficient cadence.

This (efficiency) is somewhat different to the most optimal cadence. This can generally be the self selected cadence that allows you to produce the highest power output over whatever duration you race, in other words (to a certain degree) go with what is most comfortable.

Additionally, our cadences drop when climbing because we are constrained by the gearing we have on our bikes, the grade of the hill, and the power we can produce. Riding up a hill at a given power output will result in a velocity determined by environmental and topographical conditions and our total mass. For example riding up a steep climb we may only be able to cycle at 16 km/hr. Because each crank revolution in a specific gear will produce a specific speed, we're constrained by the speed we can travel at. In other words, at xx km/hr (which is a product of power, mass, and vertical height gained) in a specific gear (e.g. 39 x 21) then the cadence is what it is (e.g. 60 revs/min). Unless we ride a mountain bike or road bike with a triple (i.e. we have a very low gear), or suddenly develop a lot more power then were confined to riding a lower than normal cadence uphill (as most cyclists don't have a broad range of gears)

Brett Aitken replies:

It's not often I'd disagree with Ric, he's an excellent coach with a great deal of knowledge but on this account I will go out on a limb.

My belief is that the most efficient cadence for the majority of cyclists is around 85 to 90 rpm. An efficient cadence is more than producing the smallest VO2 at a given workload. While this may be the case for a 'very light' workload (under 100 Watts) it simply doesn't cut it at the more common power outputs that the average cyclist produces.

When under a bit more pressure an efficient cadence is also determined by the rate of glycogen uptake within the muscle cells (particularly fast twitch cells). The problem with slow cadences (50 to 60 rpm) is that glycogen is burnt up faster within the fast twitch cells as a result of the higher muscle force and contractions. On the other hand the slow twitch cells can handle the forces with the higher cadences (85 to 100 rpm) quite easily thereby tapping into the body's fat stores and sparing glycogen.

Also in regards to hill climbing I'm not so sure it's as clear cut as a restriction of gears that is causing the resulting drop in cadence. I think most riders would agree that a lower cadence on climbs does feel better and my gut feeling (I have no proof!) is that it's got more to do with the change in angles (body to bike) than anything else.

The good thing is it's highly trainable and I think Lance has proven this (with some very good scientific reason behind it). Any cyclist can follow in his steps (Ok, maybe a little slower!) and here is a good link to how you should go about it: www.cycle2max.com/c2m/climbs.nsf/aboutClimbs?OpenPage

[A lively discussion then ensued between Brett and Ric over whether we should pander to the common misuse of 'efficient' to mean 'optimum'. We picky editorial types think this is an important distinction. The bottom line is: lower cadences are more 'efficient' in terms of the work done per use of energy, but other factors affect the rate at which you should pedal in the real world. - Ed]

Georg Ladig replies:

We have a very simple calculator to answer some of the questions mentioned - e.g. if "normal" gears are appropriate for climbing.

Check it out with our gear calculator. You might first want to know how fast you can ride at a given power (or vice versa). Try this tool for different grades.

Test: 10% Grade, 300 W, 80 kg (Rider & bike): 12,4 km/h, Cadence = 70 RPM with 39 x 27! Conclusion: The normal gears of a road bike are designed for the "motor"-power of Pros only. If you have less than 300 W lasting power you face a problem with 39 x 27 or less if the climbing gets tough. The majority of cyclists has a threshold power

We believe that the optimum cadence is highly individual and a result of what you have trained. All the studies show a minimum oxygen uptake at low cadences but studies are done at low loads, often even without real cyclists and oxygen uptake is only one part of the equation as discussed before.

I think I can give some new input in the discussion with our climbing axioms:

1. The higher the power, the higher the cadence, look at a sprinter! (the range is individual). If we look at the hour record - very well trained cyclists at top level who can't waste any energy - we find an average cadence of 107 RPMs during the last decades - with little variations! That could mean that there is a optimum cadence for this kind of effort at top-level.

2. Most non-pro athletes are very limited in the choice of the right cadence by their gears when climbing - see the tools above.

3. The higher the climbing speed, the less difference is between time trialing cadence and climbing cadence. Why? Because the inertia of the system increases with the speed. If you ride very slowly you accelerate with every single push at the pedal: the speed oscillates. Actual muscle work is done at higher contraction speed as the cadence suggests. This phenomenon vanishes when you go faster - even if it's steep.

4. Relatively lower cadence at a climb is also found, because at most climbs the grade varies slightly all the time - often every few meters. If you already ride at a high cadence and constant power any change of the grade results in a massive change of the cadence - something which can simply not happen if you go fast in the flat, because inertia is very high there due to the high kinetic energy. If you miss a push in the flat nothing happens, the systems moves on at high speed. This makes the main difference in what you feel between flat roads and climbs - the relatively high change in speed and RPMs. A lower cadence gives you more space to play (the legs are becoming gears.., slow: out of the saddle, faster: in the saddle), which feels comfortable because the personal revolution band is limited. But if you go too slow for too long you need too much force, increase recovery (even during the ride) etc. etc.

Look at Lance: He rides at high RPMs on the climbs and needs to shift quite often to keep his optimum cadence. Sometimes he uses special custom cog combinations to fit the characteristic of a specific climb - that's what his mechanic told me at the last Tour de France.

Our conclusion: Go for appropriate gears first and then try to determine which cadence is best for you on a climb. The resulting cadence will be lower than in the flat but for sure higher than what most average riders mash in the mountains.

High protein diet craze revisited

I recently read the reply to someone else's question about the high-protein diet and how cyclist should consider it. The answer was, in a nutshell, that cyclists should not consider it because exercise in durations of long amounts of time require the kind of energy that only carbs can supply. Prior to reading that response, and at varying times over the last 3 years, I have used the higher protein/low carb diet to lose weight for stage race and road race courses that have lots of climbing. I did this successfully and quickly returned to a diet higher somewhat higher in carbs after the weight I desired to lose was gone. I noticed some rather interesting changes in my power output/HR while I was on the diet. First of all, my max heart rate was about 10-20 beats lower while I was generating the same wattage. Also, while dieting, the wattage to HR ratio was higher, such that I was generating more watts while on the diet at a given HR. Why was this the case?

I'm sure the staff might agree that cycling is a strange sport in that not only must racers compete for long amounts of time- thereby burning massive amounts of calories- but that those racers must also be extremely lean in order to overcome the physical obstacles created by the terrain of race courses. So, the ideal for a racer is to have a minimal body fat percentage while still being able to store and burn exorbitant amounts of calories. Training your body to burn fat is essential. Therefore, because consumption of carbs does not lend itself to weight loss whereas consumption of protein trains the body to burn fat and provides a control on weight loss, eating a high protein/low carb diet, at least when weight loss is desired, is a more reasonable approach to dieting for weight conscientious cyclists.

Nate Busch

Richard Stern replies:

It's difficult to make any suggestions about HR and power output, in fact at a given power output HR can vary tremendously for many reasons, e.g., altitude, air temperature, dehydration, acute fatigue, recently ingested caffeine or food, anxiousness, cadence, fitness, illness, and other factors.

Cycling is at the elite level thought to be the most physically demanding sport there is, with energy expenditure higher than in any other sports. This high energy expenditure, means high levels of energy intake are required to maintain lean body mass. Even at elite levels there's no need to have minimal levels of body fat, in fact this is likely to be detrimental to athletes. For example, it maybe possible for some people to have body fat % of 3%, however, to maintain this type of level the athlete would have to eat little which is very likely to affect muscle and liver glycogen stores, and to impair immune function amongst other things. Generally, elite (male) cyclists are no less than 6% body fat.

There's no evidence that eating protein allows the body to burn fat at a preferential rate, and fat oxidation isn't anything that can be generally measured by most cyclists (i.e., you'd need to be in a specialist lab). In order to loose mass, all that is required is you have a negative energy balance, in other words you expend more energy than you take in.

On the other hand, at increased levels of fitness more fat is oxidised at a given intensity than at lower levels of fitness. Fitness being a measure of e.g. lactate threshold, VO2max. In other words, as your fitness increases, you can cover more of your energy demand via fat metabolism, than a less trained person at the same absolute intensity.

In order to increase your fitness you need to train at an intensity that is high enough to stimulate e.g., LT and VO2max, and thus you'll need a moderately high diet of carbohydrates to fuel this intensity.

Leg cramps

I am a 44 year old male, suffering from leg cramps, especially in my inner thighs. I get cramps when I reach around 60 miles. I drink a lot of fluids (Gatorade, water), and take salt tablets. What do I need to do? I do the following.

a) Century ride (100-112 miles)
b) Riding 100 - 150 miles a week
c) Run marathons, half-marathons
d) Swim 4 times a week
e) Go to the gym 4 times a week
f) Tri (sometimes)

Arlex

Andrew Grant replies:

Cramping is caused by a number of different things. These include a combination of fatigue and lack of carbohydrates, mineral deficiency, over-doing creatine (calf muscles) and lower back / spinal misalignment.

With the information that you have supplied, you are probably running low on carbohydrates. While it does contain sugar, Gatorade is best used as a fluid replacement drink not a carbohydrate source. Try and find a carbohydrate source that is polymerised glucose and use sixty grams per hour.

The quality carbohydrate drinks usually come as a powder that you mix yourself. Carry a small container of the powder on long rides and re-mix your bottle as you go.

Power to be competitive and altitude

Are there some rough guidelines of the average power (at different time lengths, say 1min, 3min, 10min, 30min, 1hour, 2hours) needed to be competitive in Cat 3 racing, or if available, Masters (35+) at the national level in the USA ? This information would be very helpful to decide if it is wise to show up at a certain event for people like myself, living outside the USA. I also happen to live (and train) at very high altitude (3000 ft), so please let me know if the numbers can be directly compared to what my Power Tap reads or some adjustment is needed to compensate for the reduced oxygen?

Joaquín Morillo
Quito, Ecuador

Eddie Monnier replies:

There's always a danger in providing power "guidelines" for different competitive levels for several reasons. For starters, power levels should be normalized to compare across individuals with different body types (height and weight). Since most of our energy is used to overcome aerodynamic drag when riding on anything less than a moderate grade, effective frontal area would be the most appropriate means to normalize these data, whereas weight would be more appropriate to normalize data for climbing performance. And even if one did develop guidelines, there would undoubtedly be overlap between the categories. That is, there are very strong lower category cyclists who never achieve the higher levels because they don't ride smart tactically.

Now, having written all that, I will offer two very basic guidelines (all at sea level) to give you an idea of what it would take to be competitive among a category 3 field. As a "quick-n-dirty" measure, I would suggest you need to be able to break an hour in a relatively flat 40K time-trial. Alternatively, you can use data from several all-out tests of 3- to 30-minutes to calculate your "Critical Power" (CP; see related article and accompanying spreadsheet here). I would suggest you need a sea-level adjusted CP of at least 3.75W/kilogram to hang in a typical Category 3 field. This is representative across all events. Obviously, in a criterium you might be competitive with a lower CP provided you have good positioning skills and relatively high short-term power. On the other hand, a very hilly road race would be more selective and would require a higher CP to be truly competitive.

I would point out that at least in some regions of the US, Masters 35+ is second only to P/1/2 in terms of competitiveness. In fact here in California, we have quite a few former professionals and Olympians competing in the Masters races.

As to how your performance might change if you were to compete at sea level, that is difficult for me to say as this is an area I'm only recently delving into in more detail given our Masters Championships this year are being held in and around Salt Lake City, Utah. Since you live and train at 3,000 meters (you wrote feet, but I'm sure you meant meters), you would fall into a "live high, train high" categorization. To the best of my knowledge, studies evaluating the effects of living high, training high have had mixed results. Levine & Stray-Gundersen did a study that showed greater improvement in athletes that lived high, trained low (lived at 2,500 m and trained at 1,250 m) than athletes living high, training low or living low, training low. Perhaps one of the other panelists has more knowledge in this area.

Ultimately, the only way to know how competitive you are will be to board a plane, come over to race and give it your best shot!

Good training books

I am looking for a good training reference book. I have had a look at Lance Armstong's book but I would like something with a little more detail. I have just started taking part in Crits but have been riding for about 10 years and previously raced mountain bikes just at club level. My aim is to take on a more structured training program to help me make my way towards racing in A grade in both crits and open road events.

Pierre Pino
Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

Thanks for the opportunity to plug the book recently published by Human Kinetics and written my partners and myself. It is called Bike Racing 101 and covers everything the first year racer needs to know about training for endurance, strength, speed and power; nutrition; tactics for different sorts of races; equipment; structuring a season and so on. It is written for the intelligent athlete who wants to understand and be able to coach him or herself. The authors are Kendra and Rene Wenzel with contributions by Scott Saifer.

There are several other books available which will help you create a training program, but in my own biased opinion, ours does the most in terms of not only helping you write your program, but also in figuring out when to follow it, when to deviate from the plan, and when to change the plan entirely.

Eddie Monnier replies:

I'd recommend you read several different books to see what fits your own style. In addition to Scott's recommendation, I'd add The Cyclists Training Bible by my mentor, Joe Friel. He explains the process of periodization, from planning the competitive year down to managing your workouts. Additionally, I recommend you read some basic exercise physiology. Personally, I have always liked Running: The Athlete Within by David Costill. It's a classic but does a very good job of covering physiology for the layperson.

VO2 max and lactate threshold

I am 16 years old and have only been road cycling for about 3 months so I am unfamiliar with the terms V02 max and lactate threshold. What are they and how do I determine them?

Eddie Monnier replies:

Welcome to cycling. I hope you'll be a long-term participant. I'll try to help you understand the definitions and why they're important.

VO2max, widely considered the best single indicator of endurance potential*, refers to the highest rate of oxygen that can be consumed by the body during maximal exercise. Think of oxygen as your body's fuel. Since cycling is primarily an aerobic sport, the amount of fuel you can consume limits how much work you can do (ie, how fast you can go). VO2max is largely determined by your genetics. It will increase during your first few years of serious aerobic training but realizing material increases beyond that is unlikely.

A VO2max test is done in lab setting and requires you to perform a graded exercise test where the intensity is increased over set time intervals. As you work harder, you consume more oxygen. Eventually, you reach a point where the amount of oxygen you consume does not increase with additional increases in workload. This peak rate of consumption is deemed your VO2max and is expressed either in milliliters per kilogram of bodyweight per minute or, in absolute terms, in liters per minute (ie, not normalized to bodyweight).

So what are "reasonable" values for V02max? Well, a normally active male will typically be in the range of 44 to 51 ml/kg/min (and females 35-43 ml/kg/min). A study of 24 male professional cyclists by Mujika and Padilla found all 24 to have VO2max values above 70 ml/kg/min and closer to 80 ml/kg/min for the climbing specialists.

*The reason I wrote VO2max is considered the best indicator of potential is because VO2max isn't the best predictor of actual performance success. If you were to find you had a VO2max of greater than 70 ml/kg/min, then you have considerable aerobic capacity and, providing you make the most of your genetic gift, could go far. On the other hand, if you were to discover after several years of serious cardiovascular training that you have a rather pedestrian VO2max of 45-ml/kg/min, then your potential in the world of aerobic sport is somewhat limited. Actually, the better predictor of actual performance success, though still far from perfect, is lactate threshold power. Which leads me to the other definition you inquired about.

Lactate threshold is a bit more difficult to define because there are actually a number of definitions, though in all cases it refers to a sudden change in the rate of lactate accumulation. Lactate is a byproduct of lactic acid that enters the blood. As exercise intensity increases, the rate of lactate production also increases. There comes a point when you're body cannot clear the lactate from the blood quickly enough and so it accumulates. Think of pouring water through a funnel. When you pour slowly, it clears the funnel very easily. As you pour water more quickly, the funnel may back up a bit but still clear. Pour even faster and it may fill the funnel up and overflow. Lactate threshold may be reported as a percentage of VO2max, may be referred to as a particular heart rate (LTHR) or a certain power level (LTP). Trained endurance athletes typically have lactate threshold values that are 80-90% of their VO2max.

So why do we care about LT? Well, it characterizes the highest level of work a person can maintain for an extended period (the duration depends on the particular definition). Simply put, if you can generate 400W at lactate threshold while another similarly sized rider can only generate 300W, you'll be dipping into your limited energy reserves less often during a race, so you'll have more energy left to launch or cover the winning break. Though still far from perfect, LTP is the best predictor of success of all the physiological markers. And unlike VO2max, it is highly trainable.

There are multiple definitions for lactate threshold because scientists refer to different points along the accumulation curve, so it's helpful to know which definition one is referring to when using the term. Under the Friel methodology, we generally use the definition for lactate threshold that corresponds to OBLA (onset of blood lactate accumulation, defined as 4 mmol/L) or the second break point in a lactate threshold test (note that break points are not always visible). Trained athletes can typically maintain this LT level for 30-60 minutes.The professional cyclists evaluated by Majika and Padilla could all generate 5W/kg or more at OBLA.

I hope you have a better understanding of VO2max and lactate threshold.

Weight training

I want to maintain muscle mass and my fitness/ condition.

How many sets and reps at what percentage of 1RM should I be doing at gym twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday) for Biceps, Triceps, back and abdominal?

I am 43 years old and have been going to gym twice a week for the last five years. My routine has been 3 sets and 15 reps at 75 percent of 1RM. Could I maintain my condition with only 8 reps or should I be doing more reps at less intensity?

My cycling is competitive bike racing with race distances of 100-120km.

Keith Litten
Johannesburg - South Africa

Ric Stern replies:

In terms of endurance cycling performance (ECP), there's no benefit to doing weight training, and it may even be detrimental to your ECP. Forces encountered to turn the pedals over during cycle races are very low, and easily met by untrained age, gender and mass matched controls (in comparison to elite cyclists). The forces the upper body must generate are even smaller, and thus weight training isn't a requisite for cycling. In fact with upper body weight training it'll likely increase your muscle mass (via an increase in muscle cross sectional area) leading to a higher power output requirement when climbing and (possibly) when TTing to.

If you weight train your legs the increased cross sectional area will suffer a relative decrease in muscle mitochondria, which will decrease aerobic performance.

Further information can be viewed here.

Turbo time with respect to road time

I tend to disagree with your experts on this matter. It does depend on what your road rides would be like.

I had a club run a year or two ago with a colleague who is in the British squad. He was riding with the Powercranks which actually measured how long he'd been pedalling for. The time recorded on that was only about 50% of the time we'd actually been out. The rest of the time he'd been freewheeling or soft pedalling.

If you are out by yourself, then it would even things up a bit more, but in my experience - you can't freewheel very long on the turbo, and an hour of turbo time is much harder than an hour of road riding.

Les Kennedy
Wirral, UK

Cyclingnews editor Jeff Jones replies:

I agree that you can't really freewheel on a turbo, but on most of my rides I do almost zero freewheeling. Most of them are dead flat, with no traffic (riding along the canal paths) and no corners, not to mention the wind. Even getting out of town (Gent) doesn't require any stopping at traffic lights. If I'm riding in the hills it's a bit different of course, although the hills aren't particularly long around here. So it does depend on your terrain and who you go with.

All bets are off in a bunch ride though I can't believe how much power you save sitting on wheels.

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