Cutting-Edge Cycling
Hunter Allen Stephen Cheung

Ended: May 3, 2012

On the whole, however, the aerobic system got the most stress and should respond by improving, and because cycling is primarily an endurance sport, the primary emphasis is to maximize aerobic capacity. Therefore, the bulk of a well-designed training program features large doses of long rides and relatively long intervals to stress the aerobic system, supplemented with smaller doses of hard group rides and races.
Nor does it mean that a 5-minute all-out effort entails exercising at precisely 100 percent of O2max (most athletes can sustain a power that would elicit 105 to 110 percent of their O2max for this duration).
In a review of the existing literature on mixing high-intensity exercise into the base training phase, Paton and Hopkins (2004) found that adding high-intensity training during the off-season appeared to improve endurance performance even in elite athletes. Specifically, the survey suggested that efforts near or beyond power output at O2max were most beneficial overall, possibly because they stimulated all the major metabolic pathways (alactic, anaerobic, and aerobic).
work from John Hawley showing that when highly trained cyclists replaced approximately 15 percent of their normal aerobic training with a series of high-intensity intervals (repeated 4-minute efforts at 85 percent of O2max) over a period of several weeks, simulated race performance was improved.
Many people do not appreciate that the majority of energy provision during repeated sprint efforts is derived from oxidative (i.e., aerobic) energy metabolism. This is true even during the most extreme sprint protocols. What many people consider anaerobic training is actually a very potent aerobic training stimulus.
      Generally speaking, I do believe that some occasional high-intensity efforts should be included with off-season training, if only to alleviate boredom and to serve as a periodic physiological reminder of the cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and metabolic adaptations that may be unique to this type of training. The time-efficient nature of HIT should also not be overlooked, even in the off-season. My bias is that HIT can facilitate, or contribute to, the building of a big aerobic base and that these terms should not be considered mutually exclusive.
Further, the definition of tapering may need to be expanded beyond the current interpretation of continually maintaining a reduced training load all the way through the lead-up to the competition. Although not proven in human studies, mathematical models suggest that an initial taper followed by a second phase of a return to a near normal (50 to 80 percent) training load two to three days immediately before the event may initiate further adaptation and prime the body for performance on race day without adding significantly to fatigue (Thomas et al. 2009).
The length of the event plays a role in determining tapering strategy. For a longer event like a road race or long stage race, fitness is paramount over freshness, so a rider can risk being a little less fresh entering those events because fitness will win the day. No one ever won the Tour de France after resting on the couch for two months beforehand!
Shorter events require more anaerobic capacity, and anaerobic capacity is filled to the brim with more rest. If you are preparing for a 2-minute hill climb time trial, after you have the fitness, a full week or 10 days of rest and easy riding to top off the anaerobic tank will likely be the best training.
Specifically, optimal tapering seems to be achieved with a 41 to 60 percent reduction in overall volume. So if you’re used to a 10-hour training week with 5 days of riding and 2 days of breakthrough workouts, the volume might drop to 1-hour rides, but you should generally still do five of them, and two of them should remain condensed interval or sprint workouts.
In addition, the ideal tapering duration seems to be at least 2 weeks.
In summary, in athletes working to get to the top, motivation for the “right” reasons, especially those based on self-improvement goals rather than external rewards, appears to be important.
antioxidant supplementation may positively affect immune response only when an athlete is participating in extreme exercise or is near the state of overtraining.
A parallel study, also from the Australian Institute for Sport, investigated the efficacy of hydrotherapy interventions on recovery from daily sessions of hard cycling workouts (Vaile et al. 2008b), using a research design analogous to either a hard training block or stage racing (figure 5.3). For 5 consecutive days, subjects performed an intense 105-minute cycling protocol, consisting of 66 maximal sprints ranging from 5 to 15 seconds in duration along with two time trials of 2 minutes and a 5-minute time trial, followed by 14 minutes of cold-water immersion, contrast water therapy, hot-water immersion, or passive recovery. Sprint power had trends toward decreasing following passive and hot-water immersion but trended toward a slight increase following cold and contrast baths. Although not statistically significant, the same pattern of results was evident with subsequent time trial performance; a slight decrement occurred in average power with passive recovery, but maintenance or a slight improvement occurred with cold and contrast baths.
These studies suggest that cold-water baths have a strong potential for improving recovery in testing that is realistic for cyclists. But no clear consensus has emerged on the effectiveness of cold-water immersion, because other recent, well-controlled studies were unable to find any benefit.
Thus, when riding in the early parts of a race, a lower cadence may leave more in the tank for the latter decisive phases of the race.
Overall, the ability to produce higher power when sprinting and standing is obvious and intuitive, as are the higher heart rates when climbing and standing. The main novelty of the study comes in the analysis of efficiency, especially the finding that no differences occur in efficiency or economy whether standing or seated. This result means that, although standing creates more stress on the aerobic and cardiovascular system, it does not necessarily cause a decrease in efficiency itself. So standing is not going to cost more energy to perform when you factor in the greater power that you are generating. One obvious caveat is that extended standing while climbing must be practiced to optimize economy.