Seasonal changes in aerobic fitness indices in elite cyclists

Sassi, Aldo; Impellizzeri, Franco M.; Morelli, Andrea; Menaspà, Paolo; Rampinini, Ermanno
August 2008
Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism;Aug2008, Vol. 33 Issue 4, p735
Academic Journal
The primary purpose of this study was to compare seasonal changes in cycling gross efficiency (GE) and economy (EC) with changes in other aerobic fitness indices. The secondary aim was to assess the relationship between maximum oxygen consumption, GE, and EC among elite cyclists. The relationships of maximum oxygen consumption with GE and EC were studied in 13 cyclists (8 professional road cyclists and 5 mountain bikers). Seasonal changes in GE and EC, predicted time to exhaustion (pTE), maximum oxygen consumption, and respiratory compensation point (RCP) were examined in a subgroup of 8 subjects, before (TREST) and after (TPRECOMP) the pre-competitive winter training, and during the competitive period (TCOMP). GE and EC were assessed during a constant power test at 75% of peak power output (PPO). Significant main effect for time was found for maximum oxygen consumption (4.623 ± 0.675, 4.879 ± 0.727, and 5.010 ± 0.663 L·min-1; p = 0.028), PPO (417.8 ± 46.5, 443.0 ± 48.0, and 455 ± 48 W; p < 0.001), oxygen uptake at RCP (3.866 ± 0.793, 4.041 ± 0.685, and 4.143 ± 0.643 L·min-1; p = 0.049), power output at RCP (330 ± 64, 354 ± 52, and 361 ± 50 W; p < 0.001), and pTE (17 ± 4, 30 ± 8, and 46 ± 17 min; p < 0.001). No significant main effect for time was found in GE (p = 0.097) or EC (p = 0.225), despite within-subject seasonal changes. No significant correlations were found between absolute maximum oxygen consumption and GE (r = -0.276; p = 0.359) or EC (r = -0.328; p = 0.272). However, cyclists with high maximum oxygen consumption values (i.e., over 80 mL·kg-1·min-1), showed low efficiency rates. Despite within-subject seasonal waves in cycling efficiency, changes in GE and EC should not be expected as direct consequence of changes in other maximal and submaximal parameters of aerobic fitness (i.e., maximum oxygen consumption and RCP). Le but de cette étude est de comparer les variations saisonnières du rendement brut (GE) à bicyclette et de l’économie d’énergie (EC) aux variations des mesures d’autres variables de la condition physique en aérobiose. Cette étude se propose aussi d’analyser la relation entre le consomption maximale d’oxygéne et le GE de même que l’EC chez des cyclistes de niveau élite. Treize sujets composés de 8 professionnels du cyclisme sur route et 5 vététistes participent à cette étude. Avant (TREST) et après (TPRECOMP) l’entraînement d’hiver préparatoire à la compétition et au cours de la saison de compétition (TCOMP), on évalue chez un sous-groupe de 8 sujets les variables suivantes : les variations saisonnières du GE et de l’EC, le temps de performance prédit jusqu’à l’épuisement (pTE), le consomption maximale d’oxygéne et le point de compensation respiratoire (RCP). On évalue aussi les GE et EC au cours d’une épreuve d’effort réalisée à une puissance constante équivalent à 75 % de la puissance de pointe produite (PPO). De saison en saison, on observe une augmentation significative du consomption maximale d’oxygéne (4,623 ± 0,675, 4,879 ± 0,727 et 5,010 ± 0,663 L·min-1; p = 0,028), du PPO (417,8 ± 46,5, 443,0 ± 48,0 et 455 ± 48 W; p < 0,001), du consomption maximale d’oxygéne au RCP (3,866 ± 0,793, 4,041 ± 0,685 et 4,143 ± 0,643 L·min-1; p = 0,049), de la puissance produite au RCP (330 ± 64, 354 ± 52 et 361 ± 50 W; p < 0,001) et de la pTE (17 ± 4, 30 ± 8 et 46 ± 17 min; p < 0,001). Malgré des variations saisonnières chez des sujets, on n’observe pas de variations du GE (p = 0,097) et de l’EC (p = 0,225). De plus, on n’observe aucune corrélation significative entre le consomption maximale d’oxygéne en valeur absolue et le GE (r = -0,276; p = 0,359) ainsi que l’EC (r = -0,328; p = 0,272). Néanmoins, les cyclistes dotés d’un haut consomption maximale d’oxygéne (au-dessus de 80 mL·kg-1·min-1) présentent une plus faible efficacité. Même si, chez des sujets, on observe des oscillations saisonnières au plan de l’efficacité, on ne devrait pas s’attendre à des variations de GE et de EC dues aux variations des valeurs sous-maximales et maximales des variables de la condition physique en aérobiose (consomption maximale d’oxygéne et RCP par exemple).


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