Can you match it with the peloton in the Tour de France?


Tour de France Physiological Review
Stage 10 of the 2014 Tour de France was won by Italian Vincenzo Nibali and was brutal. It had a total of 7 climbs, 4 of which were rated as category 1. Considering they are only just coming up the half way mark of this incredible sporting event, what does it actually take to compete in this race.

Anthropometric and Physiological Profile of Tour Cyclists

  • TT specialists are generally 180 to 185 cm tall, weigh 70 to 75 kg, and have a BMI ~22 kg/m2.
  • Climbers are generally 175–180 cm, 60–66 kg, BMI 19–20 kg/ m2

Cardiorespiratory Capacity

  • It is suggested that you need a minimum VO2 max of 80 mL . kg–1.min–1 to win the Tour.

Threshold Testing

  • In ramp protocols, using ventilatory methods, Tour participants reach the first ventilatory threshold (VT, approximately equivalent in physiological terms to lactate threshold) at 315–370 W (~70% Wmax or 70–75% VO2max )
  • The best TT specialists or Tour winners are able to maintain higher wattages at onset of blood lactate accumulation (e.g., 505 W, 6.2 W/kg for Miguel Indurain).

Efficiency

It has been reported that professional cyclists (non-Tour competitors) have a higher percentage of type I fibers (64% in total), mitochondrial volume (4.3%), and capillary density for all types of fibers (mean of 589 capillaries/mm2 ) than nonprofessionals.

High muscle efficiency allows higher cadences (>90 rpm) A great example of this is was Lance Armstrong who began to adopt this pattern during the ascents of Sestriere (1999), Hautacam (2000), and Alpe d’Huez (2001), where it is estimated that Armstrong maintained a power output of ~450 W during Alpe d’Huez .

Physiological Demands of the TdF

Zones corresponding to heart rates are obtained in a previous maximal incremental cycle-ergometer test: zone 1 (HR < VT), <70% VO2max ), zone 2 (HR between VT and RCP, 70–90% VO2max ), and zone 3 (HR ≥ RCP, >90% VO2max )

During Flat stages:
  • 70% is spent in zone 1
  • 25% is in zone 2.
  • 5% is in zone 3.
  • Pedal cadence is ~90 rpm and cyclists typically maintain power outputs of 200–250 W.

During Mountain stages:
  • It has been estimated that riders maintain an average power output of 322W during the climbs to the Hors and first-category mountain passes.

During the Time Trial stages:
  • Aerodynamic resistance represents 90% of the whole resistance encountered by the riders at speeds >30 km/h
  • Pedal cadences (90–100rpm)
  • It has been estimated that TT specialists are able to maintain ~400W for up to 60 minutes in long TTs (>40 km)
  • High ranking cyclists are able to maintain >430W for ~26 and ~20 minutes

Why is it so important to mange your workload in the TdF?

Firstly, TRIMPs are a calculated based off time spent in zone 1, 2 and 3. The greater the time in zone 3, the greater the TRIMP score.

The average TRIMP scores for each type of stage are; Flat stage (≤350 TRIMPs) and the mountain stages (≥500 TRIMPs). Hors- and first- and second-category ascents ~600 TRIMPs.

The mountain and time trial stages ultimately decide the overall winner of the TdF. No Human has ever recorded 2 consecutive days of 600 TRIMPs. Hence, rider management is so crucial.

Just for perspective, a marathon is approximately 300 TRIMPs.

Nutrition

The daily energy intake corresponds to ~840 g of carbohydrates, ~200 g of protein, and ~158 g of fat. Hydration levels vary from of 3.3 L/d to 6.7 L/d, depending on the amount of carbohydrates consumed in liquid form (sports drinks)
Reference
Santalla, A. Earnest, C.P. Marroyo, J.A. & Lucia, A. (2012), The Tour de France: An Updated Physiological Review, IJSPP, 7, 200-209