décembre 20, 2022

The principal performance drivers for pro cyclists: Physiology, aerodynamics, team work

The principal performance drivers for pro cyclists: Physiology, aerodynamics, team work

For professional cyclists, body weight, height, and aerodynamics are the main drivers of performance.

A lower body weight  helps cyclist climb hills more easily and accelerate faster, while a taller height provides a better aerodynamic position on the bike, which in turn helps reduce wind resistance and ride faster.

But other factors also impact the performance of cyclists, like their strength, power, and endurance, the fit and design of their bike, as well as the team work.

In the rest of this article we review the influence of these factors that influence the performance of pro cyclists.

body-weight, height, and aerodynamics

The body-fat percentage of a professional cyclist varies depending on the individual, their specific training, and their racing goals.

However, many professional cyclists have a body-fat percentage that's below 10%, which is considered very low for most people (it varies depending on gender, activity level, and overall health, but it's between 10% and 20% for men in their thirties, and between 20% and 30% for women in their thirties).

This low body-fat percentage helps achieve a high level of fitness and performance on the bike, but such a low body-fat percentage put a lot of strain on the body—pro cyclists must maintain a healthy and balanced diet to support their training.

To improve their aerodynamics, pro cyclists can change  their body position on the bike and the design of their bike. For example, they can tuck their elbows in, lower their upper body, and extend their legs to create a more streamlined position on the bike.

They can also use special clothing and equipment, such as aerodynamic helmets and skinsuits, to reduce wind resistance. In addition, they can work with their team and coaches to optimize the design of their bike, including the frame, wheels, and handlebars, to improve aerodynamics.

Finally, professional cyclists can use wind tunnel testing and other technology to measure and fine-tune their aerodynamics for maximum performance.

the VO2max of pro cyclists

VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual uses during intense exercise.

An average individual uses between 20 and 30 mL/kg/min of O2, whereas a pro cyclist, on the other hand, typically has a much higher VO2max, often exceeding 60 mL/kg/min

This higher level of VO2max allows them to perform at a much higher level of intensity and endurance during races and training rides.

To improve their VO2max, pro cyclists rely on a combination of high-intensity interval training and endurance training like short bursts of intense exercise, followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. This training improves increase VO2max and the body's ability to use oxygen.

Endurance training, on the other hand, involves sustained periods of moderate- to high-intensity exercise, such as long distance rides. This training helps the body become more efficient at using oxygen, also leading to an increase in VO2max.

the team effort

Several team strategies and tactics help professional cyclists perform; here's a short list:

By working together, the team members can set specific goals and attempt to achieve those. For example, the team might focus on breaking away from the peloton, on protecting the team leader, or on chasing down breakaway riders.

By communicating effectively with each other during races, team members  share information, which allows them to coordinate the team tactics.

Teammates provide support and assistance to each other, for instance when teammates draft behind to conserve energy, but also to share water bottles, offer encouragement and motivation.

By using the different strengths and abilities of the whole team to create a competitive advantage. For instance, a strong climber may attack on steep hills, and fast sprinters may race for the finishes.

By analyzing data and using technology to improve performance, such as using power meters to monitor their output and GPS tracking to analyze the race tactics.