OFF ROAD COMPETITIONS PREDOMINANTLY USE GAS AS A FUEL!

Cycling performance in off-road disciplines is primarily determined by a mix of physiological factors aimed to short, explosive and maximal performances, with the exceptions of the long-distance endurance which is required in the Marathon races.

Three physiological parameters influence the most off-road cycling performance(Coyle et al., 2008):

  • VO2max
  • Thresholds (aerobic and anaerobic)
  • Cycling efficiency (oxygen cost to perform a determined speed or intensity)

Let’s see how these parameters, may determine performance of some of the most popular road cycling races:

  • Mountain Bike Marathon (XCM)
  • Mountain bike Olympic (XCO)
  • Ciclocross (CX)

Three physiological parameters influence the most off-road cycling performance(Coyle et al., 2008):

  • VO2max
  • Thresholds (aerobic and anaerobic)
  • Cycling efficiency (oxygen cost to perform a determined speed or intensity)

Let’s see how these parameters, may determine performance of some of the most popular road cycling races:

  • Mountain Bike Marathon (XCM)
  • Mountain bike Olympic (XCO)
  • Ciclocross (CX)

MOUNTAIN BIKE MARATHON (XCM)

MTB Marathon (XCM) is a mass participation off-road endurance race. These races are conducted at a medium-high intensity ~ 85% of the maximal heart rate with strong involvement of the aerobic system. The anaerobic one is as well partially required. It is indeed crucial, in some fraction of the race, the recruitment of type II (fast) muscle fibers, which are required to sustain the effort effectively. (Impellizzeri et al., 2011). The duration of these races may vary between 3-5 hours. Tracks usually have a variable length between 60-120Km a consistent positive gain +2500-4500+m. (Impellizzeri et al., 2007). During these races, the most of the time spent between the aerobic and anaerobic threshold. About  60% of the race length is performed uphill. Energy requirement may be of ~ 2500-5000+ kcal, according to the track length and the average power expressed by the athlete. (Katharina et al., 2008; Moss et al., 2019; Hawley, 2001). Duration and energy requirements suggest that XCM are events where glycogen depletion may represent a limiting factor (Saltin et al., 1971).

MTB Marathon (XCM) is a mass participation off-road endurance race. These races are conducted at a medium-high intensity ~ 85% of the maximal heart rate with strong involvement of the aerobic system. The anaerobic one is as well partially required. It is indeed crucial, in some fraction of the race, the recruitment of type II (fast) muscle fibers, which are required to sustain the effort effectively. (Impellizzeri et al., 2011). The duration of these races may vary between 3-5 hours. Tracks usually have a variable length between 60-120Km a consistent positive gain +2500-4500+m. (Impellizzeri et al., 2007). During these races, the most of the time spent between the aerobic and anaerobic threshold. About  60% of the race length is performed uphill. Energy requirement may be of ~ 2500-5000+ kcal, according to the track length and the average power expressed by the athlete. (Katharina et al., 2008; Moss et al., 2019; Hawley, 2001). Duration and energy requirements suggest that XCM are events where glycogen depletion may represent a limiting factor (Saltin et al., 1971).

PERFORMANCE MODEL

PERFORMANCE MODEL

≃60-120K

>2500m

BODY COMPOSITION

For the abovementioned reasons, optimal performance in XCM races, requires the highest values of relative power (W/kg), because it correlates with VAM (vertical ascent velocity) expressed in m.h-1 (Gordon et al., 2004). Reference values are similar to those od road disciplines climbers. It is worth notice that in XCM, suitable values of strength in the core and upper limbs appear required as well to properly conduct the bike in the most technical part of the track. (Impellizeri et al., 2005; Faria, 2005).

KEY POINTS

Performance indexesaerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, W/kg @aerobic and anaerobic threshold
Physical determinantsBody Fat 4-10% (man);
12-17% (female)
Physiological determinantsaerobic threshold; anaerobic threshold, VO2max, MFO (maximal fat oxidation rate), endurance
Energy requirements (race)2.000-5.500Kcal
EfficiencyEfficiency of type I and II muscle fibers
Positive gain2500-4500 m
Race length180-360’
MODELLO FISIOLOGICO MODELLO ENERGETICO MODELLO MUSCOLARE
VO2max Aerobic threshold Anaerobic threshold CHO PRO FAT Type I Type IIa Type IIx
** ***** **** ***** *** **** ***** *** **

For the abovementioned reasons, optimal performance in XCM races, requires the highest values of relative power (W/kg), because it correlates with VAM (vertical ascent velocity) expressed in m.h-1 (Gordon et al., 2004). Reference values are similar to those od road disciplines climbers. It is worth notice that in XCM, suitable values of strength in the core and upper limbs appear required as well to properly conduct the bike in the most technical part of the track. (Impellizeri et al., 2005; Faria, 2005).

MOUNTAIN BIKE OLYMPIC

MTB Olympic (XCO) is a mass participation off-road endurance race. It is usually performed with strong involvement of both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems (this last especially in the first part of the race) (Impellizzeri et al., 2007; Stapelfeldt et al., 2004; Baron, 2001). The duration may vary between 1h30’ and 2h30’, on a track which may length 6-9Km and which is required to be completed several times, for a total length usually < 40km (Impellizzeri et al., 2007). The average positive gain is of 1500m. The average intensity is 90% of the maximal heart rate frequency and 84% of VO2max. Usually, 42% of race time is spent above the power intensity correspondent to the anaerobic threshold (Stapelfeldt et al., 2007; Impellizzeri et al., 2002). 40% of the race distance and 66% of race’s time are on average spent uphill; climbs are usually of short length (Impellizeri et al., 2007). For the abovementioned reasons, optimal performance in XCO races, requires the highest values of anaerobic power and capacity, together with maximal aerobic power (VO2max). As well important appears to be strength component of type I and II muscle fibers.

MTB Olympic (XCO) is a mass participation off-road endurance race. It is usually performed with strong involvement of both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems (this last especially in the first part of the race) (Impellizzeri et al., 2007; Stapelfeldt et al., 2004; Baron, 2001). The duration may vary between 1h30’ and 2h30’, on a track which may length 6-9Km and which is required to be completed several times, for a total length usually < 40km (Impellizzeri et al., 2007). The average positive gain is of 1500m. The average intensity is 90% of the maximal heart rate frequency and 84% of VO2max. Usually, 42% of race time is spent above the power intensity correspondent to the anaerobic threshold (Stapelfeldt et al., 2007; Impellizzeri et al., 2002). 40% of the race distance and 66% of race’s time are on average spent uphill; climbs are usually of short length (Impellizeri et al., 2007). For the abovementioned reasons, optimal performance in XCO races, requires the highest values of anaerobic power and capacity, together with maximal aerobic power (VO2max). As well important appears to be strength component of type I and II muscle fibers.

PERFORMANCE MODEL

PERFORMANCE MODEL

≃20-140K

2000m

BODY COMPOSITION

The energy demand of this races seems high ~2000-2500 kcal concerning the event’s duration, which prevalence of glycolytic metabolism (Hawley, 2001). Knowing that the energy derived from fat oxidation, when cycling intensity is higher than the aerobic threshold (Jeukendrupp et al., 2003), is of marginal contribution to total energy requirements, it is of crucial importance, in these races, especially when lasting >90 minutes, the adoption of a nutritional strategy, able to prevent glycogen depletion, possibly resulting in early fatigue. This discipline requires optimal values of relative power (W/Kg), with parameters similar to those of road “all-terrain” road cyclists, and suitable values of strength in the core and upper limbs appear required as well to properly conduct the bike in the most technical part of the track. (Impellizeri et al., 2005; Faria, 2005).

KEY POINTS

Performance indexesAnaerobic threshold, W/K @anaerobic threshold, VO2max W/kg @VO2max
Physical determinantsBody Fat 5-14% (man); 14-19% (female)
Physiological determinantsVO2max, anaerobic threshold, lactate tolerance; buffering capacity
EfficiencyEfficiency of type I and particularly type II muscle fibers
Energy requirements (race)2000-2500 Kcal
Positive gain1000 – 1500 m
Race length90-150 min
MODELLO FISIOLOGICO MODELLO ENERGETICO MODELLO MUSCOLARE
VO2max Aerobic threshold Anaerobic threshold CHO PRO FAT Type I Type IIa Type IIx
***** ** *** **** *** ** *** ***** ***

The energy demand of this races seems high ~2000-2500 kcal concerning the event’s duration, which prevalence of glycolytic metabolism (Hawley, 2001). Knowing that the energy derived from fat oxidation, when cycling intensity is higher than the aerobic threshold (Jeukendrupp et al., 2003), is of marginal contribution to total energy requirements, it is of crucial importance, in these races, especially when lasting >90 minutes, the adoption of a nutritional strategy, able to prevent glycogen depletion, possibly resulting in early fatigue. This discipline requires optimal values of relative power (W/Kg), with parameters similar to those of road “all-terrain” road cyclists, and suitable values of strength in the core and upper limbs appear required as well to properly conduct the bike in the most technical part of the track. (Impellizeri et al., 2005; Faria, 2005).

CICLOCROSS

Cyclocross (CX) is an off-road high-intensity cycling discipline, which requires a consistent involvement of the anaerobic energy system (Carmichael et al., 2017). The duration of these races is of ~ 40-60 minutes, performed on tracks of 2-3km which are required to be repeated several times. Overall positive gain is usually absent. (Union Cycliste International, 2015). Average intensity performed during the 93% of the race time, results to be equal or above anaerobic threshold, with blood lactate concentration at the end of the race which may approximate ~ 8,3 mmol. Energy demand results high if compared to the duration of the event 1000-1500 kcal. (Carmichael et al., 2017; Hawley, 2001). All high intensity, explosive actions, together with the technical part of the track (in which usually an athlete do not pedal), require a high involvement of the anaerobic energy system together with suitable values of strength in type II muscle fibers.

Cyclocross (CX) is an off-road high-intensity cycling discipline, which requires a consistent involvement of the anaerobic energy system (Carmichael et al., 2017). The duration of these races is of ~ 40-60 minutes, performed on tracks of 2-3km which are required to be repeated several times. Overall positive gain is usually absent. (Union Cycliste International, 2015). Average intensity performed during the 93% of the race time, results to be equal or above anaerobic threshold, with blood lactate concentration at the end of the race which may approximate ~ 8,3 mmol. Energy demand results high if compared to the duration of the event 1000-1500 kcal. (Carmichael et al., 2017; Hawley, 2001). All high intensity, explosive actions, together with the technical part of the track (in which usually an athlete do not pedal), require a high involvement of the anaerobic energy system together with suitable values of strength in type II muscle fibers.

PERFORMANCE MODEL

PERFORMANCE MODEL

≃30K

0-200m

BODY COMPOSITION

As these events usually don’t present any positive gain, relative power is indeed not critical (W/kg). (Ebert et al., 2006). However, because of the high number high intensity, exlosive actions, low body fat levels are required.

KEY POINTS

Performance indexesanaerobic threshold; VO2max, Anaerobic capacity (W’)
Physical determinantsBody Fat 8-12% (man); 15-20% (female)
Physiological determinantsVO2max, buffering capacity, lactate tolerance
EfficiencyEfficiency of type I and particularly type II muscle fibers
Energy requirements (race)1000-1500 Kcal
Positive gainAbsent
Race length40-60 min
MODELLO FISIOLOGICO MODELLO ENERGETICO MODELLO MUSCOLARE
VO2max Aerobic threshold Anaerobic threshold CHO PRO FAT Type I Type IIa Type IIx
***** * *** **** *** * * **** *****

As these events usually don’t present any positive gain, relative power is indeed not critical (W/kg). (Ebert et al., 2006). However, because of the high number high intensity, exlosive actions, low body fat levels are required.

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