DIESEL, GAS OR HYBRID?

A mix of factors determines cycling performance, which may help developing, over time, efficiency and endurance or short high-intensity performances (Coyle et al., 2008).

Three physiological parameters influence the most cycling performance:

  • 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:

  • Alpine Granfondo
  • Hilly Granfondo
  • Medium Granfondo (100K)
  • Criterium
  • Short Time Trial

Three physiological parameters influence the most cycling performance:

  • 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:

  • Alpine Granfondo
  • Hilly Granfondo
  • Medium Granfondo (100K)
  • Criterium
  • Short Time Trial

ALPINE GRANFONDO

Alpine Granfondo are mass participation endurance (>4h) or ultra-endurance (>6h) events. Tracks may vary quite substantially, presenting different length and total positive gain. These races are conducted at moderate intensity ~ 80% of the maximal heart rate (aerobic threshold) (Laursen et al., 2011) although, especially during the first part of the race, high-intensity intervals, conducted ~ 90% of the maximal heart rate (anaerobic threshold) may be frequently performed.

Alpine Granfondo are mass participation endurance (>4h) or ultra-endurance (>6h) events. Tracks may vary quite substantially, presenting different length and total positive gain. These races are conducted at moderate intensity ~ 80% of the maximal heart rate (aerobic threshold) (Laursen et al., 2011) although, especially during the first part of the race, high-intensity intervals, conducted ~ 90% of the maximal heart rate (anaerobic threshold) may be frequently performed.

PERFORMANCE MODEL

PERFORMANCE MODEL

≃130-250K

>3000m

BODY COMPOSITION REQUIREMENTS

In such races, as a consequence,  the capacity to oxidize the highest rates of fat as an energy substrate may indeed be of paramount importance (O’Toole et al., 1989) and should be targeted by complementary training and nutritional strategies. The aerobic threshold reflects an athlete’s submaximal aerobic capacity and is among the best predictors of long-distance endurance performance (Yoshida et al., 1987). As Alpine Granfondo present important positive gain, the performance index of greatest importance for an athlete is the relative power (W/Kg) at the aerobic threshold, because it correlates with VAM (vertical ascent velocity) expressed in m.h (Gordon et al., 2014). For the abovementioned factors, a cyclist body mass, in these races, is of crucial importance because it determins the relative power and the average ascent velocity.

In such races, as a consequence,  the capacity to oxidize the highest rates of fat as an energy substrate may indeed be of paramount importance (O’Toole et al., 1989) and should be targeted by complementary training and nutritional strategies. The aerobic threshold reflects an athlete’s submaximal aerobic capacity and is among the best predictors of long-distance endurance performance (Yoshida et al., 1987). As Alpine Granfondo present important positive gain, the performance index of greatest importance for an athlete is the relative power (W/Kg) at the aerobic threshold, because it correlates with VAM (vertical ascent velocity) expressed in m.h (Gordon et al., 2014). For the abovementioned factors, a cyclist body mass, in these races, is of crucial importance because it determins the relative power and the average ascent velocity.

In order to increase power output at the aerobic threshold, it is essential to train all its peripheral and central determinats, such as:

  • Mitochondrial density
  • Oxidative enzymes density
  • Heart stroke volume
  • Peripheral capillarization
  • Selective transformation of muscle fibers form type II (glycolytic) to type I (oxidative)
  • Increase the caliber and strength of type I fibers
  • Selective recruitment of type I muscle fibers
  • Adequate training volume at the intensity of the aerobic threshold, with continuous variations of the training stimulus
  • Increasing the maximal fat oxidation rate MFO

KEY POINTS

Performance indexesaerobic threshold; anaerobic threshol); W/kg @aerobic threshold; W/kg @anaerobic threshold
Physical determinantsBody Mass. Body fat men
Physiological determinantsaerobic threshold, maximal fat oxidation MFO, endurance
Energy requirements (race)≃3.500-5.000+ Kcal
EfficiencySelective recruitment of type I muscle fibers
Positive gain>3000+m
PHYSIOLOGICAL MODEL ENERGY REQUIREMENT MODEL MUSCULAR MODEL
VO2max Aerobic threshold Anaerobic threshold CHO PRO FAT Type I Type IIa Type IIx
* ***** *** **** * *** ***** *** *

In order to increase power output at the aerobic threshold, it is essential to train all its peripheral and central determinats, such as:

  • Mitochondrial density
  • Oxidative enzymes density
  • Heart stroke volume
  • Peripheral capillarization
  • Selective transformation of muscle fibers form type II (glycolytic) to type I (oxidative)
  • Increase the caliber and strength of type I fibers
  • Selective recruitment of type I muscle fibers
  • Adequate training volume at the intensity of the aerobic threshold, with continuous variations of the training stimulus
  • Increasing the maximal fat oxidation rate MFO

HILLY GRANFONDO

Hilly Granfondo are mass participation endurance events, lasting ~ 4h. Performance in these races is mainly determined by subjective thresholds (aerobic and anaerobic), together with the capacity to sustain high-intensity peak of power ≥ VO2max. Hilly Granfondo may present different tracks, with climbs usually characterized by a modest positive gain. For this reason, especially in the early stages of the race, participants commonly perform high intensity intervals ≥ anaerobic threshold with peaks ≥ 130% of VO2max (Bernard et al., 2009). Energy requirements may vary between ~ 3.000Kcal and ~ 4.000Kcal. Duration and energy requirements suggest that  Hilly  Granfondo are events where glycogen depletion may represent a limiting factor (Saltin et al., 1971).

Hilly Granfondo are mass participation endurance events, lasting ~ 4h. Performance in these races is mainly determined by subjective thresholds (aerobic and anaerobic), together with the capacity to sustain high-intensity peak of power ≥ VO2max. Hilly Granfondo may present different tracks, with climbs usually characterized by a modest positive gain. For this reason, especially in the early stages of the race, participants commonly perform high intensity intervals ≥ anaerobic threshold with peaks ≥ 130% of VO2max (Bernard et al., 2009). Energy requirements may vary between ~ 3.000Kcal and ~ 4.000Kcal. Duration and energy requirements suggest that  Hilly  Granfondo are events where glycogen depletion may represent a limiting factor (Saltin et al., 1971).

PERFORMANCE MODEL

PERFORMANCE MODEL

≃120-140K

2000m

BODY COMPOSITION REQUIREMENTS

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, a nutritional strategy, able to prevent glycogen depletion, possibly resulting in resulting in early fatigue. Body mass, as well in these races, has a crucial role because it determines relative power (W/kg) and VAM (Vertical ascent velocity). If compared to Alpine Granfondo, in Hilly Granfondo, it is as well essential absolute power, in order to assure performance when cycling on a flat terrain.

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, a nutritional strategy, able to prevent glycogen depletion, possibly resulting in resulting in early fatigue. Body mass, as well in these races, has a crucial role because it determines relative power (W/kg) and VAM (Vertical ascent velocity). If compared to Alpine Granfondo, in Hilly Granfondo, it is as well essential absolute power, in order to assure performance when cycling on a flat terrain.

In order to improve performance in these races, it is essential to train all its peripheral and central determinants:

  • Mitochondrial density and oxidative enzymes density
  • Peripheral capillarization
  • Heart stroke volume
  • Increased caliber (and strength) of type I and II fibers types
  • Glycolytic power
  • Lactate buffering capacity
  • Training all intensities involved in these race types, such as thresholds (aerobic and anaerobic) and VO2max.

KEY POINTS

Performance indexesaerobic threshold; anaerobic threshold; W/kg @aerobic threshold; W/kg @ anaerobic threshold
Physical determinantsBody mass: Body fat men
Physiological determinantsaerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, VO2max
EfficiencyRecruitment and strength of type II muscle fibers
Energy requirements (race)≃3.000-4.000 Kcal
Positive gain≃2.000m
PHYSIOLOGICAL MODEL ENERGY REQUIREMENT MODEL MUSCULAR MODEL
VO2max Aerobic threshold Anaerobic threshold CHO PRO FAT Type I Type IIa Type IIx
** **** **** ***** ** * **** **** *

In order to improve performance in these races, it is essential to train all its peripheral and central determinants:

  • Mitochondrial density and oxidative enzymes density
  • Peripheral capillarization
  • Heart stroke volume
  • Increased caliber (and strength) of type I and II fibers types
  • Glycolytic power
  • Lactate buffering capacity
  • Training all intensities involved in these race types, such as thresholds (aerobic and anaerobic) and VO2max.

MEDIUM GRANFONDO

Mediofondo are mass participation endurance events, lasting on average between 2.5 and 3.5 hours with a length that rarely exceeds 100km. They are conducted at medium-high intensity, with strong involvement of the aerobic system, while the anaerobic one appears to be minimally recruited, depending on the type of track (Peiffer et al., 2008; Faria, 2005). The average intensity is around 80-85% of the maximal heart rate, with most of the time spent between the aerobic and anaerobic threshold and some high-intensity intervals performed at VO2max. The length and duration of climbs usually require efforts between 5 to 20 minutes. Race’s total positive gain usually vary between 1500m and  2500 m. Total energy expenditure may vary around 1500-3000Kcal.At muscular level, these races require a significant contribution from Type I fibres, and in a minor extent from type II muscle fibres (only when total positive gain result low). [Tanaka et al., 2008; Hawley, 2001]

Mediofondo are mass participation endurance events, lasting on average between 2.5 and 3.5 hours with a length that rarely exceeds 100km. They are conducted at medium-high intensity, with strong involvement of the aerobic system, while the anaerobic one appears to be minimally recruited, depending on the type of track (Peiffer et al., 2008; Faria, 2005). The average intensity is around 80-85% of the maximal heart rate, with most of the time spent between the aerobic and anaerobic threshold and some high-intensity intervals performed at VO2max. The length and duration of climbs usually require efforts between 5 to 20 minutes. Race’s total positive gain usually vary between 1500m and  2500 m. Total energy expenditure may vary around 1500-3000Kcal.At muscular level, these races require a significant contribution from Type I fibres, and in a minor extent from type II muscle fibres (only when total positive gain result low). [Tanaka et al., 2008; Hawley, 2001]

PERFORMANCE MODEL

PERFORMANCE MODEL

≃90-120K

1500m

BODY COMPOSITION REQUIREMENTS

Knowing that 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, a nutritional strategy, able to prevent glycogen depletion, possibly resulting in resulting in early fatigue. Relative power ​​(W/kg) directly correlate with performance in these races, with values ​​similar to all-terrain road cyclists (Faria, 2005, Peiffer et al., 2008). In order to improve performance in these races, all training principles exposed in the hilly Granfondo section need to be applied, although long-distance endurance appears involved to a less extent.

Knowing that 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, a nutritional strategy, able to prevent glycogen depletion, possibly resulting in resulting in early fatigue. Relative power ​​(W/kg) directly correlate with performance in these races, with values ​​similar to all-terrain road cyclists (Faria, 2005, Peiffer et al., 2008). In order to improve performance in these races, all training principles exposed in the hilly Granfondo section need to be applied, although long-distance endurance appears involved to a less extent.

KEY POINTS

Performance indexesaerobic threshold; anaerobic threshold; VO2max, W/kg @aerobic and anaerobic threshold
Physical determinantsBody Mass: Body fat men 6%-11% ; women 13%-19%
Physiological determinantsaerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, VO2max, glycolytic power, buffering capacity.
Energy requirements (race)≃1.500-2.500 Kcal
EfficiencyRecruitment and strength of type II muscle fibers
Positive gain≃1.500m
Race length≃2h30’-3h30’
PHYSIOLOGICAL MODEL ENERGY REQUIREMENT MODEL MUSCOLAR MODEL
VO2max Aerobic threshold Anaerobic threshold CHO PRO FAT Type I Type IIa Type IIx
*** **** ***** ***** ** * **** **** *

CRITERIUM

Criterium and Flat races are high-intensity endurance competitions with strong involvement of the anaerobic system. These events usually last less than 60 km for a total of 60-90 minutes and do not have elevation (or minimal present). An average, 30% of the race time is spent above the anaerobic threshold (usually with cadences > 100 rpm) and 40% of race time is spent at low intensity (below the aerobic threshold). Because of the overall high intensity, despite the short duration, energy requirements remain relatively high (around 1000-1500 kcal), mainly derived from carbohydrates sources. (Padilla et al., 2001; Hawley, 2001). Therefore, optimal performance in these races requires high anaerobic capacity and power, muscle buffering capacity,  together with an important strength component of type II muscle fibers, involved, on average, in 70 sprints lasting form 3 to 30 seconds (1 sprint per minute) in each one of these competitions. (Ebert et al., 2006).

Criterium and Flat races are high-intensity endurance competitions with strong involvement of the anaerobic system. These events usually last less than 60 km for a total of 60-90 minutes and do not have elevation (or minimal present). An average, 30% of the race time is spent above the anaerobic threshold (usually with cadences > 100 rpm) and 40% of race time is spent at low intensity (below the aerobic threshold). Because of the overall high intensity, despite the short duration, energy requirements remain relatively high (around 1000-1500 kcal), mainly derived from carbohydrates sources. (Padilla et al., 2001; Hawley, 2001). Therefore, optimal performance in these races requires high anaerobic capacity and power, muscle buffering capacity,  together with an important strength component of type II muscle fibers, involved, on average, in 70 sprints lasting form 3 to 30 seconds (1 sprint per minute) in each one of these competitions. (Ebert et al., 2006).

PERFORMANCE MODEL

PERFORMANCE MODEL

≃60K

0-500m

BODY COMPOSITION REQUIREMENTS

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

KEY POINTS

Performance indexesanaerobic threshold; VO2max, Anaerobic capacity (W’)
Physical determinantsBody mass: Body fat men 8%-12% ; women 15%-20%
Physiological determinantsanaerobic threshold, VO2max, anaerobic capacity, buffering capacity.
Energy requirements (race)≃1.000-1.500 Kcal
EfficiencyRecruitment and strength of type II muscle fibers
Positive gain≃0-500m
Race length≃1h-1h30’
PHYSIOLOGICAL MODEL ENERGY REQUIREMENT MODEL MUSCOLAR MODEL
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 not critical (W/kg). (Ebert et al., 2006).  However, because of the high number of sprints, low body fat levels are required.

SHORT TIME TRIAL

Short time trials may be performed on a flat road or uphill (usually climbs with 300-500m of elevation). The maximum sustainable power/speed, kept as much constant as possible for the duration of the trial, directly correlates with performance. High values ​​of maximum aerobic power (VO2max) and anaerobic threshold appears to be critical for optimal performances (Loftin et al., 2004). The length of these race is usually limited (up to 10-15 km for flat trials and 5-6 km for uphill trials) and usually does not exceed 20-30 minutes od duration. The average heart rate frequency is about 89% of the maximum heart rate, and 60% of the total time is spent at intensities higher the anaerobic threshold  (Padilla et al., 1999). The total energy requirement is relatively low and may approximate 200-450 kcal. As a result of the abovementioned physiological and energy requirements, it is possible to assume that type II muscle fibers are primarily involved in these trials.

Short time trials may be performed on a flat road or uphill (usually climbs with 300-500m of elevation). The maximum sustainable power/speed, kept as much constant as possible for the duration of the trial, directly correlates with performance. High values ​​of maximum aerobic power (VO2max) and anaerobic threshold appears to be critical for optimal performances (Loftin et al., 2004). The length of these race is usually limited (up to 10-15 km for flat trials and 5-6 km for uphill trials) and usually does not exceed 20-30 minutes od duration. The average heart rate frequency is about 89% of the maximum heart rate, and 60% of the total time is spent at intensities higher the anaerobic threshold  (Padilla et al., 1999). The total energy requirement is relatively low and may approximate 200-450 kcal. As a result of the abovementioned physiological and energy requirements, it is possible to assume that type II muscle fibers are primarily involved in these trials.

PERFORMANCE MODEL

PERFORMANCE MODEL

≃15K

500m

BODY COMPOSITION REQUIREMENTS

In the uphill time trial relative power (W/kg) is crucial, because directly correlates with VAM (vertical ascent velocity) (Gordon et al., 2004). In the time trial performed on a level road, aerodynamics (CX) together with maximal power output are the most important success factors. (Padilla et al., 1999; Hawley, 2001)

KEY POINTS

Performance indexesVO2max; W/kg @ VO2max (for TT uphill); anaerobic threshold; W/kg @anaerobic threshold (forTT uphill)
Physical determinantsBody Fat 8-12% (man); 15-20% (female); for TT uphill  Body Fat 4-10% (man); 12-18% (female)
Physiological determinantsVO2max, Anaerobic Threshold
Energy requirements (race)200-450 Kcal
Positive gain≃0-500m
Race length10-20’
PHYSIOLOGICAL MODEL ENERGY REQUIREMENT MODEL MUSCOLAR MODEL
VO2max Aerobic threshold Anaerobic threshold CHO PRO FAT Type I Type IIa Type IIx
***** * **** ***** * * ** ***** **

In the uphill time trial relative power (W/kg) is crucial, because directly correlates with VAM (vertical ascent velocity) (Gordon et al., 2004). In the time trial performed on a level road, aerodynamics (CX) together with maximal power output are the most important success factors. (Padilla et al., 1999; Hawley, 2001)

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