June 8, 2023


Appreciate your health

Two Very Different Ways of Riding the Tour de France

I’d never say it to their faces, but as a scrawny length runner I’ve generally liked seeing muscle-bound decathletes run their remaining party, the 1,500 meters. They make it glance nearly as hard as the pole vault would be for me. Of study course, they never basically have to race from center-length experts. In cycling, on the other hand, the sprinters, time-trialists, climbers, and all-arounders all contend in the similar Grand Tours. Envision, for case in point, if Usain Bolt had to end the marathon within just a sure time limit in get to begin the 100-meter final the up coming working day. What would that acquire?

A pair of new reports in the International Journal of Sporting activities Physiology and Functionality offers a unique appear at power details collected by retired German sprinter Marcel Kittel, who about the training course of his vocation gained 14 Tour de France phases. Line that up subsequent to a equivalent analyze published last calendar year showing the electrical power info of Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin, an all-arounder who has received the Giro D’Italia and positioned second all round in the Tour de France, and you have a distinctive window into the physiological needs of a Grand Tour from two very distinctive views.

All a few scientific tests have been led by Teun Van Erp, who labored with both of those Kittel and Dumoulin as a sports scientist when they had been racing with what is at present known as Team DSM (formerly Staff Sunweb and Group Shimano, between other names). He’s now a postdoc at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. I have published about his analysis with the Staff DSM cyclists a handful of times earlier: he and his colleagues located that subjective steps like perceived energy feel to be as very good as superior-tech measures like ability meters for monitoring teaching load, and in an additional research in comparison racing facts from their men’s and women’s workforce. 

One way of quantifying the needs of a Grand Tour is the time a rider spends in each individual of their 5 distinct electricity zones, which are based on their practical threshold energy. Here’s what that appeared like for Dumoulin, an all-close to rider who is especially excellent at time trials and climbing, in excess of the training course of 4 distinctive Grand Tours: 

tour de france
(Illustration: Medicine & Science in Sports & Physical exercise)

These are races that include 2,200 to 2,500 miles in 85 to 95 hours around the course of a few months, so it is not surprising that about 80 p.c of the time is spent in the three low-depth zones. The race is received and misplaced in rather shorter periods of time, notably on mountain climbs that normally consider 20 to 30 minutes.

Which is the details for Dumoulin, a man who weighs about 150 lbs . and has to be competitive in flat stages, mountain levels, and time trials in purchase to be in the hunt for the total title. But what about Kittel, who weighs just underneath 200 lbs, considerably of it in the kind of thigh muscle mass? He desires that muscle mass to uncork big electrical power in finishing sprints at the stop of flat stages, but the character of the Grand Tour usually means he also has to lug that muscle about the mountain passes—and nevertheless end in a cutoff that ranges from about 7 to 22 p.c behind the winning time.

At initially glance, Kittel’s knowledge seems to be very equivalent. Here’s the very same graphs for four editions of the Tour de France:

tour de france
(Illustration: Worldwide Journal of Sporting activities Physiology and Overall performance)

But Kittel is in fact expending 25 to 30 per cent of his time in the major two zones, in contrast to 20 percent for Dumoulin. “What astonished me the most was how significantly heavier a Grand Tour was for Marcel compared to Dumoulin,” Van Erp explained to me in an e-mail. “Further, he has to invest an exceptionally large sum of time in z4 and z5 on the mountains situated in the initial portion of the race to be in a position to continue to be in the grupetto [i.e. the main pack of non-climbers who fall behind during a mountain stage].”

In the 2017 Tour, Kittel received 5 levels, including the 10th and 11th. In the 12th stage, which showcased three big climbs, he concluded 170th, more than 34 minutes powering the phase winner. He’s like the decathlete battling by means of a 1,500, and you could believe he’s lollygagging, saving up his power for the upcoming sprint stage. But here’s the very same info broken down by various varieties of stage: flat, semi-mountainous, mountainous, and time trial. Choose a search at how tricky he’s functioning on all those mountain stages!

tour de france
(Illustration: Worldwide Journal of Sporting activities Physiology and Performance)

(The time trials are way shorter, normally fewer than fifty percent an hour, so are ridden at a much better depth.)

One way of evaluating physiology among the unique sorts of riders is to glance at electrical power output (which is generally measured by a energy meter that detects how challenging you are pressing on the pedals) divided by fat. The more you weigh, the larger the energy you require to be in a position to sustain, unique for uphill climbs where other components like aerodynamics really do not subject as substantially. Dumoulin’s useful threshold electric power ranged concerning 5.8 and 6. watts per kilogram in the many years coated by the examine Kittel, doing work versus a a great deal larger body weight, was 4.9 W/kg. The latter number, Van Erp argues, is probably the bare minimum amount needed to complete a Grand Tour without missing any cutoffs.

The second paper on Kittel’s knowledge usually takes a deep dive into dash techniques for the duration of two intervals of his job: with Staff Shimano in 2013-2014, and with Workforce Quick-Move in 2016-2017. These sprints are extremely choreographed, relying on a series of domestiques to guide the sprinter into place for a likely win at the incredibly conclusion of the race.

With Shimano, Kittel’s electrical power output tended to be bigger in between ten minutes and 30 seconds from the finish, resulting in a better posture as the dash begun. With Speedy-Step, he did not perform as tough in the direct-up to the sprint and experienced worse positioning as a result, but was able to accelerate harder starting with 30 seconds left. Kittel was good enough to win sprints with either strategy, but that may possibly not be true for most sprinters, Van Erp suggests. It is a superior level to remember: the finishing dash is constantly memorable, but the race is usually won or misplaced in the struggle for very good posture in advance of the true sprint begins.

A person of the neat matters in biking is all the subplots happening on any presented working day of a Grand Tour. Some riders are making an attempt to acquire the stage other individuals are striving to shift up the general rankings some others are making an attempt to pick up points by profitable climbs or intermediate primes. It turns out that there’s yet another layer of drama heading on at the back of the pack, as the sprinters test to stay clear of elimination—and the physiology indicates that, by some measures, they are doing work even more difficult than the leaders. When the Grand Tours resume this summer months, here’s hoping for some excellent screen time for the grupetto.

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