Tearing off like a bat out of hell might get you a good time for the first few miles, but as the expenditure catches up with you, you’ll pay the price later.
However, setting a leisurely pace that enables you to feel good right to the end might leave you wondering just how much faster you could have gone if you’d pushed harder earlier on.
There’s no one right answer to this question because the distance, terrain and wind conditions of an event all pay a part in determining the best pacing strategy. Now, two new studies suggest that something called ‘gross efficiency’ — basically how efficiently your muscles convert chemical energy released during aerobic exercise into forward motion on the bike — is also critical for determining your best pace.
In the first study, the researchers looked at whether gross efficiency (GE) changed after time trials of different distances. To do this, cyclists completed GE tests, consisting of sub-maximal exercise performed before and after time trials of different length: 500m, 1km, 2km, 4km, 15km, and 40km. What they found surprised them.
Previously a cyclist’s GE was thought to be constant, only changing gradually in response to weeks or months of training. However, the GE of the cyclists was significantly lower immediately after the time trials compared to before.
In the shorter time trials, the drop in GE was linear, while in the 40km time trial, it dropped linearly at first before stabilising later in the time trial.
Why does this matter? Well, a lower GE means that muscles become less efficient at producing energy aerobically, which (for a given pace) means that the proportion of energy produced anaerobically has to increase. But more anaerobic energy means more fatiguing by-products, which means that the original pace may no longer be sustainable over longer distances.
In a follow-up study, the proportion of anaerobic work was calculated in 18 trained competitive cyclists over four time trial distances: 500m, 1km, 2km, and 4km. The results showed that the rapid drop in GE over shorter distances meant that the cyclists were having to derive 30 per cent more energy from their anaerobic energy systems than had originally been calculated from pre-exercise measurements.
The bigger picture
What does this mean for cyclists seeking the best pacing strategy? Well, a steady drop in GE as distance covered increases means that a sustainable pace over, say, 2km will be even less sustainable over 10km than you might otherwise assume.
This is because fatiguing by-products will accumulate even more rapidly in the later stages of the distance as GE declines – i.e. in a non-linear way. However, once you’ve covered around 15km or so, your GE begins to stabilise, which means that if you can sustain a given pace at, say, the 10-mile mark, there’s a good chance you will be able to maintain the same pace for longer distances.
- Applying the science
For short time trial distances under 10km, the decline in GE is significant, which means you might get better results by slightly reducing your initial pace.
- Your heart rate is an excellent indicator of how anaerobic your pace is (when you start to accumulate significant levels of lactate, you’ll notice a sudden increase in heart rate). For this reason, heart-rate monitors provide better pacing feedback than speed or power meters.
- Regardless of time trial distance, in undulating conditions you should allow your effort to increase by up to 10 per cent on the uphill sections and drop a similar amount on the downhills, as research demonstrates this strategy is likely to produce a faster time (1). The same applies (to a lesser degree) in headwinds and tailwinds respectively (2).
Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2014 Jun 6. [Epub ahead of print]
1. Int J Sports Med. 2011 Feb;32(2):132-6
2. Ergonomics. 2000 Oct;43(10):1449-60
Adapted from Cycling Weekly
Yes training will be on this Wednesday 4th and Friday 6th May 2016 @ 5.45am sharp !
Adapted from Cycling Weekly
Yes training will be on this Wednesday 27th and Friday 29th April 2016 @ 5.45am sharp !
Here are three of the must-do cycling specific exercises that are the staple post ride flexibility work of the Great Britain Cycling Team and Team Sky cyclists.
Yes training will be on this Wednesday 20th and Friday 22nd April 2016 @ 5.45am sharp !
A large Ciclismo contingent went west for this year’s Blayney to Bathurst – and we all had a great weekend.
We started by getting 2 gold medals in the NSW State Hillclimb championships as I managed to hang on to my title and Pedro turned himself inside out to win MMAS2. And well done to Dan for 4th by a few seconds.
Sadly the Federation didn’t bother with presentations so we had a couple of our own during the afternoon, that evening and the next day.
Dan and Big Al Smith raced the criterium after doing the Hillclimb in the morning and went very credibly. Al managed to hit the ground trying to corner at warp factor but got back on his bike to finish the crit despite his injuries.
Sunday was a beautiful day and warm for April in Bathurst. Everyone did very well to achieve their goals – whether it was to finish under 3 hours (well done to all especially Pedro at 2:49) or under 4 hours (well done Prue and for organising Anthony as your domestique) or just to finish a hard 110km.
Dan, Rick and JT finished the 70km in under 2 hours and apparently it was very fast and furious this year.
Special mention should go to :
- Pedro for his gold medal and top 10 finish. See his ride report below
- The GC champions Dan and Al who did all 3 events – Hillclimb, Crits and road race
- Al for completing the crit and riding the 110km with a Ciclismo blue bandage
- All the B2B first timers
- Ela for her great photography and there’s a link to her shots below
- JT for his interview on the start line and 5 seconds of fame
- Rob for driving and looking after everyone’s bikes
We will be back again next year.
Thanks for Ela for her great photography and here’s the album.
B2B 110km – as told by Pedro Gomez
I would like to make a report of my race, but I don’t know if I could tell the story as well as you guys do.
All I can say it was the best/special day of my “sport life” ever! better than when I was 12 yo and scored the victory goal against Atletico de Madrid.
I am so looking forward next year, this year I think that I had some options of getting into the final sprint but I did not know the last few km and I thought that I was God and then they smashed me badly 1km to go, lololol.
but I enjoyed!! Hell yeah! that I enjoyed!! riding and hanging with all those machines. well I lie I s**t my pants in the last descent, when I was doing 80’s!! Scary cat
And we look forward to Pedro’s perspective on next year’s race when we all hope to see him on the podium.