Archive for June 29, 2009

Championship Physiology/VO2max Fitness

Posted in Championship Physiology on June 29, 2009 by bethleasure

Suspended Ceiling

1“VO2max is your fitness ceiling…”    Angie Sturtevant, CycleOps Power Master Training Specialist 


Producing an Enviable Data Point

Producing an Enviable Data Point

Championship cycling requires stellar physiology. Some of this physiology is fixed and some can be trained. Current tests to determine potential, track progress, and measure training effectiveness center around power at LT and VO2max. Simply, VO2max is the maximum oxygen the body can use to convert nutrients to energy to produce power, work, and speed. At the given test point, it determines if your ceiling is high enough to compete at a certain level.

Exceptions are seen in some exceptional riders, and it’s a paradox that this scale is both fixed – determined by genetics and it also slides – and can be improved with training. Riders exchange bragging rights about test results, but as the predictor of performance, VO2max’s so-called ceiling falls short as a hard and fast determinant of potential. Indeed, 2values within ranges for superstar cyclists vary a bit. It’s true VO2max scores may indicate fitness at a given time, but not necessarily potential.

Other predictors of performance, namely power output in relation to body weight sustained over various time periods, offer a clearer profile of types and levels of competitiveness at test time. A recent 3study of regional versus elite winners showed nearly identical ranges of VO2max, but the elite group had more type 1 muscle fibers to produce more watts than the regional level group. More watts at similar oxygen uptake levels mean the more powerful rider will outride a fellow lungman. Further, 4phenoms whose muscles burn less at hard effort can go harder longer. All these figures can be improved with training.

A more relevant use for VO2max test results is to track efficacy and progression of training. Training max oxygen consumption is necessary to move toward set genetic limits of top-end effort and sustain riding at percentages of those limits. This is intense training that requires ruthless effort and total focus.

Prayer for VO2max Fitness
“For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert.” 5Isaiah 25:4-5


We are aware most of us don’t begin to reach limits. We pray to improve VO2max fitness.

Ponder What is my top range for VO2max? Affirm I have the focus to improve the values within that range. I know what values mean in terms of various levels of competitiveness. Watch power/watts increase specific to the zones of effort you work.


1“Featured Athletes: Boosting Threshold & VO2 Max to Achieve Fitness & Performance,” posted by Angie Sturtevant, CycleOps Power Master Training Specialist, on Tuesday, 08 January 2008

2Internet chatter claims 77-92ml/kg for cycling stars from Armstrong to Indurain to Lemond to Merckx. This was on a blog somewhere so who knows its veracity or accuracy or the test period. It is only one data point taken in an unknown context. The ultimate predictor of performance was what was achieved.

Lance Armstrong 83.8 ml/kg-min
Indurain – 88
Eddy Merckx – 77
Bernard Hinault – 87
Greg Lemond – 92.5

3“Elite Cyclists Group 1 versus Regional Cyclists Group 2,” Coyle EF, Feltner ME, Kautz SA, Hamilton MT, Montain SJ, Baylor AM, Abraham LD, Petrek GW, Med Sci Sports Exerc 23; 93-107 1991 presented by Stephen J. MacGregor, PhD, Applied Physiology Laboratory, Eastern Michigan University in “Mythbusters” a webinar by USA Cycling on 3/18/08

4Armstrong and Janet Evans, multiple long-standing world record holding swimmer, showed about 6mmol/ml peak blood lactate levels where most catapult to 22 mmol/ml meaning higher muscle “burn.” Evans recorded a “low” VO2max value in the 50’s but with muscles that experienced less burn at higher intensities.

5The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society