Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recently on

Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese ( is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart ( is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier ( is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer ( has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel ( is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Richard Stern ( is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer ( is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Kim Morrow ( has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Fitness questions and answers for April 12, 2004

Climbing improvement for sprinters
Training for hills when you don't have hills
Bike set-up
Gym strength to bike strength

Climbing improvement for sprinters

It has been interesting reading the recent features on sprint training etc on Cyclingnews. As a sprinter myself I am beginning to struggle with a few things. My coach and I have been developing my sprint over the past few years. Sprinting comes easy to me. Positioning in the pack is usually not a problem, I am aggressive and feel quite at home bumping elbows with people. I agree that sprinting is partially genetics, as is climbing for some people. Body type and muscle tissue type all play a role. My struggle is trying to make it OVER the climb for sprint points and the finishes.

1. I am not a naturally good climber, yet I still seem to be spending a lot of time training sprints, where I feel I should be climbing more and doing more climbing drills. What would Cipo do??

2. Training sprints is fine, but it never really simulates race situation (unless motorpacing) where your heart rate is 178 and then you have to sprint. Is doing sprints at, say, 150bpm a waste of time as you are not getting into the zone that you should be training anyway?

In short, how do I get my massive calves and quads over the hill with the climbers? Or do I switch to track?!

Gina Grain
Victory Brewing team

Scott Saifer replies:

I'm going to reply to your question because I feel I've done a very good job with athletes in your situation. You seem to have identified your weaknesses well and that's the first step. The next step is the tough part and fixing those weaknesses so they are not your weakness anymore or they are significantly better than where you started from.

Agreed, sprinters have been touted as the guys and gals that sit and wait - wait for 200m (or about 8-12 seconds of racing). The part that people don't realize is that getting there is harder than it looks. What I would have a rider in a situation such as yours would be to concentrate on getting you to the finish. Once you get to the finish, you feel pretty confident, right? Get to the finish and you can show off that fast sprint. What that's going to take is discipline and a goal to improve your blood lactate tolerance. If you have the ability to do so, I suggest having that measured in a lab with a standard lactate threshold (LT) protocol. They'll measure a small blood sample at certain time intervals, monitor and graph the results. The results should look like a hockey stick. Low and flat across the test, then exponentially increase toward the end of the test. What you don't want it to look like is a straight line from the bottom left to the upper right of a graph.

NOTE: If you do not have the resources to do this type of test in a lab, a fairly accurate way (although debatable) to determine your lactate threshold is to perform a 30 minute time trial on flat terrain. After the first 10 minutes, record your average hart rate and/or watts over the last 20 minutes of the time trial. Use these values.

What do I do with that information you ask? I can tell you right now that with everything else being normal, this is why you cannot contest a lot of finishes. You haven't done enough lactate threshold training. Lactate threshold training is training 100-103% of your lactate threshold - in watts or heart rate. It teaches your body to metabolize the lactic acid and use it as an energy source as much as possible. If you can train yourself to have low blood lactate accumulation over time, you will have so much left over for the sprint at the end.
This takes time and patients however. I coach a guy who is very fast in the sprints and has been for years. It's taken him years to develop into a rider than can win a local level pro 1,2 race. Patients. Add these type of workouts and I think you'll see an improvement. 20-25 minutes at and slightly above LT. Rest 10-15 minutes and repeat 2-4 times (varying on ability). The rest is important because you are flooding the muscles with lactic acid but you need to give it time to recover enough. It takes more time typically than it "feels" like.

Now, for sprint workouts that are more conducive to racing. As a similar principle to the LT workout, you'll need to flood your legs with high levels of lactic acid (sometimes up to as much as 15mmol) and produce successive, quality efforts. If you're talking about a road race or criterium, there will always be several smaller sprints within the sprint. That will including establishing and maintaining position in the field. It sounds like you know where to be so that's an advantage you have as well. The workout of choice for you will be all-out (maximal sustainable) sprints of equal work:rest ratios but decreasing with time. Example: 45sec:45sec, 30sec:30sec, 20sec:20sec, 10sec and you're done. Repeat one other time with full recovery in between each set (FULL recovery = 20-30minutes for this exercise)

Try talking to your coach about adding these types of workouts. With some justification, he or she may be very receptive. It's worked extremely well in my experience for athletes similar to your situation.

Training for hills when you don't have hills

I live in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, and we have no hills! I am training for some rides that have 1,500 metre climbs, what is my best approach? Move!?


Georg Ladig replies:

Well, moving to a mountainous area would definitely help...

BUT you can also improve your climbing ability in the flats. The demands for climbing are pretty much the same as for time trialing. To lay the foundation for high power build up force first. I would recommend you do some big gear efforts in the flats at low RPMs - around 50 - as intervals. With really big gears like 53x11 and maybe the little help of a headwind or false flats you might end up a little below threshold power (upper high endurance zone, 85% of threshold power) at 50-60 RPMs - depending on your fitness (in the mountains you would do 30-50 RPM). Jan or Lance would need pretty strong headwinds. Sit upright to increase aerodynamic resistance. Intervals: 3-5 x 5-7 min with 6 min recovery after each. Look at proper technique: try very smooth strokes. Do one leg intervals at low RPMs too, to improve technique. Try to push as early in the spinning circle as possible.

To check out the relation between power, gear ratio and speed use our calculators for gears and power/speed.

Train big gear intervals for 3-4 weeks. Then recover for a week. Pick up the training again and do aerobic power intervals for another 3 weeks (at and around threshold). Spin at 90-100 RPMs in the flat. Intervals: 3-5 x 3-20 minutes (increase length over time). Best would be to gain some practice at climbs - but if no climbs are available...

Try to build in a vacation/training camp in the mountains for a couple of days to get used to the different stroke when gravity is pulling you backward.

After these 7-9 weeks your climbing ability should have improved. Let us know if it works.

Ric Stern adds:

I don't believe that riding a large gear (e.g., 53 x 11) at low cadence (e.g., 50 revs/min) will provide the forces and benefit you require, unless your fitness is low (which we don't know). Using the above gear and cadence combo, on flat roads you'll end up riding at just under 31 km/hr, which is likely to require a quite low power output of maybe somewhere between 120 and 200 W. Depending on your fitness, this may be a long way below your threshold, and as power is decreased so are the forces at the pedal.

If you increase the power at which you ride, then under given conditions the speed at which you're traveling will increase. As your speed increases, so will your cadence. Depending on what power you produce at TT effort, and the cadence associated with it, the force could be above or below the 53 x 11 mentioned above. It's also possibly going to be below the forces required when going uphill.

Additionally, I don't believe that there's any evidence that one-legged training is beneficial (unless you only have one leg) and pedaling 'smoothly' isn't borne out by research. Coyle et al., 1991, found that when comparing two groups of well trained cyclists the elite group of cyclists produced more power by stomping down on the cranks and pulling up less, whereas the national level group of cyclists pulled up more and generated less power on the down stroke.

In practice, if you want to improve your climbing ability, then the major component of this is to increase your fitness (i.e., VO2max, lactate threshold, and TT power). This will allow you to sustain more power. I don't believe that pedaling at very low cadences without specifying a specific power output is useful or is beneficial. In other words increase your power first and everything else will follow.

Furthermore, training on some hills will be beneficial and you should have a go on some before your main event as the forces at a given power will undoubtedly be higher (due to lower cadences).


I'm a 22yr old male road cyclist interested in boosting my recovery following hard rides. I use Endurox and I recently purchased the massaging "stick" to work on some self massage. Is it necessary for self massaging to be somewhat uncomfortable to derive benefits from it? What about using a balm such as Freddy's Choice in aiding recovery? Any other ways to make my legs feel fresher on the next ride?

Zombor Zoltani
Waterville, Maine

Dario Fredrick replies:

The recovery benefits of massage do not necessarily require uncomfortable, deep work. While deep tissue massage can release tight areas and even help align joints, a lighter, more "flushing" massage may also help by improving circulation to the muscles involved. Although there is minimal scientific literature on the performance (& recovery) benefits of massage, most cyclists find massage to be an important aspect of their recovery regimen. Another way to improve circulation and flush the legs is to lie on your back with your legs up a wall for 5-10min. Additionally, to feel fresh on your subsequent rides is with good post ride nutrition, hydration and adequate sleep.

Bike set-up

I've just bought a new road bike, a compact M/L Titanium frame with Dura Ace ensemble. My previous bike was one I bought in 1988, a steel 57cm Reynolds 531 frame with SunTour Cyclone ensemble.

I have measured the seat height (from BB), and bar distance (from seat), to make sure it matches with my older bike. Obviously it feels very weird because of so many differences between the two (been riding the old one since '87 too. I call myself a social rider - 35 yrs young, 76 kg - did a bit of racing as a youngster (focused on track).

Here are some differences between the two bikes:

175 mm cranks (had 170 mm)
44cm bars (had 42)
9 speed STI (had 7 speed friction down-tube)
compact ML frame (had 57cm conventional)
Titanium (had steel)
53/39 chainrings (had 52/42)

I am a bit concerned that this may be too much change. Is my concern a valid one or will I get used-to the new setup? Or is there something in particular I should be careful of e.g. the longer cranks?

Virgo Martin

Georg Ladig replies:

No reason to worry about too many changes.

Your approach to control the position of the contact points - saddle, handlebar, pedal - is correct. How the frame looks between these contact points is of secondary interest - rather an esthetic question.

If you want to reproduce your old position you should also check the horizontal saddle position and measure the distance saddle-bar AFTER adjusting the horizontal saddle position. The back-forward position of the saddle has a major impact on the pedal stroke. The easiest way is to measure the horizontal distance between saddle nose and bottom bracket center (use a plumb and similar saddles when comparing the two bikes).

We have a little Excel spreadsheet to work on the bike position. Check it out.

Five millimeter difference in crank length is no problem at all. Don't push too hard in the beginning, use small gears and you will get used to it within a couple of rides. You might notice that you tend to spin a little bit slower in the beginning due to the bigger circle you pedal. A sufficient starting point for the seat height adjustment is the distance bb-center saddle. The actual seat height is also a matter of the pedal-shoe combination you use, of your shape and so on. Lower the saddle if the movement does not feel smooth. You can rise the saddle later again. You develop more power at higher height but will find it harder to pedal smooth and need to find a compromise. The wider bar might slow you down at top speed (higher aerodynamic drag) but usually improves bike handling.

53/39 works with fewer intersections than 52/42 and is therefore a clear advantage and you will love the nine speed STI. The frame material is no question at all. The noticeable bike performance is a matter of dimensioning and engineering and the resulting frame stiffness not of the material used. Probably your Ti frame is stiffer in the bottom bracket compared to your old steel frame due to the compact frame design. For sure it's lighter!

Have fun with your new bike!


As daylight saving has just finished in our state, any training time out on the road after work hours is now pretty much zero. I am mid forties and have been racing for about 18 months with the vets on the weekends and also mid week up until our day light disappeared. The question is that I Need to increase my LT and vo2 max but would like to spend some nights off the wind-trainer and do something else. Is interval training on a rowing machine a viable option? There seems to be so much information out there regarding LT and vo2 max training, however some of this info is conflicting so it can be difficult at times working out what the hell is the best thing to do!

Greg Lipple

Ric Stern replies:

Assuming that by LT you mean your TT power, then hard training such as this and VO2max should be done specifically on the bike, as the training adaptations occur at the specific joint angles and velocities that are trained. Of course there may be some *small* cross over, which is more likely with the lower your absolute fitness level is.

I'd be more tempted to do low intensity exercise as cross training, rather than moderate or high intensity work, which should be done exclusively on the bike.

More ideas for winter work can be seen here.

Gym strength to bike strength

I am 50, 5ft 9in, 170 lbs., with 10 percent body fat. I have ended my off-season leg weight gym program except for a 1 day a week light maintenance workout. I race in the NorCal district and do reasonably well (top 10) in my age group in sanctioned races. What type of on the bike training regime will help me transfer strength gain in the gym to strength on the bike.


Ric Stern replies:

Strength training doesn't have any beneficial effects on performance, unless there's an increase in muscle cross sectional area (hypertrophy). This will cause an increase in peak (sprint) power, and is the reason why 200-m, 500-m TT, and 1-km TT track sprinters are so large.

During endurance cycling performance (i.e., any cycling that last more than about 90seconds) the forces limiting performance are not related to strength (which is maximal force), but are more related to metabolic and cardio-respiratory factors (e.g., VO2max, lactate threshold). Strength may be an issue in certain people (e.g., frail old ladies, people with some forms of functional disability, etc). However, in general, most people (and this includes non-trained, age, gender, and mass matched healthy controls) can generate the same power as elite cyclists. The difference being that elite cyclists can maintain the power for far longer periods of time. Therefore, this isn't a lack of strength but related to not being aerobically fit enough.

Going back to your question, if you've not had an increase in muscle cross sectional area, then your gains in weight training have been neuromuscular in nature, and there is no crossover to increased cycling performance. if you've had an increase cross sectional area then some sprint training will help improve your sprint ability. however, it should be noted that an increase in cross sectional area will result in a decrease in aerobic ability, as muscle mitochondria and capillary density will decrease. additionally, the increased mass will mean that you have more weight to lug uphill without an increase in sustainable power, which will mean you go slower at a given power uphill.

Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles