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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 June 7, 2004

Road race climbing
New shoes
How much fat
Hydration & its effects


I am a 20 year old male student at Cornell. I began road cycling last august and intend on competing a little this summer and next season for my college. I am 185 cm and 72.5 kg and I ride upwards of 200 km a week.

My question involves the intake of caffeine. As a student, I live off coffee. I average about 3-4 cups of coffee a day but during the school year I will sometimes drink 6 cups or more. Now that I am becoming more serious about cycling I am wondering what effects this amount of caffeine can have on my performance. I have read studies that suggest that caffeine can improve your performance, but they never say in what dosage. How much coffee is a safe amount to drink without it adversely effecting my riding and training? Thanks.

Russ Berryman

Pam Hinton replies:

Sounds like you're aspiring to ride for Jittery Joe's one day. And in the world of cycling, you've got a lot of company. I've seen coffee referred to as, "the cyclist's drug of choice." And in fact the next time you're at a big-time professional bike race and you'd like to check out the pros up-close-and-personal, don't bother fighting the crowd for a good spot at the finish line. Instead, go camp in the nearest Starbucks about an hour before the pros go off. You'll find yourself sipping your espresso smack in the middle of one of those Cyclingnews 'pro moments' . And here is why.

Caffeine is a mild stimulant. It interferes with the binding of adenosine, a neurotransmitter with calming effects, to its receptor. Hence, the stimulatory effects on many systems of the body: neural activity in parts of the brain, heart rate and blood pressure, water excretion by the kidneys, and secretion of the "stress hormones" adrenaline and cortisol by the adrenal gland. As you can see, most of these "increases" would be advantageous during competition.

There is considerable evidence from scientific studies that caffeine improves athletic performance in sprints and in endurance events. Enhanced alertness and reaction time contribute to improvements in sprinting. During endurance events, caffeine improves performance by stimulating the release of fatty acids into the blood. This allows increased utilization of fat rather than glucose, so muscle glycogen is not depleted as rapidly and the onset of fatigue is delayed.

Caffeine is metabolized rapidly by the body; peak blood levels occur 30 minutes after oral ingestion and the half-life of caffeine is 4 hours. For this reason, caffeine should be consumed within one hour of an athletic event to have an effect on performance. An effective dose is 2-9 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight and no additional benefit is derived from higher doses. At your body weight of 72.5 kg, this works out to 150-650 mg of caffeine. The caffeine content of coffee varies significantly; an 8-ounce cup may contain 100-300 mg. You should be able to consume 1-2 cups of coffee without experiencing the adverse effects of excess caffeine consumption: anxiety, jitteriness, heart arrhythmias, dehydration and dry mouth.

As with all formulas, this one must be tinkered with and tailored to see what combination works best in which situations. So head down to Collegetown, stop at Ithaca Bakery and have a cup or two before your next training ride. Coffee can be a performance-enhancer to a point. Past that point, all the above adverse side effects start kicking in, which are definitely not going to help your cycling.

Road race climbing

This is more of an inquiry than a personal questions and it pertains to climbing. I've noticed while climbing in a standing position some racers will bend in their knees as if they're slightly squatting while others will almost straighten their leg out as if trying to stretch the cranks. While I know it's an individual matter, what is the preferred method to climb when standing? Or should I say, most efficient?

Thank you,
Darryl Perry

Scott Saifer replies:

I'm sure there is a lot more to this than what I have to say, but one thing I've noticed is that shorter riders (a la Pantani) keep their hips extended and their crotches close to the stem while standing, while taller riders won't fit in that position and have to bend at the waist, bringing their butts closer to or even over the saddle when standing. I'm sure that anyone who's knees are more than a little bent at the bottom of the stroke are wasting some muscle tension that they don't need to make.

New shoes

I am a 28 year old A grade racer and am about to buy some new shoes. I plan to keep my current pedal system (SPD-R), which the shoes I wish to buy are compatible with. My concern is, how do I accurately measure the potential difference in sole thickness or other variables that might change my saddle height?

Brisbane, Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

Two possibilities. You can use callipers to carefully measure the thickness of the sole inside the shoe in the two shoes and adjust the saddle height accordingly. Since the two sets of shoes may also fit differently so that a perfect measuring job won't yield an identical position anyway, another solution is to go back and forth between the old and new pairs and adjust by feel. If you do this, make the adjustment quickly (in the first hour or so of riding with the new shoes) since after a short time the new position will not feel as strange as it does in the first minutes.

How much fat in 23,000km

I'm curious. I've done over 23,000km at ~30km/h weighing 70kg approx, since I started cycling. I'm wondering how many kg of fat it would take to ride this far at this speed on a normal road bike.

Jim hall
Melbourne Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

The harder you ride the greater percentage of your energy expenditure comes from carbohydrate rather than fat. The better trained you are, the more of your expenditure will come from fat. Given these two factors, it would be hard to say how much fat you've used.

Hydration & its effects

In order to make sure that I am properly hydrated on training rides I usually drink about 500 ml of liquid, usually high glucose drink, shortly (15-20 minutes) before heading out and then have a small drink every 15 mins thereafter on the bike.

However, I often find myself needing to stop to answer nature's call within the first hour of the ride but rarely need to stop again, even on 4-6 hour rides.

Can you tell me the best program to keep hydrated without needing to stop and catch the group?

Simon Quirk

Scott Saifer replies:

Best solution: Learn to pee while still riding the bike. Then you can drink what you want when you want and not worry about needing to catch up.

Next best solution: Drink longer before the ride so that you'll pee just before heading out on the bike. You'll have to figure out the timing that works for you, but 1-2 hours ought to do it. Unless it is very hot and humid, you won't lose enough water sitting around not drinking for an hour or two before the ride to make a difference in your ride performance. Once you begin to ride your body reduces the blood supply to your kidneys which in turn reduces urine production, so start drinking again immediately before getting on the bike and as you begin to ride.

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