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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. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 January 23, 2008

Detecting blood doping
Cycling with celiac disease
Combating fatigue
Determining potential

Detecting blood doping

I have a question regarding blood doping that I was hoping you could answer.

If riders dope by extracting and storing their own blood, to be used at a later date in competition to boost oxygen carrying capacity to the muscles, how can this be detected? I understand that the testing procedures can pick up someone else's blood, as with Vino, but what if he had used his own blood? Will the new 'biological passport' that's been talked up at the moment be able to be used to detect this form of doping?

I have read that riders can have up to a 30% advantage with the extra blood in their system - is this true?


Scott Saifer replies:

I'm not an expert on this but here's my very rough understanding. Red blood cells develop signs of age as they circulate. One sign I remember is that bits of cell membrane get shredded off and the remaining membrane then re-closes. That means that the initially floppy disk becomes gradually more spherical and less flexible. This particular sign is not so important as the fact that the ages of the cells in a sample can be measured.

Now, when a rider makes a donation (has blood taken out), the kidneys respond to the decreased oxygen carrying capacity of the remaining blood by producing a burst of EPO which triggers a burst of red-cell production in the bone marrow. Some time later, a bunch of new red cells appear in the blood, an excess of cells of exactly the same age. That's not how the rider gets in trouble of course since donating blood is legal.

When the cells are put back in, the kidneys recognize that oxygen carrying capacity is more than adequate and shut down EPO release. The marrow stops making new red cells for a while, with the result that there will be an absence of new cells of a particular age.

The method of identifying riders who have doped with their own blood, as I understand it, involves looking for these odd spikes and valleys in the distribution or red-cell ages. I'm not sure what a 30% advantage looks like, but if the measure is VO2-max or power at lactate threshold, 30% sounds too high to me.

Cycling with celiac disease

I'm an avid cyclist, male, 38years old. I compete in several races (MTB and road) every year, and have another 24 hour MTB race coming up soon. I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, although I have no outward symptoms. Blood work shows that I have been anaemic and low iron/ferritin, with decreased bone density.

My question is: how will this affect my performance during the 24 hour races if I can't eat pastas or bread? There are alternatives out there, but will they have the same desired effect as getting carbohydrates from pasta and bread?

I usually use a lot of Hammer mixes and gels during the race and was pleased to find they contain no gluten. Will this be enough?

Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

It is possible to race really well while avoiding the gluten-containing items that trigger the celiac disease. It can take some time to figure out foods that work for you, but there are plenty of choices. As you noted, Hammer products are safe for you, but you don't have to rely on highly refined industrial foods at all. I don't have celiac but often use a lot of potatoes and yams as training and racing food.

The bigger and more immediate question is how you can perform with anaemia. That will take some time to correct, and you can't really perform well until your hematocrit is at least normal.

Combating fatigue

I'm a 32 year-old female, height 160cm, weight 57kg. I'm a mountain biker and also commute to work, 17km each way, four days a week. In the last two weeks I have noticed a considerable difference in my riding. I am now finding that I am struggling on my commute.

I have a 50km race coming up and am need to continue training. Can you please advise how to combat cycling fatigue, yet continue with training or is it a matter of rest? I have just started differing my lengths on my commute to change things up.

Fatigued cyclist

Scott Saifer replies:

There are several sources of fatigue and different appropriate treatments. You can get yourself fatigued by riding too hard, too much of the time. A heart rate monitor is handy for preventing this. A standard prescription would be to keep your heart rate under 70% of your individually determined maximum until the fatigue clears (220-age and other formulas are not accurate enough to be useful for competitive athletes) and then keep your heart rate under 80% of maximum on all but one or two days per week.

You can get fatigued by chronically under-eating carbohydrate or calories. This is particularly common in riders who are currently getting stronger as calorific needs increase with exercise power output. Make a point of eating about 60g of carbohydrate per hour of riding, divided in 3-4 chunks, one every 15-20 minutes. Have a carbohydrate rich snack immediately after any ride. If you are concerned about daily calorie consumption, cut them out elsewhere in your day, but not on the bike or just after riding.

There are many other causes of fatigue that are relatively easy to cure: Under eating salt can leave people feeling worn out and also cramping. Cyclists who train in sweaty climates need a lot of salt, like a good shake on most every meal (if you have personal or family history of high blood pressure, check with your doctor first). Under sleeping leaves you tired of course, and athletes usually need a bit more sleep, perhaps an hour per day, than the non-athletes they used to be. If none of these suggestions seem to match your situation, please write again.

Determining potential

I have a question about predicting potential from an anaerobic threshold test. I recently did a test using the Conconi method.

The results were that my threshold is 285 Watts at 180 bpm with max hear rate at 197. I am 33 years old, 5'11" and in race season about 175 lbs looking to be around 170 lbs for this season. I have been riding road for three years and last season was my first full season racing.

I was wondering if there is a way to figure out your potential from a test? I have heard that having a fairly high heart rate means you have a small heart or "small engine". I tend to be a sprinter type but really enjoy time trials and would like to do well at them. Does the fact that I have a fairly high heart rate mean time trials are probably not going to be a strength?

Ontario, Canada

Scott Saifer replies:

Your heart rate at the Conconi measured AT by itself tells you nothing at all about your potential as a bike racer. Two riders with ATs of 140 and 190 bpm could have identical competitive ability in identical races. Your power at AT, assuming you are well trained currently, tells you a lot more. Your power of 258 is not particularly high for someone your size. Unless you can boost that a good bit, time trials are not going to be a strength

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