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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 February 19, 2003

Cyclingnews is delighted to welcome Sydney Olympic gold medalist Brett Aitken to our panel of fitness and training experts. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his website, but he has Athens 2004 in his sights and promises that the racing world hasn't seen the last of him.

In other fitness panel news, congratulations to Dave Palese and wife Cheryl whose family expanded by one recently with the arrival of a baby girl, Molly. We hope the cats don't get too jealous!

Training for pursuit
Seat height and stem length
Power output
Kayaking as cross-training

Training for pursuit

I'm planning my training for my first season of competition to include pursuit events. Pursuit is shorter than the road time trials, criteriums and road races I have participated in. Also, results in pursuit are more sensitive to aerodynamics. I believe that my physique is appropriate for the event at 1.80 m in height and medium frame.

I have been training in the gym and on the trainer in our Canadian winter. I have also started to work on flexibility and core strength more than before. It would be motivational to have some goals in terms of weight room targets, interval targets, and ideal positioning information to maintain a good level of focus in my training.

Tom Klemola

Brett Aitken replies

It's great to see you've ventured into the exciting World of track cycling and are having a go at one of its hardest events, the pursuit. Having competed at the last three Olympics in the Team Pursuit and being closely associated with Brad McGee and Luke Roberts who are the top two pursuiters in the World, I hope I can give you an insight into what it takes to be good in this event.

First of all let me say that the world of pursuiting has changed dramatically over the last 10 years in the approach to training, gearing and positioning. Up until the late 80's it was still common amongst many cyclists and coaches to include a lot of weight training, and high cadence interval training, and there was very little emphasis on aerodynamics. Gradually since then though, there has been a constant redirection towards more specificity on the bike and less in the weights room. There has also been a push towards larger gears (lower cadences) and a much greater focus on positioning and aerodynamics which can to an extent be attributed to Chris Boardman's winning ride in the Barcelona Olympics on the Lotus carbon fibre bicycle.

With the introduction of larger gears and lower cadences being the trend of most elite pursuiters in recent times we are now seeing track riders going back to road racing as their ideal preparation to improve their overall strength. I point this out because it is a common misconception in the cycling world that to be a good track endurance rider you have to do weights and intervals. The truth is that there is probably less than one percent of elite endurance riders (road or track) that do any weight training at all. You only need to look at Brad McGee's record ride (4min 17sec) at the Commonwealth Games last year within days after the Tour de France to see that this performance was purely done on a road racing preparation.

Having said that we don't all have the benefits of a heavy road racing schedule to prepare for a pursuit and I therefore believe that weights and intervals should be an integral part of a training programme when this is the case. Two exercises you will benefit from the most in regards to weight training are the squat and the leg press. For maximum strength I recommend focusing on an ideal weight that will allow you to do a range of five to eight repetitions for a single set with a three set buildup where you are gradually increasing the weight before going all out on the fourth set. The ideal weight should be so that if you can do more than eight reps then the weight is too light and if you can't do at least five reps then the weight is too heavy. Of course with all weights, technique is absolutely crucial to avoid injury.

In regards to intervals there are many different types that are important to training different energy systems in the build-up to a pursuit event. The one which should dominate your program though should be based around five sets of five-minute efforts at 80 to 85 percent of maximum with an effort/recovery ratio of 1:1. Maximum here refers to power output, though if you're using heart rate as a measure then it should be at about 90 to 95 percent of maximum in the last two minutes of the interval. If you want to be more precise then the best way to do intervals is to buy a good ergometer and run a cadence meter on it. Just in case you're interested, Brad McGee pumps out about 550 Watts of power in his pursuits on a gearing usually between 102 to 106 inches.

On the issue of getting an ideal position, I would recommend having an experienced coach look at you, take some video footage of your current riding position and compare this to some high level pursuiters. It is important to remember everybody is different though. There are very few people in the world who could successfully emulate the low riding position of Chris Boardman without sacrificing power. There is a balancing act between having a great riding position and one which still helps you put maximum force through the pedals. Sometimes it is better to go for the latter. Good luck!

Seat height and Stem length

I'm about 5'8 average build and have been cycling for 10 years or so. In the past years I have used the LeMond style of determining seat height (x .883) however, a friend of mine who just purchased an Seven Cycle Ti bike mentioned that the shop made him lower his seat height by almost 1 cm (before he was using the same LeMond method). I would like to know which is the best formula to gain optimum power per pedal stroke?

My second question is about stem length, would the "not see the front hub" from the drops be the most effective way of determining the stem length for my bike? There are so many theories on how to determine height and stem length out there, would like to know your opinion on this.

Karlo Magpayo

Dave Palese replies:

First, it is important that you realize that the LeMond method gets you to a pretty close starting point that usually needs to be tweaked over time. This is also the case for most other methods for determining saddle height, or the position of any contact point (i.e., saddle, bars and cleat position).

The most important factor when discussing rider position is comfort. If you aren't comfortable, it doesn't matter what the math or rule of thumb says, you won't perform at your best.

The best thing to do, I think, is find a coach in your area who is experienced with doing bike fit and have him or her get you started.

As far as stem length, that's a tough one, because how you fit your frame, most notably top tube length, plays a huge role in what size stem you use. Some riders ride smaller frames and show more seatpost and use longer stems. In this case, the hub will often be seen behind the bar tops.

What you want to do is find a position that's comfortable for you, and one that allows you to have good control over the bike. Measure that position, relative to the various contact points (not to the frame) and you'll be able to recreate that position on almost any appropriately sized bike.

And remember, if you are going to try and get your saddle in the right, or at least a better, position, start by making sure your cleat position is correct.

Jim Lehman replies:

This is a very personal topic. Many of the seat height formulas out there were originally set up for that particular individual and will not apply to everyone. To set up your saddle height, you need to place your bike on a stationary trainer and gather a few tools: a level, tape measure, allen keys, plumb bob, straight edge, pen/marker, a goniometer and a helper.

First, you will need to ensure that the bike is level, so prop the front wheel up to achieve this position. Next, you will want to examine your cleat placement. A good starting point is to place the ball of your foot over the pedal axle. Find the ball of your foot by applying pressure on the outside of your shoe and make a mark at this location. You will then align this mark so it falls over the pedal axle.

Once you have done this, get into your normal cycling clothing/shoes and pedal for 10 minutes or so. This will allow you to settle into your normal position on the saddle. This will also give your helper a chance to see what your foot position is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. You are trying to achieve a 25-35 degree angle in your knee when it is at bottom dead center or when the crank arm is in line with the seat tube. Make sure that your foot is in its "natural" position at bottom dead center. Your helper will use the goniometer to measure this angle. This can be a bit tricky, so it may take a few attempts to do this properly. The upper reference point will be the Greater Trochanter, which is the bony portion you feel on the outside at the top your thigh. The middle reference point will be the knee joint and this is where you will place the axis of rotation for the goniometer. The lower reference point will be the Lateral Malleolus, which is the bony bump on the outside of your ankle. Align these three points and measure the angle. I recommend taking 3-4 measurements to ensure that you are doing this correctly.

As a general rule, if you are experiencing pain in the front of your knee aim for less flexion and if you are experiencing pain in the back of your knee aim for more flexion in the knee joint.

Next you will want to check that your knee is centered over the pedal axle. To do this, with your foot in the three o'clock position and the shoe level, place the string of the plumb bob on the front of your patella/knee cap and move the saddle forward/backward until the line intersects the tip of the crank arm. Your patella is approximately one centimeter thick and the distance from the tip of the crank arm to the pedal axle is also approximately one centimeter. Remember that if you move the saddle forward or backward, you may have to adjust the saddle height. Moving the saddle forward effectively lowers the saddle and moving it backward effectively raises the saddle.

Keep in mind that this is just a general overview of how to set your saddle height/position and should give you a good neutral position on the bike. I would encourage you to use the services of trained professional to ensure that you have a proper saddle height because this is the most important aspect of bike fit.

As for stem length, this is a very personal matter and will be affected by riding style and flexibility. The idea of "blocking the view of the front hub" when you are in the drops is a great starting point, but each person is different so you will have to modify according your level of comfort. You should be aiming for a position that allows you to ride comfortably with your hands on the brake hoods. Your local bike shop should have a collection of stems with removable face places so you can easily swap out different stem options.

If you continue to have questions or problems with your position, check with the experienced riders and reputable shops in your area for the names of professional fitters. Don't try to mimic the position of the pros, go for a position that allows you to be comfortable and efficient on the bike.

Final note, once you have achieved your proper position be sure to measure the dimensions so you can reproduce the position on other bikes.


I am a 24 year old cyclist who finally got the opportunity this past winter to put in some real base miles (350-400 a week, Joel Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible plan) and now that it is time to kick it up a notch, my lungs do not want to cooperate with my legs; the legs recover from any effort I put on them but the lungs can't seem to catch up.

I did catch a cold (sinus and forehead) for a few days but I still rode through it and like I said, the legs are fine, I just cant seem to get the anaerobic capacity that I need to be in the action (I live and train in California, racing starts here in Feb.). I did a very difficult group ride and a set of hill intervals and a set of pyramid intervals before I got ill (worked my way up to two and a half minutes at 30 sec. increments, then went back down at 30 sec. increments) on the flats and rollers. I have done intervals, hard group rides, and a cat. 3 race during the past three weeks only to fall off the pace after several hard efforts when it gets vertical. I have done some good rides in the mountains so I should be a mtn. goat right now (146.4 lbs. at exactly 6") but I'm not. Any suggestions?

Andy G
Palmdale, Ca

Eddie Monnier replies:

It's frustrating to work so hard and not see the results we seek, but there really is a very wide range of issues that may affecting your performance. A few of my immediate thoughts follow....

If you haven't already, you should see your medical doctor and rule out any lingering ailment from your illness. Sinus infections can be viral, bacterial or allergic reactions. Note also that a virus infection can have a lasting negative impact on muscle strength and aerobic capacity that lasts several weeks beyond the duration of the original symptoms.

The second thing that comes to my mind is whether or not you're suffering from overtraining. 350-400 miles (likely 20+ hours) weeks is high volume, especially for a Category 3 cyclist, and may have been too drastic and/or too rapid of an increase. If you were overly fatigued this may have contributed to getting sick and may be thwarting full recovery. There is no single symptom that denotes whether or not somebody is overtrained but warning signs may include reduced performance, constant fatigue, weight changes, illness, decreased exercising heart rates, apathy, depression, changes in sleep pattern, irritability, sugar craving, etc., among others.

It's possible that you're perfectly healthy but you're just not as far along in your fitness as your competition. One of the dangers of early season racing when you're on a periodized plan designed to produce a later peak, is setting realistic performance objectives and having the confidence to stick with the plan through the planned peak before making any judgments. Some racers lack this confidence and switch between approaches without giving any one the chance to run its full course. If you're following the Friel plan then you should be completing periodic fitness tests (e.g. 30-min TT) against which you can judge your performance. Have you realized fitness gains? If not, it's time to sit down and review your training log vs. the plan you designed. Did you truly train the plan? Can you note any patterns leading up to very good or very bad rides?

If you're healthy and realizing fitness gains, it may be time to review your racing tactics. Are you burning too much energy before the decisive moves are made?

I hope I've given you some things to consider and that you'll soon be on your way to dishing out the pain on the climbs.

Power output

What would my average watts need to be to ride a 10km time trial in 13 minutes?

I weigh 165 pounds and am 5' 8".

Is there a formula for determining average watts for given distances?

Jeff Seese

Eddie Monnier replies:

In order to estimate the time you need to ride a given distance in a certain amount of time, you need to know or estimate certain factors:

(a) about the course (grades, air density, rolling resistance, wind speeds, etc.)
(b) about yourself (coefficient of drag or effective frontal area)
(c) weight of you, your bike and your equipment (shoes, helmet, water bottles, etc.)

One easy way to approximate what power level you need is to average to meet your time objective is to go to Tom Compton's Analytic Cycling Web site and go to "Power, Given Speed."

1. You can make a rough estimate of your effective frontal area based on your height and weight. Some formulas take into account seat tube angles and other factors that affect front area. Very simple ones just use height and weight. Here's one example:

Effective Frontal Area (m^2) = 0.00215 * Rider Weight (kg) + 0.18964 * Rider Height (m) - 0.07861

Using this formula for a rough estimate of your effective frontal area yields 0.41.

2. Assuming the course is at sea level, is perfectly flat and is on a typical asphalt surface...

3. ...and that you have a combined weight with your bike and equipment of 85 kg...

4. You would need to average about 310W-315W to ride 12.9 meters/second which would put you just under 13-minutes for a 10K TT.

Note, this calculation is only as good as the assumptions. In other words, "garbage in, garbage out."

Editor's note: While we can't vouch for the assumptions underlying it, Walter Zorn's speed and power calculator at is also interesting to play with.

Kayaking as cross-training

I have just purchased a kayak, I'd like to know if this would complement my riding fitness, if I spent a few hours a week in it. I hate to cut into my riding time, but it may not be that bad. I'm a 46 yr old road rider, during the warm weather, I ride 10-12 hours a week. I do a few races a year, (8-12). I'm a cat 4 rider. I thought the kayak would be fun, good for my abs, and break up the monotony. Any thoughts?

Eddie Monnier replies:

Cross-training provides the greatest benefit during early Base when the focus is on developing cardiovascular fitness. As you move later into the training program, then specificity (training on the bike to succeed on the bike) becomes increasingly important. Kayaking has the added benefit of providing some core conditioning as well, which can be important year-round.

As for kayaking beyond early base, you need to keep your own personal sense of balance in mind. Some live for the bike without really requiring much of a mental or physical break from it. Others feel like they are giving up too much to ride 5-6 days per week. Figure out the right mix for yourself, make sure you adjust your goals accordingly, and enjoy it.

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