Physiological aspects of competitive mountain biking

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Abstract

Off-road cycling (mountain biking- MTB) practice has remarkably increased over the last two decades since its debut as an Olympic summer sport in the 1996 Atlanta Games, in the Cross Country modality. The number of publications devoted to the analysis of the physiological demands and potential performance predictors in the sport has also increased over the last decade. This article provides a review of both the descriptive characteristics (such as intensity) of Cross Country MTB competition (MTBCC), as well as specific aspects related to it (such as the physiological characteristics of elite athletes, the effect of use of suspension frames and the determinants of performance on climbs). It is evident from the literature that MTBCC competitions induce greater physiological stress, when expressed in terms of % of maximal heart rate, than is observed for cycle road races of equivalent duration. Analysis of power output data clearly demonstrates the intermittent nature of this discipline- with power outputs during competition ranging between 0 and 500W and average power outputs that are relatively low as a percentage of HRmax. Another important finding is the physiological effect of the use of suspension frames in MTB. The use of such equipment reduces the muscular stress provoked by uncertain terrain without apparently influencing energy cost- either on the flat or when climbing. However, the cross country performance is improved with suspension frames. We conclude, therefore, that competitive MTBCC engenders wide variation in exercise intensity (expressed in terms of power output) - mostly as a result of the variations in terrain (i.e. irregular with many steep inclines and declines) that are a quintessential component of the sport.

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de Lucas, R. D., Machado, C. E. P., de Souza, K. M., de Oliveira, M. F. M., Guglielmo, L. G. A., Vleck, V., & Denadai, B. S. (2010). Physiological aspects of competitive mountain biking. Revista Brasileira de Medicina Do Esporte. Redprint Editora Ltda. https://doi.org/10.1590/s1517-86922010000600013

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