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PADILLA, S., I. MUJIKA, J. ORBANANOS, J. SANTISTEBAN, F. ANGULO, and J. J. GOIRIENA. Exercise intensity and load during mass-start stage races in professional road cycling. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 33, No. 5, 2001, pp. 796-802.

Purpose: To evaluate exercise intensity and load during mass-start stages in professional road cycling, using competition heart rate (HR) recordings.

Methods: Seventeen world-class cyclists performed an incremental laboratory test during which maximal power output (Wmax), maximal HR (HRmax), onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA), lactate threshold (LT), and a HR-power output relationship were assessed. An OBLAZONE (HROBLA /- 3 beats[middle dot]min-1) and an LTZONE (HRLT /- 3 beats[middle dot]min-1) were described. HR was monitored during 125 flat (<13 km uphill, < 800-m altitude change; FLAT), 99 semi-mountainous (13-35 km uphill, 800- to 2000-m altitude change; SEMO), and 86 high-mountain (>35 km uphill, > 2000-m altitude change; HIMO) stages. Each cyclist's competition power output was estimated from competition HR and individual HR-power output relationships. Competition training impulse (TRIMP) values and time spent at "easy," "moderate," and "hard" zones were estimated from HR and race duration.

Results: Average %HRmax were 61 /- 5%, 58 /- 6%, and 51 /- 7% in HIMO, SEMO, and FLAT stages, respectively, and estimated average power outputs were 246 /- 44, 234 /- 43, and 192 /- 45 W. Competition HR values relative to HROBLA and HRLT were, respectively, 69 /- 6, 79 /- 9% in HIMO; 65 /- 7, 74 /- 11% in SEMO; and 57 /- 8, 65 /- 10% in FLAT stages. The amount of TRIMP in HIMO, SEMO, and FLAT stages were, respectively, 215 /- 38, 172 /- 31, and 156 /- 31. Percentage time spent in the "moderate" and "hard" zones was highest in HIMO (22 /- 14, 5 /- 6%) followed by SEMO (15 /- 13, 5 /- 5%) and FLAT (9 /- 7, 2 /- 2%) stages.

Conclusions: %HRmax, time distribution around HROBLA and HRLT, TRIMP, and load zones reflected the physiological demands of different mass-start cycling stage categories. The knowledge of these demands could be useful for planning precompetition training strategies.

(C) 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.