Individual and event-specific considerations for optimisation of performance in track sprint cycling
The track sprint cyclist is a unique athlete, and uncharacteristic of any other sprint athlete, they perform a portion of submaximal work prior to sprinting in most events. The nature and implications of this submaximal work are not well understood and there has been little investigation in elite athlete populations. An inertial load ergometer was constructed to investigate this prior work and also to track the responses and progression of training and fatigue. This ergometer was shown to be both reliable (CV elite participants: peak power = 0.7% (90% CI, 0.5-1.0), optimal cadence = 1.6% (90% CI 1.2-2.7) and valid (CV elite male participants, peak power = 4.6%, 90% CI 4.0-5.4%, r = 0.81). Smallest worthwhile changes in peak power (53 Watts) and optimal cadence (1.4RPM) were determined for this ergometer test. An opportunity to track and monitor a group of internationally successful track sprint cyclists through two pinnacle events allowed for a better understanding of the structure and consequence of their training. Application of a novel training stimulus using a counterweighted single legged modality at two contrasting cadences, in an attempt to confer a greater resistance to fatigue, also provided some interesting and unexpected results. It was found that the impact of the simulated prior work in the keirin on peak power was approximately 54% of that in the sprint (keirin -5.68%, ES = 0.23, sprint -10.52%, ES = 0.44) while optimal cadence only dropped 60% as much in the keirin (ES = 0.61) compared to the sprint (ES = 0.86). The duration and intensity of this prior work was determined to be responsible for the magnitude of degradation in peak power and optimal cadence. Importantly it can be interpreted that the change in optimal cadence reflects the net result of intrinsic muscle changes and optimisation to output the highest power capable. Single legged ergometer training at contrasting training cadences (70 and 130rpm) appeared to have positive impacts on T0 (maximal torque) identified during inertial testing and on mean crank torque during longer duration testing (30s), but not resistance to fatigue. The effect likely related to changes in muscle coordination as a result of the training stimulus. The improvements in T0 appear to be greater in elite male athletes following the higher training cadence. It is likely this improvement in crank torque through these race specific ranges will enhance the athlete?s ability to accelerate. In summary, inertial ergometry is a reliable, valid and useful tool for assessing change over time in the track sprint cyclist. Understanding and management of acute and chronic fatigue and determining the appropriateness of the training stimulus are important in achieving the greatest impact on performance. Improving resistance to fatigue will potentially have a concomitant (negative) impact on optimal cadence which is contradictory to what has been hypothesised in the literature with respect to optimising performance. The nature of the relationship that optimal cadence has to performance is questioned as it would appear that optimal cadence is the net result of intrinsic optimisation of muscle properties to achieve a maximal power output (either peak or for a given duration).