Thursday, August 31, 2006
Stage 1. The TTT. CSC win, Sastre takes the jersey.
Stage 2. First road stage and McEwen launches too early. Bettini takes it, Hushovd leads overall.
Stage 3. Ventoso suprises in the sprint. No change to the lead.
Stage 4. More amazement as Zabel takes his first big win in 3 years.
Stage 5. We hit the mountains and Di Luca takes it and leads on GC! Pez report here.
Stage 6. A win for Hushovd.
McEwen, tired after a long season, is outside the timelimit.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
Good to see Mick Rogers attacking in style, taking his team leader to the
top of the GC of the Regio Tour (result via Cyclingnews):
Next up is a 23km TT. Should be interesting...
Fo power data freaks we have SRM (perhaps the ultimate bike accessory,
using force transducer-equipped cranks), PowerTap (using a
transducer-equipped re hub), Polar (least invasive, using optical sensing
of chain deflection) and now... Ergomo. It's optical, but it's inside the
BB! Check it out at http://www.cbike.com/ergomo_powertraining.htm
OK, you can also use 'manual' calculations based on effort over time, like
the HAC4 does. That's the cheapest, lightest and probably least accurate
way to do it.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
In considering the causes of cramping, one possibility is fatigue brought about by too-high (ie harder to push) gearing. The authors of this article examined "patterns of leg muscle recruitment and co-activation, and the relationship between muscle recruitment and cadence, in highly trained cyclists". They tested at "individual preferred cadence, 57.5, 77.5 and 92.5 revs min" using (one hopes) carefully placed electrodes. Sounds cool as well. And the findings? Well the authors say that "muscle recruitment patterns varied from those previously reported, but there was little variation in muscle recruitment between these highly trained cyclists". Specifically the "tibialis posterior, peroneus longus and soleus were recruited in a single, short burst of activity during the downstroke" and that "the tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius lateralis were recruited in a biphasic and alternating manner". They found that "contrary to existing hypotheses, our results indicate little co-activation between the tibialis posterior and peroneus longus".
So far so good. Muscle recruitment is important from many angles, not simply as an academic pursuit but as an aid to understanding how it is we can generate the power that we do and applying that understanding in coaching athletes in optimal patterns of training. Such understanding would also help avoid injury as well as assist in faster healing after injury.
Anyway, the authors found that "peak EMG amplitude increased linearly with cadence and did not decrease at individual preferred cadence. There was little variation in patterns of muscle recruitment or co-activation with changes in cadence". I take this to mean that most elite cyclists use the same muscles and that varying cadence does not significantly change the pattern of recruitment. In other words you are still using the same muscles, irrespective of the tested cadences.
Reference: Leg muscle recruitment in highly trained cyclists.
Authors: Chapman, Vicenzino, Blanch, Knox and Hodges from the Division of Physiotherapy, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia and the Department of Physical Therapies, Australian Institute of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia.
Source: Journal of Sports Sciences; Feb2006, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p115-124
My view: For me this means that Lance Armstrong spinning at 110 revs/minute is probably using the same muscles as Jan Ullrich at 90 revs/minute. It's important to pin that down. Higher cadences do not necessarily mean a different arrangement of muscles doing the work.
Beyond that important point, there are neuromuscular factors involved as well as the lower per-rev power output at higher revs, so a comparison and conclusion Lance vs Jan isn't going to happen here. However I think it's interesting to note that seating position could affect the outcome. To me Jan looks cramped on the bike. Highly effective but a little less comfy than Lance. Perhaps (this is me postulating, not the authors above!) position will be a defining factor and possibly cadence is less important to the ultimate outcome than we have imagined. Any professional opinions on this out there?
Firstly it has been shown in past studies that Creatine supplementation will attenuate increases in plasma ammonia and hypoxanthine during intense endurance exercise lasting 1 hour. So it seems reasonable to suggest that Creatine supplementation may indeed improve muscle energy balance during such exercise - it's worth testing.
The authors report that Creatine supplementation significantly increased muscle total Creatine, however no difference was seen between treatments after the first 45 min of exercise. They conclude that "raising muscle
total Creatine content before exercise appears to improve the ability of the muscle to maintain energy balance during intense aerobic exercise, but not during more moderate exercise intensities".
Title:Creatine Supplementation Reduces Muscle Inosine Monophosphate during Endurance Exercise in Humans.
Authors: McConell, Shinewell, Stephens, Stathis, Canny and Snow
From: Department of Physiology, Monash University; Department of Physiology, University of Melbourne;
Exercise Metabolism Unit, Centre for Rehabilitation, Exercise and Sport Science, Victoria University of Technology; School of Health Sciences, Deakin University.
Source: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; Dec2005, Vol. 37
Issue 12, p2054-2061
My take on this is that Creatine supplementation appears to work in maintaining a balance in the ATP cycle during the intense 1 hour efforts that have been tested. This sounds like an A or B grader may benefit in a 1 hour criterium, for example. They may have more energy freely available at the end of the race and secondly (my guess!) may recharge quicker afterwards. However there's no benefit below one hour or at moderate rather than intense efforts. As always, tread carefully if you try any supplementation - and seek a wide range of advice beforehand.
Firstly, what is a cramp? OK, obviously they are strong, involuntary muscle contractions that commonly occur during or shortly after hard exercise, or when cold. Most cyclists - but not all - get them in the quads, hamstrings and calves (or like me, in the feet!). They can really hurt, really suddenly.
One theory of "cause" is that as a muscle fatigues, the brain sends more and more signals telling that muscle to contract to get the same strength of contraction, ie to get the desired result. The theory goes that when the muscle becomes utterly fatigued the brain sends a continuous contraction signal, which initiates a cramp. It could also be a protective mechanism. "I've reached my limit or I'm damaged", says the muscle, or the nervous system; and so it locks up so it can't be used. Great news if you are bike racing, eh, and the quads are calling it quits?
So, it's not good, but maybe we need to get 'em sometimes. But how do we avoid them?
Firstly, avoid muscle fatigue in the first place. Ask yourself, which muscles are prone to cramping? Can I shift the load more evenly?
Secondly, ask yourself when is it that you cramp? Is it toward the end of a long or hard ride, or only when racing? It may be that you have simply not trained adequately for the distance or the intensity of your riding. Some people cramp just before or during the sprint, for example. A 30km race is a lot more intense than a 30km training ride, so gradually up your training intensity. Upping the training distance may help push your limits as well. But make changes gradually, by increments, not in one huge leap!
You may cramp when pushing a big gear. Perhaps your cadence is too low? Try using lower gears to help get some spin back. Try not to drop below 85rpm. Whilst your endurance is measurably better at lower cadences the effort per rotation is greater. So strike a balance that offers easier pressure on the pedals by going for more spin.
Ask also if you are dehydrated, have depleted your electrolytes or have run out of energy. This is basic. Don't get dehydrated - you lose power and it may bring on cramps. And don't "bonk" (the cycling version of 'hitting the wall') or run out of energy. Keep eating carbohydrate rich foods during your rides. Your needs will vary with intensity and training, but 1-2 energy bars or satchels every 25km seems to be enough for my purposes. Certainly eat at the start of the ride, but not so much that you want to vomit when the racing starts! You are just topping up, not pigging out. Eat a main meal 2 hours before riding. This pattern of eating should also fix your electrolytes, but on a really hot day consider electrolyte-balanced sports drinks instead of water.
Other reputed causes of cramping include various medications and inappropriate supplementation. Regular stretching of muscles may reduce cramping (but for me that causes them!).And of course avoid the cold or any position thats cuts off your circulation. Stretching cold muscles almost always brings on a cramp for me; as does sitting in chairs with high support under the knee. I think it cuts off or limits blood flow around the hamstring... add in a fatigued muscle and whammo! Good luck!
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
"One of the side-benefits of Gonchar's two stage wins and stint in the yellow jersey was that he got his name back. A typing error on his passport condemned him to being referred to as 'Honchar' for years. The fame that Tour success brings finally allowed him to set the record straight, "Yeah! In the last few years, people got used to calling me Honchar, especially in Italy, but that is not my name," he said."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
And who wouldn't appreciate Jens Voigt winning the D-Tour? Read the report at Cyclingnews.com.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Remarkable win likely here with Voigt hanging tough in the mountains and blitzing 'em in the TT. He's on fire, post Le Tour. Cyclingnews reports: Stage 7 - August 8: Bad Säckingen ITT, 40 km 'Jensi' takes it all The winner of this year's Deutschland Tour is Jens Voigt, and if there was anyone doubting his capabilities, he proved today that he was untouchable.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
What a relief! He's had his ups and downs, but he looks pretty happy about winning a stage of the Deutschland Tour. Renshaw was in the Top 5 and Zabel has taken the lead. Can he hold on over the mountains? You'd like to hope so, but with Vino one of many contenders just 48secs back, highly unlikely.
On Landis: It's hard to know who's clean, what with masking agents and autologous transfusions, and we have to trust the integrity of the sampling and testing procedure. So is it as robust as we'd like? Cyclingnews gives a rundown on the B sample result here:Christian Prudhomme, Director general of the Tour de France, said Landis is no longer considered champion of the 2006 event, but added: "Until he is found guilty or admits guilt, he will keep the yellow jersey. This is normal. You are not sanctioned before you are found guilty.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
1 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Wiesenhof Akud 4.56.22 (41.16 km/h)
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
3 André Greipel (Ger) T-Mobile Team
4 Luke Roberts (Aus) Team CSC
5 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole
And O'Grady takes yellow in Denmark, again reported by Cyclingnews:
Stage 3 - August 4: Kolding - Odense, 203.7 km Förster scores for Gerolsteiner, as O'Grady takes yellow