Thursday, August 31, 2006

I've been neglecting the Vuelta.

So let's catch up. Most links to CN unless stated.

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

TdF 2006 images

Some images of the 2006 Tour de France... not just of the racing but the colour and action of the event... images copyright Brett Lyons.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Rogers and T-Mobile on the charge

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...

Another alternative to SRM

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

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

Lance vs Jan - high spin or low spin?

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?

Creatine Supplementation Reduces Muscle Inosine Monophosphate during Endurance Exercise in Humans

Thinking about cramping and supplements, Creatine is sometimes implicated in some cramping events. If it's possibly going to cause cramps we should ask, does Creatine supplementation actually work?

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.

posted by gtveloce at 1/25/2006 04:23:00 AM | links to this post

Cycling and cramping

Within 20km of the finish of the 200km Goulburn to Liverpool, NSW race (some 20 years ago now) my thighs were seized by crippling pain. I'd had a few warning cramps but these were completely show-stopping. Well maybe not completely. By shifting the load onto other muscles I eventually got to the finish. Other than that one memorable time I have had cramps in my calves when standing on a big gear in a sprint, and post-race sitting in a chair. Why?

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.

A lack of calcium is also implicated in cramping. As calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth you may as well consider a supplement. Cycling is non-weight bearing so you need to consider some calcium supplementation as well as some running, skipping or weights to help keep your calcium balance.

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!

2nd place for Henderson in NY

A 2nd place for Health Net's Greg Henderson... from Cyclingnews: Haedo continues sprinting to wins at Manhattan Beach By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor JJ Heado (Toyota-United Pro) Photo ©: Steve Cohen (Click for larger image) The forty-fifth edition of the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, with its infamous hot dog-style course came down to another field sprint, which really means the race to the last 180 degree turn just 300 meters from the finish. And coming into that turn with the best position was Toyota-United's sprinting machine Juan Jose Haedo, who out-sprinted Greg Henderson (Health Net-Maxxis) for the NRC win.

Good result for Ben Day in Portugal

Worth noting a good result for Ben Day in Portugal... from Cyclingnews Stage 10 - August 15: Idanha-A-Nova -Castelo Branco ITT, 39.6 km Results 1 David Blanco (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 53.54 2 Martin Garrido (Arg) Duja-Tavira 0.04 3 Ben Day (Aus) Carvalhelhos-Boavista 0.11 4 Juan Gomis (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 1.00

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Aussie track sprint heroes

It's all go for the Aussie sprinters at the Los Angeles Cycling Classic in Carson, CA (August 13, 2006). Cyclingnews reports on Bayley, French, Perkins, Meares and McPherson here. Good 3rd place result for Josiah Ng from Malaysia, too.

Honchar vs Gonchar explained

So that's why the press alternately referred to T-Mobile TT supremo Gonchar as "Honchar"...
from Cyclingnews:

"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

Brown wins again, Voigt wins overall

Good news all round, really. Graeme Brown has struggled as a pro in Europe, searching for form , some luck and a win that would lift his confidence and his profile. Rabobank has given him a platform this year - taking a bit of a gamble on a sprinter with the speed but not the greatest luck so far. Well Robbie McEwen was similarly unlucky - or unsupported - during his time at Rabo. Look at him now. Maybe Rabo management won't want to lose another sprint star and will re-sign Brownie for 2007?

And who wouldn't appreciate Jens Voigt winning the D-Tour? Read the report at

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's simple but it's fascinating

It may just be me but I keep stumbling over the Canberra Bicycle Museum site and finding myself reading all of the winners and places in various NSW cycling events going back to about 1904. Like I'm drawn to rediscover these names that haunt me... famous ones like Gary Sutton but also the clubbies that I have met or raced with, some semi-famous and others less noticed. Like Col Goldie, multiple state champ in the late 60s, who is "famous" to me (or infamous) as the Spiderman in the local Alfa Romeo owners club. People I race with now in C grade were state champs yonks ago. I find it fascinating... see what you think. Probably helps to have raced in NSW during the past 102 years, anyway!

Jens Voigt poised to win D-Tour

Go Jens!

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

Brown wins Stage 4 in Germany

Graeme Brown finally delivers for Rabo (Cyclingnews quote and link): However, with 500 metres remaining, the field came back together, just in time for one last suicidal attempt from Jens Voigt (CSC). With that over before it even started, Australian Graeme Brown threw his bike across the line and took his first victory of the year, beating Schumacher and Zabel to the post.

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.