Moderate Association of Anthropometry, but Not Training Volume, with Race Performance in Male Ultraendurance Cyclists

By Knechtle, Beat; Wirth, Andrea et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Moderate Association of Anthropometry, but Not Training Volume, with Race Performance in Male Ultraendurance Cyclists


Knechtle, Beat, Wirth, Andrea, Knechtle, Patrizia, Rosemann, Thomas, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


In 28 male Caucasian nonprofessional ultracyclists, we investigated whether anthropometry or training volume had an influence on race speed in the 600 km at the Swiss Cycling Marathon 2007. Anthropometric parameters (age, body mass, body height, skinfold thicknesses) were determined before the race to calculate body mass index and percent body fat. In addition, participants, using a training diary, recorded their training volume in hours and kilometers in the 3 months before the race. The influence of anthropometry and training volume on speed in the race as the dependent variable was investigated in a multiple linear regression model. Anthropometry showed a moderate association with speed in the race ([r.sup.2] = .178, p < .05), whereas training volume showed no association ([r.sup.2] = .000, p >. 05). We concluded that anthropometry had a greater influence on race performance than training volume in recreational ultraendurance cyclists.

Key words: body composition, percent body fat, skinfold thickness

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Ultraendurance races are becoming more and more attractive, and an increasing number of cyclists intend to compete in ultracycling races such as the Race Across America (RAAM) in the United States or Paris-Brest-Paris in Europe. In such races, a significant decrease of body mass can be found after the race (Bircher, Enggist, Jehle, & Knechtle, 2006; Knechtle, Enggist, & Jehle, 2005), as already noted in shorter ultracycling races (Neumayr et al., 2003; Neumayr et al., 2005).

The question remains whether a slim, light body is important to ultracycling race performance, because there is limited data about anthropometry in ultraendurance cyclists. Two case reports (Bircher et al., 2006; Knechtle et al., 2005) and two field studies (Neumayr et al., 2003; Neumayr et al., 2005) described anthropometric data on the age, body mass, body height and body mass index of the cyclist and the loss of body mass. In the two case studies (Bircher et al.; Knechtle et al.), the athletes rode for several days and clearly lost more body mass in the form of body fat than the cyclists in the two ultracycling races of less than one and a half days (Neumayr et al., 2003; Neumayr et al., 2005). Presuming that long training rides would lead to slim and light bodies, it seemed probable that training volume would also be an influencing factor.

Therefore we intended to study, in an ultraendurance cycling race, whether anthropometry and/or training volume had an effect on race speed in recreational ultraendurance cyclists. We presumed that a low body mass with low body fat would enhance race performance and that high training volume would lead to low body fat.

Method

Participants

The organizer of the Swiss Cycling Marathon contacted all participants in 2007 by a separate newsletter 3 months before the race and asked whether they wished to participate in the study. One hundred twenty-three nonprofessional male cyclists from the Swiss Cycling Marathon participated in the 600-km race to qualify for the Paris-Brest-Paris cycling marathon. If those, a total of 36 male athletes were interested in our investigation. They all gave their informed written consent in accordance with the guidelines established by the Institutional Ethics Committee of the Canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland. No criteria for inclusion or exclusion were used. Twenty-eight cyclists in our study group finished the race. Their anthropometry and training volumes are represented in Tables I and 2. The 8 nonfinishers had to give up due to medical complications.

The Race

The seventh edition of the Swiss Cycling Marathon took place June 29-30, 2007, as a nonstop cycling race from the outskirts of Berne (Switzerland) over the border to Germany, then along Lake Constance into the Alps of Eastern Switzerland and back to Berne. In the 600-km race, the athletes had to climb a total altitude of 4,630 m. …

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