Tuesday, February 02, 2010

18 Science Of Cadel Evans From Dr. David Martin

I happened to read an article in the Ride Cycling Review publication titled "A Study Of Champions : Cadel & Lance". This is an Australian magazine and I wouldn't have had the chance to read it were it not for partner in blogging crime, Wade over at Cycling Tips, sending me a fine copy from beautiful Down Under. Thank you!

Written by David T. Martin, a senior physiologist at Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra, the article is a good reminder to all of us that some of the less talked about riders in the peloton also show remarkable physiological characteristics. Yet, few fancy documentaries are made on them.

Anyway, here's the basic information you need to know if you're ready to bust some myths among your cycling friends. Here goes :

1. Highlight : Cadel Evans posted brilliant fitness parameters at an age when he was developing as a cyclist. He boasts high VO2max and power to weight ratios, some of the highest ever recorded at AIS. His physiology, based on traditional measurements of aerobic capacity, reigns supreme over most cyclists, even Lance Armstrong. The article notes that while Cadel's aerobic capacity is higher than Armstrong's, no one has considered other top riders like Alberto Contador. Good point, Dr. Martin.

2. Sample Set : From a sports science perspective, a number of "fitness indicators" were established on Cadel Evans. He was tested more than 15 times at AIS between the ages of18 and 24 and the article focused on 7 tests at a time of the year when he was considered fit (between January and June)

3. How He Was Tested : Cadel was put on something called an electromagnetically braked ergometer to carry out the Australia national cycling team protocol. The procedure calls for 5 minutes of constant power output stages with a self selected cadence, where the initial power output was 100W and it was increased by 50W every stage until volitional exhaustion. The peak power output achieved during the test is calculated by adding 10W to the test score for every minute achieved in the final stage. Oxygen uptake, heart rate and blood lactate were measured throughout the test.

4. Results :Between 18 and 24, the best result achieved by Evans were :

Maximum Aerobic Power Output : 455 W (7.3 W/kg)
Threshold Power Estimation : 370W (6.0 W/kg)
VO2 Max Associated With Max Power Output : 5.65 L/min or 87 ml/kg/min

In those crucial years, Evans was characterized by Dr. Martin as :

62-68kg, 172-173cm; 380-455 W and 6.1-7.3 W·kg-1 at VO2pk; 4.59-5.65 L·min-1 and 73-87 ml·kg-1·min-1 VO2pk.
Economy (mean±SD; range) was 80.2±1.9; 77.5-82.5 W·(VO2 L·min-1)-1 or 401±10; 387-413W at 5 L·min-1 VO2.
GE was 22.6 ±0.6; 21.8-23.4% and DE was 23.6±1.1; 21.9-25.4%.

Now for you starters, power to weight ratio is the key variable for uphill cycling speed and threshold power output is an exercise intensity that represents a distinct transition from aerobic to anaerobic energy production.

Bottomline : Both Armstrong and Evans posted their best fitness values in their early 20's. At his best, Evans posted a power to weight ratio almost 8% higher than the 6.8 W/kg produced by Armstrong when he was 22. His highest VO2max was 7.4% higher than Lance's highest recorded value. Compare this, if you'd like, with Indurain's 6 W/kg at threshold and 7 W/kg at VO2 max.

4. A Word On Inaccuracies : Dr. Martin feels there were enough similarities in testing protocols and equipment employed to allow for an interesting comparison between the two athletes. Most interestingly, he has it in a paper on Evans that the data from his testing procedures did not reflect any improvements in cycling efficiency with maturation.

Recall that Armstrong's values stemmed from studies done by Dr.Coyle at the University of Texas, some of which, especially on the improvements in his cycling efficiency, came under fire from his peers for gross inaccuracies. Dr. Martin maintains that cycling efficiency calculations are very sensitive to equipment and are prone to inaccuracies. He did estimate Evans' cycling efficiency at 22 as 21-24%, similar to Armstrong's calculated 21-23 %, although he doesn't seem to put much faith nor emphasis on it.

5. Ending Quote From Dr. Martin :

"The data doesn't support the argument that Lance Armstrong wins because he was born with some god-given gift, some unique physiological capacity that makes his success as a professional road cyclist easy. There's a lot involved in winning..... Based on physiological traits, it is just a bit too simplistic - and a bit naive - to think that all of Lance's achievements can be explained by superior build."

So there you go. Just physical traits alone does not make you a winner. Moreover, years of training doesn't transform you into a freak of nature. Let's put folklore away and discuss just the facts.

Next, the Science of Alberto Contador. Does anyone want to volunteer from the Spanish Institute Of Sport or likewise? I suppose we'll have to keep the record books handy.

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  1. Anonymous1:23 PM

    wow an 87mL/KG VO2 max is impressive

  2. Sylvain1:30 PM

    Well written Ron. One of the greatest sporting achievements by an Aussie this decade, and no coverage on TV or radio whatsoever. We need Youtube and...Cozy Beehive for news! :0

  3. Hmm.. thank the Ride Cycling magazine and Dr. Martin, not me.

  4. Cadel wasn't even a road biker at 22, amazing stats!! I wonder what it's like now, and Contador? He's probably way off the charts. Difficult to say without numbers.

  5. Do numbers like these help explain the insane climbing rates of the top riders? Like those described in this article: http://www.sportsscientists.com/2009/07/tour-2009-contador-climb.html

    Or does it just further put the lie to those rates?

  6. Armstrong is better because of his team and his success with doping. HGH, EPO, transfusions.

  7. nrmrvrk, it is fair to conclude that a good team helped Armstrong, but there have been many good composite teams without the success of Armstrong. It is pure speculation, without proof, that doping played any role in Armstrong's success. To my mind, his comeback year put this lie to rest. During this year, he was THE MOST tested athlete in history, yet at age 37 secured a third place in TDF. Haters need to supply objective proof or shut up.

  8. Dwhite : I had to step in there. How is Armstrong "the most" tested athlete in history? Do you have any data to show us? I'm always amused when people say that but never managed to find any numbers proving it.

    Marion Jones had posted 160 tests or so, before she was even caught and fell from grace.

    FYI, that "most tested athlete" statement first came from Armstrong himself in 2004. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/cycling/3535573.stm)

    Infact, if one visits the USADA website online and checks athlete records, http://www.usantidoping.org/what-we-do/testing-statistics/athlete-test-history.aspx, this is what you'll find upto 2004 :

    Cycling - 2001 : Lance Armstrong - 2
    Cycling - 2002 : Lance Armstrong - 1
    Cycling - 2003 : Lance Armstrong - 1
    Cycling - 2004 : Lance Armstrong - 5

    9 tests in all. That doesn't sound like the "most tested" athlete. Let's check Marion Jones for a start :

    Track & Field - 2001 : Marion Jones - 2
    Track & Field - 2002 : Marion Jones - 4
    Track & Field - 2003 : Marion Jones - 3
    Track & Field - 2004 : Marion Jones - 6

    Armstrong doesn't look like "most tested" when he himself claimed this in 2004.

    Keep in mind we haven't considered any other athletes yet in this discussion.

  9. Anonymous10:19 PM

    7.3 w/kg is. HUGEEEE baby HUGGEEE

  10. Anonymous12:40 AM

    Hey Ron,
    USADA doesn't test in Europe. Ignoring surprise tests (both in and out of competition) he would have been tested every day in yellow and every stage he finished in he top three.

  11. Anonymous12:42 AM

    Ron, your figures are only of tests done by USADA- randoms. He would have had many,many more tests done by ASADA and other testing agencies of other countries where he raced. He would be up for random race tests plus compulsary race tests, ie top three in stage and tour leader.This would have added up to a lot more tests than you have mentioned. Basically due to the fact he was so successful he would have been tested a lot more than most athletes. So best get your facts right before jumping in.

  12. True. But still some figures would be apt. He's in the news a lot for drug testing. That doesn't equate to being the most tested athlete.

  13. Trackasaurus12:59 AM

    most drug tested??? thats hearsay. where's the data to back it up?

  14. Anonymous6:50 AM

    What does it matter if you're tested often IF THEY CANNOT TEST FOR WHAT YOU'RE DOPING WITH!

    Repeat after me: "There is no test for autologous blood doping."

  15. Nice work!

    But the 6.7 W/kg is documented in Coyle, page 47, where it is described as "threshold". That's not power @ VO₂ max. There's many definitions of threshold power: Ferrari, doing the testing in Coyle's anecdote, takes a blood sample, so it would be a lactate-based definition.

  16. Threshold test: Mt Ventoux time trial, 2004 Dauphine Libere.

    Iban Mayo, who never won a tour, did the climb in 55.51.49 (23.202 kph), gaining 1629 meters over 21.6 km. Using a convenient power-to-speed converter with CdA = 0.32 m², Crr = 0.4%, η = 97%, ρ = 1.1 kg/m³, 65 kg rider mass, 9.1 kg equipment mass, yields

    P = 436.5 watts ( 6.71 W/kg))

    This would be slightly lower than a good FTP value for Mayo (following two moderately challenging stages and one easy stage, not how one would prepare for an hour record, for example) in a relatively short stage race on a time trial stage on a steep road lasting close to 1 hour. Lactate threshold would be a bit lower, but clearly power @ VO₂Max, representing efforts of close to 5 minutes, would be substantially greater.

  17. @djconnel : funny u linked to a book written by "coyle". wonder if he's related in anyway to the infamous dr.coyle who messed up some critical numbers in his research studies. same dude, or his brother, uncle? are they all dipping into the same money pot? ;)

  18. Well, here in Spain we´ve got something known as CAR, which stands for Centro de Alto Rendimiento (High Performance Centre)...you could ask there for Contador´s performance...


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