LA's High Cadence Style and Avoidance of Leg Fatigue

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by musette, Jul 18, 2004.

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  1. musette

    musette New Member

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    Chris Carmichael provided a fairly interesting piece on the LA fan site on how LA's high-cadence pedaling style in the mountains helps him avoid leg muscular fatigue, while imposing greater demands on his heart/lungs, which do not tire in the same way as skeletal muscles:

    "Lance Armstrong’s high cadence climbing style allows him to spare his leg muscles by increasing the demand he places on his aerobic system. He is able to reduce the stress he applies to his leg muscles during the course of each pedal stroke, but he also has to turn his legs over more quickly. Increasing the frequency of muscle contractions places a high demand on his aerobic system and leads to a high heart beat and respiration rate. The benefit of relying more heavily on his heart and lungs rather than his leg muscles is that the cardiovascular system doesn’t fatigue in the same way skeletal muscles do. Once your leg muscles are pushed too far, there’s no way to maintain your power output and speed. In contrast, as long as you provide enough food and water, your aerobic engine can continue delivering power much longer. This also leaves more fuel in the tank for launching decisive attacks in the final kilometers of long climbs."

    http://www.thepaceline.com/members/chrisc_item.aspx?cid= 374
     
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  2. musette

    musette New Member

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    "Armstrong has developed a huge aerobic engine over years of training, and climbing mountains with a high pedal cadence shifts the stress from his legs to this engine. Instead of making his leg muscles push against massive resistance, he lightens the load and turns them over faster. The energy cost of maintaining a cadence of 90-100 rpm on steep climbs is very high, but with enough food and drink, the aerobic system can handle it. The same cannot be said for leg muscles. Climbing with a low cadence means using a lot of muscular energy to overcome a huge resistance with every pedal stroke. When your aerobic system can't keep up with the demand for energy, your body produces it anaerobically, but at a significant cost. Lactic acid is a byproduct of producing energy anaerobically. As it accumulates in muscles, first you feel a burn and then your muscles start to lose power."

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/sports/6288785.htm?1c
     
  3. Ullefan

    Ullefan New Member

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    Interesting articles. It makes total sense that lance can get ahead on climbs, by the end of the day Jan's legs must be tired from pushing a high gear, that and the fact that he weighs much more, makes his acheivements even greater. Fact- Jan loses because of gravity. It seems unfair in a way that the tour favours riders who are lightly built, why, because of gravity. Is it just me, or did Jan have a higher cadence last year? He seems to have gone back to his original ways of climbing. I saw him try to get out of the saddle a few times on the plateau de beille, but quickly sat down. I strongly believe Jan has seriously difficulty lifting that big body off the saddle, I don't think it is because he's ignorrant of better styles. Last year he got back into training having had at least 6 months off the bike, in that time he would have lost alot of his leg muscle mass, and therefore had an easier time on the mountains. Instead of it being a worse tour than this year, it ended up being a better tour, because he had a higher cadence and placed less stress on his legs. This year, his legs have gained additional muscle mass, a product of his high gear.
    I strongly believe Jan's high gear is extremely detrimental to his tour, the only real benefit being the flat TT's, providing he is fit. I'm no scientist, but if I was Jan, in the winter, I would not go on the bike, I'd run long distance, slim those legs into slow twitch fibers and from then on pedel on a lower gear, not too low, but slightly lower than he is using now.
     
  4. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    Jan has had knee surgery and had to sit out a Tour de France as a result, and yet he doesn't modify his cadence.

    High cadence champions include Armstrong, Indurain, Anquetil. That's a very impressive list.

    I saw a few years ago a test they did on Armstrong. First they showed him riding up a certain hill at a particular speed and low cadence (like most pros use), and they measured his heart rate. Then they repeated with his normal, higher cadence. He gained a few beats a minute to maintain the same speed, but they said the aerobic cost was very small in comparison to what he gained in protecting his legs, knees and avoiding fatigue.

    It's interesting that the most efficient style with respect to avoiding bodily breakdown is not the most efficient style with respect to energy burned. Perhaps the higher cadence results in a higher percentage of fats burned compared to glycogen (stored sugar), and this helps to delay the bonk.
     
  5. musette

    musette New Member

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    Not only does the high cadence style reduce the body's production of lactic acid, but LA's intrinsic physique is less likely to produce lactic acid.
     
  6. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    I heard of that a while ago. Please see ric_stern's recent comments under "Computing Uphill Calories" in the Cycling Training Forum. He discounts the reduced lactic acid production concept, but he hasn't yet answered my question about why low lactic acid production is not an asset of team USPS/Armstrong. I always thought it was, but he seems to think otherwise, if I'm reading him correctly.
     
  7. musette

    musette New Member

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    Note that LA deliberately developed his high cadence style, after his cancer. He has not always had this style of climbing, and, as members know, was never known for his climbing capabilities before his illness.

    Also, his physique is intrinsically better suited to high cadence because:

    "Lance Armstrong's heart is almost a third larger than that of an average man. During those rare moments when he is at rest, it beats about thirty-two times a minute—slowly enough so that a doctor who knew nothing about him would call a hospital as soon as he heard it. (When Armstrong is exerting himself, his heart rate can edge up above two hundred beats a minute.) Physically, he was a prodigy."

    http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?020715fa_fact1

    "Not only has his cardiovascular strength always been exceptional; his body seems specially constructed for cycling. His thigh bones are unusually long, for example, which permits him to apply just the right amount of torque to the pedals." (same article)

    "As Carmichael pointed out to me, Armstrong had always been gifted, but "genetically he is not alone. He is near the top but not at the top. I have seen people better than Lance that never go anywhere...."

    "Carmichael takes the same radical approach to the physical limits of endurance. It had long been assumed, for example, that aerobic power doesn't vary greatly in adults. Carmichael refutes this emphatically. "Look at Lance," he said to me in his office one day. Over the past eight years, through specific programs aimed at building endurance and speed, Armstrong has increased this critical value—his aerobic power—by sixteen per cent. That means he saves almost four minutes in a sixty-kilometre time trial.
    In fact, Armstrong is superior to other athletes in two respects: he can rely on his aerobic powers longer, and his anaerobic abilities are unusually high as well. When muscles begin to work beyond their aerobic ability, they produce lactic acid, which eventually accumulates and causes a burning sensation well known to anyone who has ever run too far or too fast. Somehow, though, Armstrong produces less lactic acid than others do, and metabolizes it more effectively. "For whatever physiological reason—and science can't really explain it, because we don't know that much about what is occurring—the effect is clear," Carmichael said. "Lance goes on when others are done."
     
  8. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    I am going to repost this under that other thread I was talking about earlier. I've heard this many, many times. LA knew about the unusual lactic acid production long before he took up cycling. He says it has been that way his whole life. I think it's in his DNA. I think these so called experts should do more study on this and figure out exactly what is happening. That modern science has not figured it out may be true, but I think they ought to try a little harder. It might lead to a training breakthrough of some sort, or more likely, it might just show people why he has accomplished so much with no help from doping.
     
  9. musette

    musette New Member

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    I should note that LA's aerobic capabilties were built up when he was much much younger, as he used to be a triathlete and not a "pure" bicycle rider. So it's not just nature; it's a bit of nurture as well.

    Do members with medical degrees have information on how lactic acid precisely impedes leg muscle movement, and how it is dissipated in one's body?

    More on LA's high cadence style/reliance on aerobic strength. Note this was deliberately chosen by he and Carmichael, after his cancer:

    "The old method, familiar to many, is to train extremely hard, which puts the body in a sort of overdrive, quickly burning up stored reserves of carbohydrates. That produces lactic acid, which causes that painful burn you feel in your muscles after working out strenuously. It’s nature’s way of saying stop. With the new method [developed by Carmichael], the goal is to ease off just a bit, so that the athlete can exercise longer. This increases your aerobic strength — your ability to get lots of oxygen into your bloodstream — and this helps prevent the burn that can shut you down. 'It no longer has to be this approach that if I’m hurting a lot, I’m training right,'Carmichael says. 'Well, you know what? I say you’re training wrong.' ... Armstrong, meanwhile, can pedal much faster than the other riders because his [then] new aerobic training gives him so much more oxygen. He sits down on the bike and uses faster-spinning lower gears that cause less strain on his muscles. Therefore, he feels no burn. 'The irony is that if Lance hadn’t gotten sick with cancer, then I probably would not have taken that approach and developed this new training system,' says Carmichael.

    http://abcnews.go.com/onair/WorldNewsSaturday/wnt000715_lancearmstrong_feature.html
    (article also describes how LA inputs training results via Internet and forwards them to Carmichael for Carmichael's analysis)
     
  10. musette

    musette New Member

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    >> LA in the Charlie Rose interview last year:

    "CHARLIE ROSE: What do the lab guys tell you. You have better breathing capacity? LANCE ARMSTRONG: They say V-0-2 max. And the other thing that is sort of or that has really stood out for me is the amount of lactic acid or lactate that I produce.
    CHARLIE ROSE: You don't produce much or you produce a lot. LANCE ARMSTRONG: I produce a lot less than most people, which is not necessarily a great thing but lactic acid is certainly the enemy. It's like when you run uphill and all of a sudden your legs stop, it's because you're lactating. The more you can buffer that and put that point off, there's a point called a lactate threshold. The more you can put that back the better. The V-0-2 max could be it although it was never that special with me.
    CHARLIE ROSE: You mean it was never special? LANCE ARMSTRONG: Never that high. The best I did was 15.
    CHARLIE ROSE: I thought you were making the point that you have a very high V-0-2 max. LANCE ARMSTRONG: High and but not the best. I'm sure there are others with higher V-0-2 max's."

    http://www.charlierose.com/transcripts/10-14-2003.shtm

    >> Carmichael's views on the significance of "power produced at lactate threshold":

    "The more work is produced aerobically, the more carbohydrate is conserved and the less lactic acid is produced. A VO2max test identifies the maximum aerobic capacity of an athlete but Carmichael does not agree that VO2max is key benchmark for real endurance sport. Rather, a key indicator that is closely related to racing performance is power produced at lactate threshold (LT)."

    http://www.jt10000.com/team/events/carmichael99/1.htm
     
  11. thugpreacha

    thugpreacha New Member

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    Interesting! I think that the argument makes sense....why can't the other guys imitate Armstrong? If Ullrich shed a bit of muscle weight and upped his cadence, he would win the Tour!
     
  12. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    Just to clarify some basic issues: there have been other Tour winners who have used lower cadences than LA. Additionally, i think it would be fair to say that LA (or whoever) didn't invent pedalling fast. If you look at the riders with the exception of Obree, in the Hour Record, they all used a high cadence (i.e. > 100 revs/min)

    it's also acutely important to understand that most people cannot pedal at high cadences when climbing hills with the normal gear ratios that we have on our bikes.

    Your cadence is determined, obviously by gear selection, but also by velocity of movement, which in turn is determined by the power that you can produce. For e.g., many/most racers will have a lowest gear of 39 x 23 or 24 for their usual locale. If you can only produce a finite amount of power (e.g., 300 W) up a climb, then under given conditions that power will produce a specific velocity. That maybe (e.g.) by 16 km/hr. in your lowest gear (e.g. 39 x 23) that will produce a specific cadence (~ 70 revs/min). thus to pedal at a faster cadence (which may or may not better) you'd need either substantially lower gears, or to produce significantly greater power, or to avoid hills... in other words, most people on most hills will be forced to pedal at a lower rather than higher cadence (until one of the above 3 changes are made).

    ric
     
  13. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    it's highly unlikely that Jan weighs more than Lance, no matter what the commentators say. In fact official stats have Ullrich with a lower mass than Armstrong. Additionally, from first principles we can calculate that their mass must be the same or very similar

    in 2003, Ullrich climbed at basically the same velocity as Armstrong. They also TTed at pretty much the same velocity. accordingly, they must have the same or similar mass and power output.


    in 2004, Ullrich hasn't climbed quite as well or TTed as well, either suggesting that he weighs more than last year with the same power, or weighs the same with similar power and Armstrong has upped his power or some similar combination. Ullrich looks (to me) slimmer than last year.

    why would running produce more slow twitch fibres than cycling...? (it's a rhetorical question).

    ric
     
  14. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    you're failing to understand what's happening and what i've said. there will be many people who produce less lactate than LA, and conversely many more who produce more. i've given you specific examples of low and high lactate values and what it may mean to performance. it's pretty much meaningless. lactate is a dependent variable. as LA or anyone rides with more power they produce more lactate.

    ric
     
  15. Frihed89

    Frihed89 New Member

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    To me that is the interesting question. Will more young riders start following Armstrong's style, so that in 10-15 years that will be the predominate method?
     
  16. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    But he doesn't weigh much more. Jan only weighs about 1 or 2 kg more than Lance, but Jan is taller than Lance.

    I think the media overhypes Jan's size. In the offseason, Jan lets his weight balloon, but during the TdF, he is lean and fit. He's dubbed the "Big German", but I don't quite know why. His weight would be considered normal body weight for an average guy (non rider) of 5'7". He's 6'0".
     
  17. babylou

    babylou New Member

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    No. Two equal climbers do not necessarily have the same mass or power output. They will have the same power to mass ratio.
     
  18. Ullefan

    Ullefan New Member

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    Its the broad shape of his chin and jaw that overemphasises the fullness in his face. As it is the only part that can be seen, add a little puppy fat and you have a fat man. Other than that, everyone's belly looks fatter when we ride a bike. Everyone's born with a different number of fat cells, he probably has more than most lance probably the least. Also metabolism, I think lance has a very fast metabolism.
     
  19. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    as previously stated, in 2003, they TTed at the same velocity as well

    ric
     
  20. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    To see whether it makes a difference involves observing the difference that lactate would have on that rider's performance, all other factors remaining unchanged. The fact that a given rider produces less lactate and rides poorly or that another rider produces more lactate and rides better ignores this factor. Clearly, in these two cases, neither one proves or disproves that lactate affects performance and/or recovery. If you put a 50 lb weight on one rider and then observe that that rider rides better than another who does not carry that 50 lb weight, are we then to conclude that that 50 lb weight makes no difference on the stronger rider's performance? No. And yet this is much like the argument you make here with lactate. You say that the weaker rider generates less lactate than the stronger rider. Therefore, reduced lactate at every level of power output in another rider is not an advantage. My guess is that it probably is an advantage. It's kind of like riding with the weight removed. The muscles will recover faster with reduced lactate.
     
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