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Eritrean riders at their first performance diagnostics

Friday, Feb 12, 2016 in Pro Cycling

At yesterday’s performance diagnostics, couple of our riders had to experience how painful 15 seconds could really be. At the STAPS – institute in Cologne, especially our riders form Africa were excited and curious what will happen to them. 

There are lots of discussions about performance diagnostics.  No matter if leisure sport, granfondo, amateur or professional. Lots of people think about doing performance diagnostics to get their “figures” and knowledge about their body. For professional cyclists it is indispensable to do regular performance diagnostics as this is the base for a targeted training and to work on strengths and weaknesses.

Therefore the most important thing for most of the coaches is to get the most accurate answer to the question why the current performance is like it is. One of the leading institutes is STAPS in Cologne (Germany) that developed one of the most innovative and most accurate testing protocols at the highest scientific standard. They also gained lots of experience through their cooperation with leading teams in the world such as former HTC – Highroad team or now team Cannondale – Garmin but also in cooperation with athletes like Tony Martin.

But this day was really interesting in particular for our riders from Eritrea, as it was the first time in their life that they got a real picture about their performance and body constitution. In two tests they needed to push to their limits and it became clear very soon how endless 15 seconds can be, when you try to get the maximum possible out of your body. They were also kind of surprised when they recognized how many times they must give little volume of blood. “Don’t be afraid, I am not Dracula! We just need it to identify your lactate production and –consumption”, Gregor form STAPS – Team settled the two down.

Lactate production and lactate consumption. Two important parameters when you want to identify the anaerobic metabolism – that part in the body that generates energy out of using carbohydrates, without using oxygen. “With these parameters we can identify the anaerobic threshold very accurate”, Gregor explained later in a two hours lasting and very detailed session. “Anaerobic what”? For Meron and Amanuel all those terms are Greek to them, but they understand quite quick the principle:

The anaerobic threshold is practically the intersection of the lactate production and lactate consumption, the so-called “steady state”, where the body produces exactly the amount of lactate that it is able to consume with the help of oxygen. So there is no accumulation of lactate and the athlete can go at his power-output for around 1,5 hours without additional intake of carbohydrates (assuming mental streght and filled carbohydrate depots). For most of the athletes thus it is desirable to increase this point.

But already the next test went on. Maximum oxygen intake – or VO2max. Ok, under this term everybody can imagine something but we need to be clear: it is not about the volume of oxygen we can take in our lungs, it is the amount of oxygen that our body absorbs into the blood and through the red blood cells. Short: how good are the muscles served with oxygen and how good muscles are able to process the oxygen.

Also in this test it was about all-out effort. At the beginning everything seems to be very “easy” and there is still some space for jokes and laughs. But at the end this space has rapidly disappeared as it went to the absolute maximum the body is able to handle and the athlete just try to however turn the crank.

“We made it”, Meron smiled after he literally felt from the ergometer. After the explanation session, the two riders from Eritrea are happy to have now a detailed overview about their performance and rider abilities, so now they have the base to work on their performance with clear targets. Even on the way back they still were asking questions about all the things they did and learned.

But it was very clear again at the end how important such performance diagnostics are to see exactly what abilities a rider’s body has and what exactly the current performance is. Also it is important to understand why the performance is like it is. Short: without knowing all this, it is possible that even if you train you are not able to hit your goals.

A special thanks to the team of STAPS for this great testing day and the professional and great explanation after the tests.


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