We evaluated the effects of specific inspiratory muscle training on simulated time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled design, 16 male cyclists (VO2max = 64 +/- 2 ml x kg(-1) x min(-1); mean +/- s(x)) were assigned at random to either an experimental (pressure-threshold inspiratory muscle training) or sham-training control (placebo) group. Pulmonary function, maximum dynamic inspiratory muscle function and the physiological and perceptual responses to maximal incremental cycling were assessed. Simulated time-trial performance (20 and 40 km) was quantified as the time to complete pre-set amounts of work. Pulmonary function was unchanged after the intervention, but dynamic inspiratory muscle function improved in the inspiratory muscle training group (P < or = 0.05). After the intervention, the inspiratory muscle training group experienced a reduction in the perception of respiratory and peripheral effort (Borg CR10: 16 +/- 4% and 18 +/- 4% respectively; compared with placebo, P < or = 0.01) and completed the simulated 20 and 40 km time-trials faster than the placebo group [66 +/- 30 and 115 +/- 38 s (3.8 +/- 1.7% and 4.6 +/- 1.9%) faster respectively; P = 0.025 and 0.009]. These results support evidence that specific inspiratory muscle training attenuates the perceptual response to maximal incremental exercise. Furthermore, they provide evidence of performance enhancements in competitive cyclists after inspiratory muscle training.