Purpose: To determine how athletes spontaneously use their energetic reserves when the only instruction was to finish in minimal time, and whether experience from repeated performance changes the strategy of recreational athletes.
Methods: Recreational road cyclists/speed skaters (N = 9) completed three laboratory time trials of 1500 m on a windload braked cycle. The pattern of energy use was calculated from total work and from the work attributable to aerobic metabolism, which allowed computation of anaerobic energy use. Regional level speed skaters (N = 8) also performed a single 1500-m time trial with the same protocol and measurements.
Results: The serial trials were completed in (mean +/- SD) 133.8 +/- 6.6, 133.9 +/- 5.8, 133.8 +/- 5.5 s (P > 0.05 among trials); and in 125.7 +/- 10.9 s in the skaters (P < 0.05 vs cyclists). The [OV0312]O(2peak) during the terminal 200 m was similar within trials (3.23 +/- 0.44, 3.34 +/- 0.44, 3.30 +/- 0.51 (P > 0.05)) versus 3.91 +/- 0.68 L.min-1 in the skaters (P < 0.05 vs cyclists). In all events, the initial power output and anaerobic energy use was high and decayed to a more or less constant value ( approximately 25% of peak) over the remainder of the event. Contrary to predictions based on an assumed "all out" starting strategy, the subjects reserved some of their ability to perform anaerobic work for a terminal acceleration. The total work accomplished was not different between trials (43.53, 43.78, and 47.48 kJ in the recreational athletes, or between the cyclists and skaters (47.79 kJ). The work attributable to anaerobic sources was not different between the rides (20.67, 20.53, and 21.12 kJ in the recreational athletes). In the skaters, the work attributable to anaerobic sources was significantly larger versus the cyclists (24.67 kJ).
Conclusion: Energy expenditure during high-intensity cycling seems: 1) to be expended in a manner that allows the athlete to preserve an anaerobic energetic contribution throughout an event, 2) does not appear to have a large learning effect in already well trained cyclists, and 3) anaerobic energy expenditure may be the performance discriminating factor among groups of athletes.