Purpose: To compare the total exercise loads (intensity x volume) of the Vuelta a España and Tour de France during the last year.
Methods: Seven professional road cyclists (28 +/- 1 yr; [OV0312]O(2max): 74.6 +/- 2.2 mL.kg-1.min-1) who participated in both Tour and Vuelta during the years 1997, 1999, 2000, or 2001 were collected as subjects. They wore a heart rate (HR) telemeter during each stage of the two races, and exercise intensity was divided into three phases according to the reference HR values obtained during a previous ramp cycle-ergometer test: phase I (<ventilatory threshold (VT)), phase II (between VT and the respiratory compensation point (RCP)) and phase III (>RCP). Total volume and intensity were integrated as a single variable. The score for volume x intensity in each phase was computed by multiplying the accumulated duration in this phase by a multiplier for this particular phase. The total score for Tour and Vuelta was obtained by summating the results of the three phases.
Results: The total loads (volume x intensity) did not significantly differ between the two races (P > 0.05), despite a significantly longer total exercise time of the Tour (P < 0.05) (5552 +/- 176 vs 5086 +/- 290 min).
Conclusion: The physiological loads imposed on cyclists' bodies do not differ between the Tour and Vuelta, despite the longer duration of daily stages in the former race.