Purpose: The study's purpose was to examine the influence of head-to-head (HH) competition on performance, pacing strategy, and bioenergetics during a 2000-m cycling task.
Methods: Fourteen participants completed three 2000-m familiarization time trials (TTs) on a Velotron cycle ergometer, before completing an additional TT and a 2000-m simulated HH competition in a counterbalanced order. During the trials, a computer-generated image of the participants completing the 2000-m course was projected onto a screen positioned in front of the participants. Although participants believed they were competing against another individual during the HH competition, they were in fact competing against their best familiarization performance (FAM), replayed on the screen by the Velotron software.
Results: Performance was significantly faster in HH than in FAM or TT (184.6 ± 6.2, 187.7 ± 8.2, and 188.3 ± 9.5 s, respectively). Pacing profile in HH initially matched the FAM performance but was better maintained from 1000 m until the end of exercise. The higher power output during the latter part of the test was achieved by a greater anaerobic energy contribution, whereas the aerobic energy yield remained unchanged.
Conclusions: HH competition encourages participants to increase their performance. This occurs primarily via an increased anaerobic energy yield, which seems to be centrally mediated, and is consistent with the concept of a physiologic reserve.